Thursday, January 06, 2011

"This inauguration brought to you by..."

Earlier today, Governor Deval Patrick was sworn in to his second term of office after having raised over $700,000 in private donations to fund inaugural festivities.

Governor Patrick deserves credit for releasing the list of private sponsors to the public, something he did voluntarily. But, it shouldn't be up to him. While the giving and receipt of these donations was not inappropriate under existing campaign finance and ethics laws, we believe the contributions should be subject to public reporting requirements, contribution limits, and corporate prohibitions that are the same or similar to those that pertain to political contributions.

Take a look at the list in this GateHouse Media / State House News Service article. It includes labor unions, insurance companies, banks, sports teams and manufacturers.

Many of the sponsors have a stake in what happens on Beacon Hill after the inauguration, from health care to gaming to insurance and financial regulation. (And, curiously, the last time several of these highly generous sponsors made big news was to report Massachusetts job layoffs, but we'll leave that to their PR departments to sort out.)

Our point is that, in almost every other circumstance in which these sponsors would make a politically-oriented donation, their donation would be highly regulated. For example, corporate sponsors are prohibited from giving political donations under campaign finance law. Individuals are prohibited from donating more than $500 a year. In this case, some individuals or couples apparently contributed $25,000. Why is an inauguration really any different?

We've written before about how Massachusetts law requires public school teachers to publicly report gifts they receive in amounts of less than $50, and it forbids personal gifts over $50 and class gifts over $150. The purpose is to eliminate the appearance of improper influence. Why can corporations contribute $50,000 to sponsor a statewide inauguration?

It's well and good for us to celebrate the orderly transition of government as part of our democracy, regardless of who is in charge and which party they represent. And, it's fair to ask willing private donors to pick up some of the tab. But we think it's also reasonable to have reporting and contribution guidelines in place, just like during the campaign that made the inauguration possible.


  1. Cost should have been zero...he was already coronated once...why do we need all this pomp? Enuf already!!! And then to have three former speakers...crooks in their own right... present in the legislature for the swearing ins. What an outrage. Had I been a rep, I'd have walked right out the back door. The smell would be overwhelming!

  2. Okay, now let's fix the state with an immediate budget cut of 8% each year for the next three years. Deval speaks with firmness that he wants to lead...well, here's one for him to start with. Eliminate the prevailing wage laws as item #2. Item 3, require all local government employees to be part of state medical system. #4, require all current state employees who have 10 years or more to go before being eligible for state pensions to immediately begin to participate in Soc. Sec. system so that they will fall under Medicare at retirement instead of MA programs. Item 5...pass legislation for two casinos before the end of March. Just a few ideas to chew on.....


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