Our right-leaning friends at the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance are out with a new 2015-2016 scorecard tracking the votes of our state legislators for the session that just concluded.
Mass Fiscal, for those who aren’t familiar, is an advocacy group that has tax exempt status because it is “operated to promote social welfare.” What promotes social welfare, in Mass Fiscal’s view, is steadfast resistance to taxes, government spending and labor unions (often with an overtone of hostility toward immigrants that’s consistent with Mass Fiscal’s origins as a promoter of Voter ID laws).
Given these priorities, it’s not surprising that its scorecard ranks every Republican in the state legislature higher than any Democrat. And given the uses to which Mass Fiscal puts its scorecard, it’s not surprising that questions have arisen about the tax-exempt status it enjoys and whether it should be allowed to withhold all information about its sources of income.
This self-described electoral bigfoot specializes in communicating by direct mail. Here’s a brag about their clout in the 2014 statewide elections:
Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance delivered more than 2,000,000 — that’s two million — pieces of direct mail and advocacy pieces to residents of the Commonwealth, highlighting our positions and those of lawmakers….Our campaign ran in 21 different legislative districts, with each district on average receiving 95,837 mailers. As part of our efforts, we used a strategy known as every-door direct mail, or EDDM. Through this method, we were able to contact as many residents and businesses as exist in the towns where we focused.
The Democratic lawmakers targeted by these direct mail efforts objected strenuously that their positions, as Mass Fiscal characterized them, were preposterously distorted. That objection was backed up by journalists including David Bernstein, who dismissed the scorecard’s claim “that certain targeted state legislators voted to prioritize illegal immigrants over veterans for public housing.” “That’s a crock,” he continued. “They did no such thing.”
Which brings us back to Mass Fiscal’s new scorecard, which includes House and Senate votes on a bill the legislature passed and Governor Baker signed this week that directly affects Mass Fiscal. The new law requires organizations that use direct mail for their electioneering to disclose their five biggest donors of more than $5000, just as organizations that use paid television, internet and print advertising must do.
Not surprising that Mass Fiscal opposed the bill or that its scorecard describes the votes approving it as “deterring freedom of speech.” Whether the vote will be included in Mass Fiscal’s 2016 electioneering efforts (the new law is effective immediately) is rather doubtful, though — only 16 of the Legislature’s Republicans (fewer than half) took their side.