Activities of new Sanders group challenged by Mass Fiscal

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STATE HOUSE — The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a conservative non-profit that has established itself as a foil to Democratic lawmakers on Beacon Hill, believes the new organization formed by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders to carry on the ideals of his presidential campaign may be violating state campaign finance law.

Our Revolution, which launched this week, organized itself as a non-profit and has a page devoted to highlighting candidates around the country at the federal and state level with its support. Among the candidates listed are Sens. Jamie Eldridge and Patricia Jehlen, Rep. Mary Keefe and Democratic House candidate Mike Connolly.

Mass Fiscal Executive Director Paul Craney wrote a letter to the head of the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance on Thursday requesting a review of whether the group – and by extension the candidates it supports – is in violation of campaign finance law for not registering as a political action committee.

“Where I think they cross the line, and I think it’s fairly black and white, is where they start linking their non-profit page to candidates’ pages and talking about electing these candidates,” Craney said, noting a tab on Our Revolution’s Jehlen page that allow visitors to donate to her campaign through Act Blue, an online fundraising website. “Do they want to be a PAC? If so, then register. But right now they’re not advertising that. They’re soliciting money for candidates as a non-profit.”

Sanders campaigned for president on a platform about getting big money out of politics.

Craney said Eldridge, Jehlen and anyone else from Massachusetts receiving donations through the Our Revolution website should refund those contributions and ask to be taken off the website.

“Sen. Eldridge and Sen. Jehlen talk about transparency. This is an opportunity for them to live by their words and return the money they’ve received and call on this group to either become a PAC or come into compliance with state finance law,” Craney said.

Eldridge, an Acton Democrat who supported Sanders during the primary, responded to Craney’s letter on Twitter: “This tweet & letter highlights how antagonistic @MassFiscal is to values of progressive Democrats in #maleg #mapoli”

Craney also noted that Our Revolution did not include any contact information or statements of organization as a non-profit on its website or, a repository of non-profit organization financial and disclosure filings.

Mass Fiscal recently went through a similar process with OCPF after its status as a non-profit was challenged by Democrats. Campaign finance regulators determined that the group, despite its spending on education materials that target Democrats, did not have to register as a PAC.

— Written by Matt Murphy

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