(Posted on behalf of COFAR)
I wrote here previously about our finding that just a dozen executives and lobbyists in the human services industry in Massachusetts had contributed more than $44,600 to legislators and other politicians in the state since 2005.
By way of an update to that, I’ve taken a look at all the provider or vendor agencies listed on the Department of Developmental Services website, and entered them into the Office of Campaign and Political Finance database.
That database shows that a total of 206 employees of 79 vendor firms contributed $166,690.00 since 2001 to a variety of politicians, most of them legislators and statewide office holders, from the governor on down.
The contributions ranged from as little as $55 from one employee of one firm I looked at, to $18,900 from five employees of another.
There are two points I’d like to make here about these figures:
1. The $166,690 is the total I came up with after searching the Campaign Finance database by “employer.” It is definitely an undercount because it is a total of contributed amounts listed only from employees who identified themselves as employees of specific vendor firms. In filing contribution reports with the Campaign Finance Office, candidate committees only list the employers of the contributors if those employer names have been disclosed to the committees. Often, contributors don’t disclose their employers in making contributions, and there is no legal requirement that they do so, according to an attorney I talked to at the Campaign Finance Office.
That’s why I got a lower total amount contributed since 2001 by all employees of one particular human services vendor than I got when I looked up all contributions from the president of that firm since 2005 alone.
2. While $160,000 may or may not be considered a large figure in the scheme of things, it still appears to be evidence of a “pay-for-play” mentality on Beacon Hill.
You’ll recall that the Independent Counsel’s report in the Probation Department scandal found that a high percentage of people sponsored by key legislators for jobs in the Department had made campaign contributions to them. Moreover, those who contributed were more likely to be hired or promoted in the Department.
The Independent Counsel’s report stated that it wasn’t possible to prove a direct cause and effect between campaign contributions and jobs. Similarly, I’m not able to prove here that campaign contributions from vendors help them get contracts or help them further their agendas on Beacon Hill.
But at the same time, it seems unlikely to me that that five employees of one particular vendor would have contributed $18,900 to politicians in the past 10 years, or that eight employees of another would have contributed at least $11,800, solely out of a sense of political altruism.
The vendor industry in Massachusetts has had close ties to key legislators and members of the administration for decades. In those years the vendors have succeeded in vastly increasing the value of their contracts with the state, and their anti-institutional agenda is largely carrying the day on Beacon Hill.
Family-supported advocacy organizations and individuals, who support developmental centers for the intellectually disabled and who haven’t chosen or been able to pool their political contributions, have been forced to the political sidelines.
Let’s not kid ourselves. It’s money that talks the loudest in our system of government; and whether it’s the defense industry or the insurance industry or the human services provider industry, contributing to political campaigns is the quickest and most effective way to get their voices heard.