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PAC targeting GOP legislators hit with complaint

A union-backed super PAC targeting Republican state lawmakers has raised the hackles of a right-leaning group, which claims the super PAC is a “super anonymous, super special interest, super PAC.”

The Mass Values Independent Expenditure PAC will file its financial disclosures on Monday, and they will show that it received $75,000 each from the Massachusetts Teachers Association and the Service Employees International Union Local 1199, as well as $10,000 from SEIU Local 509, and $2,000 from MassEquality, the organization’s spokesman Steve Crawford said.

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“We have nothing to hide,” Crawford said Friday. He also acknowledged the group is a super PAC, freed from normal PAC donation limits.

The Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, a right-leaning nonprofit group, has filed a complaint with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, claiming Mass Values’ incorporation date of Sept. 28 — late in the election cycle — raised suspicions and made it a “stealth Super PAC.” The Massachusetts Democratic Party has filed an OCPF complaint against the Fiscal Alliance, claiming it is operating as a political organization, not a nonprofit.

“They’re acting like a political action committee and they need to abide by those laws,” said Democratic party spokesman Kevin Franck. He also said, “They’re an organization that says they promote transparency but they won’t say who their donors are.”

Fiscal Alliance Executive Director Paul Craney denied accusations that his group acted like a PAC, and said it did not coordinate with politicians.

“If you agree with us, we’ll talk to you. If you don’t agree with us, we’ll still talk to you. You know, we’re in the business of making friends,” said Craney, the former executive director of the Republican Party of the District of Columbia.

Mass Values has targeted freshman Republican representatives in its mailers: George Ross of Attleboro, Steven Levy of Marlborough, Peter Durant of Spencer, James Lyons Jr. of Andover, and Shaunna O’Connell of Taunton. One of the mailers depicted on the SuperPAC’s website shows a sick-looking young boy looking up at the camera with the message that the candidate “would let insurance companies limit his care,” referencing a Republican bill aimed at “reducing the health care burden on businesses.” The bill was sent to the House Committee on Ways and Means in June and has not emerged since.

“If you’re a progressive Democrat in this state, you should be [irked],” Craney said, referencing the progressive movement to amend the US Constitution so that it disallows the limitless spending that super PACs have used to their advantage. Asked whether he opposed super PACs in general, Craney said, “That’s up for discussion. … Both parties on the federal level are guilty of taking advantage of super PACs.”

Craney said Mass Values was the first Massachusetts super PAC to target state legislative races. It’s not the first super PAC in the state, and state Senator Jamie Eldridge,an Acton Democrat who has been an outspoken proponent of stricter campaign finance laws, said large expenditures from special interests are nothing new in Massachusetts.

“An advocacy organization, whether it’s a labor union or the political action committee for Raytheon, or the mutual fund industry, they’ve been able to do independent expenditures for quite some time,” Eldridge said.

Eldridge also said he found few Republican allies in the effort to add disclosure requirements and to oppose the US Supreme Court’s decisions in Citizen’s United v. the Federal Election Commission, which paved the way for super PACs.

“I oppose super PAC spending. Respectfully to some Republicans who have asked about it, they seem to suggest that Democrats should unilaterally disarm on this, and my response is, ‘No, we should change the law,’ ” said Eldridge, who noted that he worked with Republican Bruce Tarr, the Senate minority leader from Gloucester, on the disclosure bill, which passed the Senate unanimously and is pending in the House Committee on Ways and Means.

There are five super PACs registered in the state, according to OCPF. A review of their most recent campaign finance documents indicates not all of them have been active in raising and spending money.

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