With help from Lisa Kashinsky
DON’T SHOW ME THE MONEY — Stalled in the state’s top court, campaign finance-reform advocates looking to reign in super PAC spending are taking their fight to the Legislature.
A bill from state Rep. Michael Day would set a $5,000 annual cap on individual donations to independent expenditure PACs, committees that can raise and spend unlimited sums so long as there’s no coordination with a candidate.
The legislation mirrors the language of a ballot initiative now sitting before the Supreme Judicial Court. Two groups are challenging then-Attorney General Maura Healey’s decision to shoot down their petition last year for being “inconsistent” with free speech protections.
Advocates want to close what they view as a loophole in state law that’s come into play in the decade since Citizens United opened the floodgates for outside spending: Massachusetts limits individuals’ contributions to candidates and political parties, but not to super PACs. The SJC heard their case in February but has yet to rule on whether the groups can proceed in their ballot quest.
What the court says will likely weigh heavily on whether lawmakers decide to take up Day’s legislation. State Rep. Tommy Vitolo, the House vice chair of the election laws committee, told Playbook the court’s decision will help lawmakers “get a feel for what makes sense” moving forward.
Healey’s opposition to the ballot question doesn’t bode well for the bill’s chances even if it advances to the governor’s office.
But Free Speech for People, a nonpartisan nonprofit that’s one of the groups behind the ballot initiative and the legislative effort, believes public opinion is on their side.
The group has bills to limit political spending by foreign-owned companies working their way through legislatures in California, Hawaii, Minnesota, Washington and New York. And Seattle approved a measure blocking companies that are at least 5 percent foreign-owned from contributing to local elections after Amazon dumped money into the city council race in 2019.
But Massachusetts would be the first to pass the $5,000 cap, Free Speech for People’s legal director, Ron Fein, told Playbook.
“If you survey ordinary Americans and you ask: ‘Should wealthy donors be able to give unlimited amounts of money to super PACs?’ Overwhelmingly, people are opposed to that,” Fein said.
TODAY — Sen. Elizabeth Warren is on WBUR’s “Radio Boston” at 11 a.m.
THIS WEEKEND — House Democratic Whip Katherine Clark is on WBZ’s “Keller @ Large” at 8:30 a.m. Sunday. State House Speaker Ron Mariano is on WCVB’s “On the Record” at 11 a.m. Sunday.
— “Boston COVID wastewater data keeps dropping, Massachusetts virus cases down 20%,” by Rick Sobey, Boston Herald: “On Thursday, the state Department of Public Health reported 2,076 virus cases over the last week. The daily average of 297 COVID cases from the last week was a 20% drop from the daily rate of 373 virus infections during the previous week.”
— “Mass. lawmakers approve money for extra SNAP benefits, family shelters and school meals,” by Katie Lannan, GBH News: “Sen. Michael Rodrigues, the Senate’s budget chief, said the bill spends $388 million on ‘time-sensitive, urgent’ needs. That includes $85 million to expand capacity at emergency family shelters and $65 million to ensure the state’s universal free school meals program can keep operating through the rest of the academic year. … The bill would also: Extend the pandemic-era authorization for restaurants to offer cocktails, beer and wine to-go with takeout orders another year, until April 1, 2024.”
— “Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket residents rally for affordable year-round housing,” by Jennifer Eagan, WCVB: “A housing crisis on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket is now affecting the middle class, according to advocates who rallied Thursday at the State House in Boston. … More than 300 islanders were at the State House to push lawmakers to allow a one-time, 2 percent transfer fee on real estate sales over $1 million.”
— “Massachusetts steps up effort to get state IDs to more people being released from prison,” by Paul Singer and Chris Burrell, GBH News: “Massachusetts officials unveiled a new initiative Thursday to make it easier for people returning from state prisons to obtain a state-issued ID — considered a critical first step for successful reentry after incarceration.”
— “Report: state spends $90M on ‘unaffordable’ housing,” by Christian M. Wade, Eagle-Tribune: “The report by the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute said an analysis of the state’s Housing Development Incentive Program found that tax credits offered to date — totaling nearly $90 million — as well as local tax breaks, have been mostly for market-rate, above-market and even expensive luxury housing.”
— “Mass. bans betting on potential Russian, Belarusian neutral flag athletes at 2024 Olympics,” by Chris Van Buskirk, MassLive.
— EEA HIRES: Energy & Environmental Affairs Secretary Rebecca Tepper is building out her leadership team with Kathleen Glunz Skarin as chief of staff, Paolo DiFabio as deputy chief of staff, Peter C. Mulcahy as general counsel, Katherine Antos as undersecretary of decarbonization and resilience, Stephanie Cooper as undersecretary of environment and Michael Judge as energy undersecretary.
— “A Boston city councilor, frustrated with redistricting, is bankrolling litigation against it,” by Danny McDonald and Emma Platoff, Boston Globe: “Upset with how Boston’s redistricting process unfolded last fall, City Councilor Frank Baker is helping to fund a federal lawsuit against the governing body on which he serves that challenges how the new boundaries were drawn.”
— “MBTA’s subway tracks are far more broken than previously disclosed,” by Taylor Dolven and Nick Stoico, Boston Globe: “The good news: The MBTA published a new dashboard Thursday that will allow riders to track changes to slow zones daily. The bad news: It indicates that 27 percent of the subway tracks have speed restrictions, up from 7.5 percent at the end of last month.”
— More: “MBTA to shut down parts of Red and Blue Lines to address slow zones,” Gayla Cawley, Boston Herald.
— “MBTA explores low-income fare program, estimates revenue loss,” by Gayla Cawley, Boston Herald: “The MBTA expects to be able to implement a low-income fare program in 12 months, should the $5 million start-up cost included in the governor’s state budget proposal make it through the legislative process. Roughly 60,000 additional riders between the ages of 26-64, with incomes at or below 200% of the federal poverty level, are expected to become eligible for half-price fares through this program.”
— “Survey indicates dramatic demographic shift among T riders,” Bruce Mohl, CommonWealth Magazine: “A new passenger study conducted by the MBTA found that minorities, those who self-identify as Hispanic, Latino or Latina, or a race other than white, accounted for 34 percent of T riders in the period from 2015 to 2017. In 2022, however, that percentage had risen to 58 percent.”
— “Freight train cars derail in Ayer; no hazardous materials on board, MEMA says,” by Ryan Mancini, MassLive.
— “Ousted MassGOP chair sues party for triple back pay, gets sued by UPS,” by Matthew Medsger, Boston Herald: “The former chairman of the MassGOP suddenly finds himself in the middle of two lawsuits, alleging in one the party he used to lead failed to pay him thousands in owed salary, and accused in another of stiffing the United Parcel Services company for even more.”
— “Boston man sues Dunkin’ over mobile app,” by Sean Philip Cotter, Boston Herald.
— “Trahan: TikTok CEO’s testimony ‘a disappointment’ as panel probes app’s US security threat,” by Marco Cartolano, Telegram & Gazette: “U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, D-Westford, who sits on a House Committee that grilled TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew Thursday, said the head of the popular social media app did little to ease concerns about the app’s national security implications.”
— “Somerville celebrates another first for polyamorous people,” by Meredith Goldstein, Boston Globe: “The ordinance — the first of its kind, according to those involved — prohibits employment and policing discrimination against those in relationships of two or more people.”
— “Number of antisemitic incidents in Mass. surged in 2022, report finds,” Amanda Kaufman, Boston Globe: “A total of 152 incidents of assault, harassment, and vandalism were recorded in Massachusetts last year, a 41 percent increase from 2021, when there were 108, the ADL found. There were 204 incidents in New England, the highest number in the region since the ADL began tracking more than 40 years ago.”
— GRANITE STATE OF MIND: New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu’s “Live Free or Die” PAC is out with a new promotional video that could double as a sizzle reel for his potential presidential campaign. Sununu told Playbook after speaking at Harvard earlier this week that he’ll make his decision over the summer. Watch.
SPOTTED — sending off NBC10 Boston/NECN political reporter Alison King: Sens. Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren; Reps. Katherine Clark, Lori Trahan, Ayanna Pressley, Jake Auchincloss, Seth Moulton and Jim McGovern; Gov. Maura Healey and Lt. Gov. Kim Driscoll; former Govs. Mike Dukakis, Mitt Romney, Bill Weld, Deval Patrick, Charlie Baker and Jane Swift; former Sen. Scott Brown, former Boston mayor and former Labor Secretary Marty Walsh; former Reps. Joe Kennedy III and Michael Capuano; Secretary of State Bill Galvin, former Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, AG Andrea Campbell, Boston Mayor Michelle Wu and Treasurer Deb Goldberg. Alison, the beat won’t be the same without you. Video.
WEEKEND WEDDING — Tom Hunt, risk management adviser at Custom House Risk Advisors, on Saturday married Sarah Hennessey. The couple met in Boston six years ago and married at the La Quinta Resort & Spa in La Quinta, Calif. Pic by Valorie Darling Photography and Nicole Alexandra Designs.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY — to Matt Gorman of Targeted Victory, Vail Kohnert-Yount, Tyler Giles, Ford Hatchett and Playbook fan Paul Murray.
HAPPY BIRTHWEEKEND — to U.S. Grid Deployment Office Director Maria Robinson, NYT’s Felice Belman, Alissa C. Rooney and Playbook superfan Wayne Kashinsky, who celebrate Saturday; and to Sunday birthday-ers Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler, Nick Bayer, Caroline Darmody and Kelli Ritter.
NEW HORSE RACE ALERT: FIRE IN THE POLL — Hosts Steve Koczela and Jennifer Smith dig into the state of polling. Smith and host Lisa Kashinsky take a look at both sides of the debate over gig-workers’ rights. Subscribe and listen on iTunes and Sound Cloud.
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