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Proposed Mass. Campaign Finance Regulations Could Lower Union Political Contributions

Massachusetts campaign finance regulators proposed new rules last Friday that would cap unions' political contributions at $1,000 per candidate.

Private citizens and political action committees face greater restrictions on campaign donations, with limits set at $1,000 and $500, respectively. To impose similar regulations against unions, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance seeks to undo rules from 1988 that allow unions to give up to $15,000 to any one candidate.

“It's about limits being the same for everyone,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “Public confidence is important, and everybody needs to play by the same rules.”

Under current law, Wilmot said, unions hold a clear advantage over other political donors.

State law bans any direct corporate donations to candidates. But trade groups, which are often nonprofits, get donations from corporate members. Unions, on the other hand, can give up to 15 times more than an individual, and much more than political committees, said Wilmot.

Steve Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, said unions should maintain their higher limits because they act collectively on behalf of those who can only afford small donations.

“A lot of our members can't afford to give money if they want to support anyone,” said Tolman. “They have tight budgets, but their interests should still be heard, especially when there are wealthy households who can give year after year.”

The OCPF will hold a public hearing on the draft regulation on March 5.

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Jerome Campbell Twitter Reporter
Jerome Campbell is a freelance reporter for WBUR focusing on how vulnerable communities navigate and experience the criminal justice system.

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