Recently, many homes in Franklin received mailings concerning pay raises for legislators. You may have also been subjected to posts which have popped up on your Facebook page as a result of some paid advertising. The information contained in the mailings and posts is false, defamatory, and its origin is highly suspect. To help you sort through the disinformation campaign, and set the record straight, here is the truth about the source of the mailing and the facts underlying legislative compensation.
The Mass Fiscal Alliance, who sent this dishonest mailer, is a mysterious right wing political group that consistently targets Democrats in a clear attempt to influence elections, without revealing the source of their dark money contributions. State law permits political groups to communicate with voters, but they are required to disclose their donors. In fact, I disclose every single donor to my campaign, and I hope you expect the same of other political organizations.
Section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code sets forth two tests for that exemption – the organization must be “nonprofit” and it must be “non-partisan.” While Mass Fiscal may meet the “nonprofit” test, as there is no indication that its members personally profit, it hardly meets the “non-partisan” test. The organization only attacks Democratic incumbents, and primarily in or near election years. The vast majority, if not all, of its officers and directors are active or formerly active Republican politicos. The alliance director Phil Craney himself lists his Republican credentials in his LinkedIn profile. And the organization uses its 501(c)(4) status to shield the identities of its contributors, thus nicely exempting itself from the transparency that it demands of others.
A formal complaint against this secretive political group has been filed with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), seeking an investigation into violations of state election law by the Mass Fiscal Alliance. The complaint notes that the Mass Fiscal Alliance is actually a Political Committee “which raises money and expends those funds for the purpose of influencing Massachusetts elections,” and thus is required by state election law to disclose its donors. It goes on to state that the Mass Fiscal Alliance targets only Democratic legislators and “is clearly engaged in a persistent prolonged targeted effort to defeat Democratic House and Senate members.”
On August 3, 2018, a federal judge in Washington, DC issued a 113 page ruling invalidating a Federal Election Commission regulation that has allowed donors to these so-called dark-money groups to remain anonymous, the latest development in a years-long legal battle that could have major implications for campaign finance. Now, these dark money groups that spend at least $250 in independent expenditures—a key type of political ad—must report every contributor who gave at least $200 in the past year as well as those who give to finance independent expenditures generally, throwing out an illegal three decades old regulation that was used to avoid disclosure and changing the legal landscape for political spending. You can learn more about the lawsuit and decision by clicking here and here.
The Boston Globe did an earlier story on how the group is being investigated on the question of whether the group improperly crosses the line into partisan campaigning. You can view that story by clicking here.
Mass Fiscal Alliance has consistently prioritized the concealment of its donors above all. The group’s leader was recently quoted as saying: “We cannot guarantee the sun will rise tomorrow, but we can guarantee our donors will never be disclosed.” While the group claims that it is an advocate for transparency, as you can see, it is simply engaged in a persistent course of hypocrisy and should not be a trusted source. The suggestion that this organization is non-partisan defies credulity.
In 2016, conservative political donors funneled millions of dollars through several other non-profit groups to fund the charter school ballot question. OCPF has already found two groups guilty of failing to disclose their political donations in connection with that election (see http://files.ocpf.us/pdf/releases/fesaprfinal.pdf) and they are being asked again investigate Mass Fiscal Alliance and hold them to the same standard.
For a good history of dark money and its effect on American elections, I suggest you obtain and read the book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right by Jane Mayer. It’s a compelling piece of investigative journalism that uncovers the agenda of this powerful group of millionaires. You can learn more about the book by clicking here.
You can also view the documentary Dark Money which will help you sort through the disinformation campaign, and set the record straight. A preview of the movie is included below.
The truth about the information in the mailing
The legislation dealing with pay increases was House 58 which was the subject of a January 25, 2017 vote. You can see the history of that legislation online at https://malegislature.gov/Bills/190/H58. I was in support of the legislation and voted accordingly.
First, I carefully reviewed and considered the Special Advisory Commission report on Compensation of MA Public Officials issued in 2014 which you can find at https://www.umb.edu/academics/mgs/special_projects/masspubliccomp. The legislature created this commission several years ago to review the compensation of the legislature and state constitutional officers. The commissioners included two in senior positions at the University of Massachusetts, one from the Governor’s budget agency, two from good government groups (the League of Women Voters, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation), two more from the private sector (one from the Business Roundtable, one a former Federal Reserve executive).
The Commission report and resulting legislation established a compensation system that enables the state to attract and retain diverse, highly qualified professionals to public service regardless of their means or proximity to Boston. In a nutshell, the commission recommended substantial pay raises for the state’s senior elected leaders. The commission pointed to the need to attract skilled leaders, the desirability of keeping those leaders away from financial pressures that would create temptations, and the importance of attracting those who are not independently wealthy to serve.
Here is a table that outlines the compensation covered under the legislation:
Comparison of Legislative Proposals and Historical Compensation Levels
|Position||Current Salary*||Last Changed||Legal basis||Commission Recommendations||Legislative Proposal||Inflation at same rate as Consumer Prices|
|Governor||151,800*||1/1/2017||G.L. c. 6, s.1||250,000 including housing allowance||250,000 including housing allowance||N/A|
|Attorney General||130,582*||1/1/2017||G.L. c. 12, s.1||175,000||175,000||N/A|
|Treasurer||127,917*||1/1/2017||G.L., c.10, s.1||175,000||175,000||N/A|
|Lieutenant Governor||127,327*||1/1/2017||G.L. c. 6, s.2||165,000||165,000||N/A|
|Secretary of State||130,262*||1/1/2017||G.L. c. 9, s.1||165,000||165,000||N/A|
|Auditor||134,952*||1/1/2017||G.L. s. 11, s.1||165,000||165,000||N/A|
|Legislator Base||62,547||1/1/2017||Constitution, Article CXVIII||No change||No change||N/A|
|Legislator Per Diem||10 – 100 / travel day||2000||G.L. c. 3, s. 9B||Abolish||Abolish||14 – 140 / travel day|
|Legislator Expense Allowance||7,200||2000||G.L. c. 3, s. 9B||10,000 — 15,000 if over 50 miles from Boston||15,000 — 20,000 if over 50 miles from Boston||10,035|
|Committee Vice Chairs||0 or 7,500 depending on committee||1982||Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982.||Not specified, need for adjustment acknowledged||5,200 or 15,000 depending on committee||0 or 18,653 depending on committee|
|Committee Chairs||7,500 or 15,000 depending on committee||1982||Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982.||Not specified, need for adjustment acknowledged||15,000 or 30,000 depending on committee||18,653 or 37,307 depending on committee|
|Ways and Means Chair Stipend||25,000||1982||Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982.||Not specified, need for adjustment acknowledged||65,000||62,177|
|Speaker/Senate President Stipend||35,000||1982||Differential originally enacted as Chapter 455 of Acts of 1982.||102,453 (recommendation is for total of $175,000 with all components)||80,000||87,049|
As you can see, the recommendations of the commission and legislation resulted in minimal changes for the majority of legislators like me. In fact, the base compensation of legislators is governed by a constitutional amendment (Article CXVIII) which causes it to rise and fall with the median household income of the state. It was $61,132.99 when I was elected in 2012, but dropped to 60,032.91 on the day I was sworn in. It was increased by the Governor in 2017 to $62,547 in accordance with the Constitution. Contrary to the assertions in the mailing, that pay was not altered by the January 25, 2017 legislation.
The legislation did, however, alter the legislator expense reimbursements, increasing them from $7,200 to $15,000 for legislators in my area of the state. But we also abolished per diem payments (average $3,000/year) which resulted in a net gain of $4,800 for legislators like me. Contrary to the assertions in the mailing, none of this compensation is added to the pension. In fact, as ruled by the Massachusetts Appeals Court in Parente v. State Board of Retirement, 80 Mass. App. Ct. 747 (2011), an annual allowance for expenses paid to a member of the General Court, is not “regular compensation” as that term is defined by G. L. c. 32, § 1, for purposes of calculating retirement benefits.
To put the legislative pay in context, anyone can view the entire state payroll atmass.gov/opencheckbook. If you download the data and sort through it you will see that among state employees in 2016, there were:
- 172 earning more than $250,000 (the originally proposed level for the Governor)
- 1,173 earning more than $175,000 (the originally proposed level for the Speaker and Senate President)
- 12,476 earning more than $102,279 (the current level of the Speaker and Senate President)
- 45,201 earning more than $ 67,234.55 (the current level of a typical Representative like me)
The legislation also addressed leadership stipends. These leadership positions are charged with overseeing an over $40 billion annual budget addressing health care, public education, housing and transportation, among many other important public priorities. For legislators who hold some type of leadership post — a committee chairmanship or a role in floor operations (majority leader, whip, etc.) — the commission recommended adjustments. The last time that leadership stipends were changed was 1982. Fair minded people will consider the fact that stipends for presiding officers have not changed for 33 years. Who works for the same amount 33 years later? The Boston Globe cost 25 cents a day 33 years ago. It’s now $2 a day. Obviously costs go up and they ought to be reflected in people’s salaries as well. And these important positions should be attractive enough that there is vibrant competition to fill them.
The commission recognized that “reasonable adjustments in the stipends provided to other House and Senate leadership positions are justified.” Most of the increases in leadership stipends are below the rate of inflation since 1982 when they were last changed. The proposal also prohibits the Speaker, Senate President, Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Auditor from earning outside income while in office, except for money derived from assets. The stipends we put in place are outlined in the table above.
Serving as your State Representative is a job that I enjoy and I am honored to serve. I am humbled that the citizens have sent me here to make difficult decisions and take tough votes. Voting for any compensation legislation is both difficult and tough, but in my judgment, the January 25, 2017 vote was needed and appropriate.