State Sen. Jamie Eldridge represents the Middlesex and Worcester district, part of the MetroWest region of our state. Eldridge is your classic unbendingly liberal legislator, consistently tweeting about affordable care, housing, the environment and the negative effects of the Supreme Court’s decision on Citizens United. He ran for Congress in 2007 and clearly has higher ambitions than the Statehouse. He lead the charge and introduced resolution S.772 calling on Congress to overturn Citizens United, which allows for the formation of SuperPACs.
Eldridge worked with 25 of the most liberal Democratic legislators to sign onto his resolution. He was joined by state Sens. Daniel Wolf, Thomas McGee, Sal DiDomenico, John Keenan, Stanley Rosenberg, Katherine Clark, Brian Joyce, Eileen Donoghue, Benjamin Downing, Sonia Chang-Diaz and state Reps. James O’Day, Timothy Madden, Jonathan Hecht, Kay Khan, William Pignatelli, Cleon Turner, Paul Mark, Peter Kocot, Sarah Peake, Cory Atkins, Charles Murphy, James Arciero, Tricia Farley-Bouvier, Denise Andrews and Linda Campbell.
On April 25, I wrote in the Boston Business Journal that Eldridge’s focus on SuperPACs is not due to corporate influence; rather it’s to distract the public from the unrestrained influence of unions. I still hold to that statement, but Eldridge and the 25 Democratic Legislators have an opportunity to prove me wrong.
At this very moment, there are a number of Massachusetts SuperPACs but one in particular that’s nearly anonymous, with close ties to the Massachusetts Democratic Party. Like most voters, I am getting bombarded on a daily basis with slick glossy direct mail pieces. Some of them come under the name of “Protect our Schools,” which is the Massachusetts Teachers Association (Union), “Women Vote,” which is Emily’s List in Washington, D.C. and the most mysterious group is labeled “Our Mass Values.”
Unlike the Massachusetts Teachers Association or Emily’s List, “Our Mass Values” is nearly anonymous. They don’t have an office, just a P.O. Box. They don’t list any staff on their website and prior to Sept. 27, 2012, they didn’t exist. According to records filed with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), their only human contact is Mr. David Martin of Dedham, listed as their officer.
“Our Mass Values” registered with OCPF on Sept. 28, 2012 as a SuperPAC. They filed after the last reporting period that covered from Jan. 1, 2012 to Aug. 19, 2012. What this means is that since they filed after Aug. 19, they aren’t required to disclose their donors until the next deadline on Oct. 29, nearly a week before the November election. They can accept corporate and personal contributions and their donors have no limitations. All their money can be used for election activity.
Meanwhile, Our Mass Values SuperPAC has been filling mail boxes on almost a daily basis distorting the character and voting records of Republican legislators Shaunna O’Connell, James Lyons, Steven Levy, Angelo D’Emilia, Peter Durant and George Ross.
The group’s only officer, Mr. Martin has deep ties to well-known Democrats. His firm includes clients such as the Massachusetts Democratic Party, Speaker Robert DeLeo and the Committee for a Democratic House PAC. Mr. Martin has a history of only giving contributions to Democrats.
Make no mistake, if you track SuperPACs, there is only one window of time in which SuperPACs can be created, be anonymous, influence elections and go undisclosed. Based on my research, Our Mass Values is the first SuperPAC to exploit this loophole in Massachusetts.
Mr. Martin and Our Mass Values SuperPAC may have a problem. OCPF has a history of coming down hard on “pass through” shell organizations. In 2009, state Rep. John Rogers was fined $30,000 for using a pass through to benefit his reelection efforts and his financial well-being.
While we won’t know until right before the election if Our Mass Values SuperPAC is a pass through, they are certainly leaving close observes to think so.
Some would argue that Our Mass Values SuperPAC is exactly what’s wrong with politics. Those critics would say Our Mass Values Super PAC is anonymous, biased and hyperpartisan. They are exploiting a loophole to clutter mailboxes with political charges. They deter good candidates from running for public office.
Now is the time for Sen. Eldridge and the 25 Democrats who signed onto the resolution to speak up. Will they publicly rebuke Our Mass Values, an anonymous SuperPAC or will they continue to look the other way? If Eldridge and the 25 other Democratic Legislators want to be leaders in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, every once in a while they are going to have to take a stand. Here is their opportunity.