Maura Healey’s decision derails her attempt to limit super PAC contributions
Super PACs have spent more than $4 million this cycle supporting candidates like Democratic nominee for Attorney General Andrea Campbell, Democratic nominee for Auditor General Diana DiZoglio and Democratic nominee for Lt. Governor Kim Driscoll.
Fueled by one-time contributions of up to $100,000 from wealthy donors like Baupost Group CEO Seth Klarman, Kraft Group Chairman Jonathan Kraft, and Continental Cablevision founder Amos Hostetter, these independent spending committees are authorized to collect and spend unlimited amounts of money as long as they don’t. ‘t coordinate directly with campaigns.
The spending of these super PACs has been criticized by some election candidates who oppose the influence of money on the electoral process. But on Wednesday, an attempt to dramatically restrict the ability of super PACs to raise and spend huge sums on political campaigns was dismissed by Attorney General Maura Healey’s office as ‘incompatible’ with constitutional free speech rights. .
While Massachusetts voters haven’t even decided on the final set of initiative petitions that are expected to appear on the ballot in November, some eager beavers have already filed proposed questions for the 2024 ballot in the statewide.
A petition, backed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Harvard Law School, reportedly limited contributions to super PACs to $5,000 per calendar year.
In a letter dated Sept. 7, Anne Sterman, deputy head of the government office of the attorney general, said the petition “is not consistent with these constitutionally protected rights of the state because it would infringe on the freedom of ‘expression’ and therefore ineligible to appear on the ballot.
The attorney general’s decision cites many of the same legal precedents cited by the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance in a legal memo provided to Healey’s office opposing certification of the ballot petition.
Lessig could not be reached for comment, but Paul Craney, a spokesman for the Fiscal Alliance, said he was “proud” to help keep the issue from coming before voters.
“Our freedom of expression and association must be protected,” Craney said. “The Citizens United Supreme Court decision simply allows more say in elections while treating individuals, employers and unions alike. The Alliance will always protect this right, and although we won, the real winners are the people of Massachusetts who will benefit the most with more votes when they are elected.
While petitioners seeking to ask a question about the 2024 ballot have until next August to submit the wording to the attorney general for review, campaign finance reformers weren’t the only ones to be quick. Twelve proposals were submitted for consideration, three of which were accepted that would qualify motorists for tax credits or gas tax exemptions when fuel prices rise to $3 a gallon or more. Others would establish deep discounts on the purchase of electric vehicles or change the constitution to create a right to privacy that would limit companies’ ability to collect personal data.