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Lyft gives record $13 million to back ballot question

A Lyft ride-share car. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP File)
A Lyft ride-share car. (Rich Pedroncelli/AP File)

Lyft spent $13 million in December to back a controversial proposed ballot question affecting the rights of drivers, the largest single political campaign contribution in Massachusetts history, according to a newly filed campaign report.

The donation was made to Flexibility and Benefits for Massachusetts Drivers, a group sponsored by a group of ride-hailing and delivery companies to back the November ballot question.

If passed, it would make it easier for app-based companies to continue to classify drivers as independent contractors, rather than employees.

Lyft's latest donation was on top of more than $1 million in smaller gifts it had already made, pushing its total spending to more than $14 million. The state's campaign finance database reveals the company's latest donation is the largest ever of its kind in Massachusetts.

The ballot campaign has also received several million from other companies. The campaign reported it has received more than $17 million for 2021. It has spent $2.8 million so far.

The other corporations backing the campaign — Uber, Instacart and DoorDash — also made contributions weighing in around $1 million each.

"This is just the beginning of our effort," campaign spokesman Conor Yunits said in an email. "All of the Coalition members have committed to providing significant resources to achieve our shared goal of protecting drivers’ ability to remain independent contractors while accessing historic new benefits."

The four companies funded a similar, successful question in California in 2020, called Prop 22. That campaign was the most expensive ballot initiative in U.S. history. The Associated Press reported supporters spent more than $200 million.

Delivery and ride-hail companies sponsored the ballot question after state Attorney General Maura Healey sued Uber and Lyft for classifying drivers as independent contractors rather than employees. That suit is pending.

The Legislature has until May to take action on the proposal. If they do not, the petitioners will just need to collect an additional 13,374 signatures before July in order to land on the ballot.

But a group of voters has filed a lawsuit to try to block the question from ever making it to the ballot, arguing that it doesn't meet state constitutional standards and never should have advanced, the Boston Business Journal reported this week.

This article was originally published on January 20, 2022.

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