On December 6th, 2018 the state office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) held a public hearing on the future of the Union Loophole in Massachusetts.
What is the Union Loophole exactly? In Massachusetts, for-profit businesses cannot give money to political candidates, committees, and parties at all—not directly, and not indirectly through a political action committee (PAC). But unions—including unions from outside the state—can give up to $15,000 to a single candidate and can also create political action committees to give even more. That makes Massachusetts one of six states that ban businesses—but not unions—from giving to parties, committees, and candidates.
The Fiscal Alliance Foundation is committed to fighting this injustice.
While the loophole was upheld by the state Supreme Judicial Court (SJC), the lawsuit did have the positive result of bringing attention to its weak legal footing and vague origins. The SJC’s decision pointed this weak footing out and made clear for a formal codification of the rule one way or the other. The Fiscal Alliance Foundation, working with our sister organization MassFiscal, joined several other pro-business groups were on hand to testify for ending the loophole. Union bosses appeared at the hearing to defend it, and the Massachusetts Teachers Association even had the audacity to advocate for its expansion.
The union loophole has had a devastating impact in state elections. Last year, Jacob Ventura narrowly lost a special election for state senate against a union boss backed candidate. Ventura’s opponents raised over $70,000 in just union loophole donations. This past November, state Rep. Keiko Orrall faced off against Deb Goldberg for Treasurer. Goldberg received union loophole donations while Orrall did not. Orrall was first elected in 2011, when she won a special election for her legislative seat, defeating a union-backed candidate who raised 44% of his campaign funds —$20,000 — in union loophole donations. Orrall was able to overcome the union loophole in 2011 but not in 2018.
Even in elections that are not close, the union loophole plays a role. Attorney General Maura Healey faced off against a token opponent and yet, the union loophole benefited her candidacy with $24,000 in union loophole money. The union loophole is not a partisan issue, though. In the Democratic primary for Secretary of State, Bill Galvin received five union loophole donations over his Democratic opponent, Josh Zakim.
The end result of both of these efforts won’t be known for several weeks. You may read a copy of the written testimony produced in collaboration with the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance by clicking here. The Fiscal Alliance Foundation uploaded copies of written testimony provided to our counsel by OCPF. You can view them here: