Judge won’t allow businesses to make campaign donations while lawsuit is pending
By Evan Lips | September 15, 2015, 16:49 EST
BOSTON — Suffolk County Superior Court Judge Linda E. Giles recently denied a request from two Massachusetts businesses to block a state law that prevents them from making contributions to political campaigns.
Massachusetts campaign finance laws allow unions to donate up to $15,000 per state candidate but bans businesses from making any outright donations. Individuals, however, are allowed to donate up to $1,000 per candidate.
Earlier this year the owners of the two businesses, 1A Auto of Pepperell and Self Storage Inc. of Ashland, filed a lawsuit against the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Their attorneys, who work for the Arizona-based Goldwater Institute, argued there is “no legitimate justification for allowing unions to contribute thousands of dollars while completely banning any contributions from businesses.”
In denying the plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction, Giles wrote that the plaintiffs “have failed to demonstrate a likelihood of success on the merits.”
Giles listed several previous cases to support her decision, including the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark Citizen’s United decision, which she wrote applies to expenditures, while “only political contributions are at issue” in the lawsuit currently before her.
Giles cited several additional cases to cement her opinion that campaign contributions “lie closer to the edges than to the core of political expression.”
Lastly, Giles suggested that the plaintiffs’ case may be “better left to the appeals court.”
The court’s ruling means the plaintiffs will not be able to contribute to any political campaigns while the lawsuit is pending, but Jim Manley, senior attorney at the Goldwater Institute, said he’s still moving forward with the case.
“The next step is for the attorneys to decide on a discover plan to develop the facts,” he added.
Manley also said Giles’s appeals court reference did not surprise him.
“This case will be decided by the appellate courts no matter who wins in superior court,” he said. “The judge was just nodding to that reality.”