Cambridge councilors take the campaign funding

Prosecutors outline the financial case of the campaign against Lev Parnas as the criminal trial begins

The ordinance was also referred to the Ordinance Committee for deliberation and discussion, according to the policy order.

The council provided City Manager Louis DePasquale with a draft ordinance and asked him to instruct City Solicitor Nancy Glowa to read the proposed ordinance and provide feedback on implementation.

Highlights

  • The council has been discussing limiting the amount of money those doing business with the city can contribute to municipal elections for some time. Some councilors noted during the meeting Glowa had informed them such an ordinance would not stand a legal challenge unless the state legislature approved a home-rule petition allowing them to limit campaign contributions.

  • City solicitor offers her opinion

Mallon said approving the ordinance without the home-rule petition would be “reckless.”

Vice Mayor Alanna Mallon proposed an amendment to the order that would have requested a home-rule petition and prevented the law from taking effect until it was approved by the State Legislature, signed by governor, and approved by the council. 

“Our city solicitor and her team have advised us for many months that in order for us to enact this ordinance we must go through the Legislature in a home-rule petition,” Mallon said. “I think for us to move forward with this ordinance without a special act authorizing it, as suggested by the city solicitor many, many times, in this chamber, for us to do that without the special act I think would be reckless.

“We have been told repeatedly that if we [put it] into place it will be challenged and they will win,” Mallon said. 

Councilor Quinton Zondervan said the amendment would effectively mean the council was doing nothing since the law wouldn’t taken effect until the Legislature acted, and he wasn’t confident it ever would. “If that’s what we’re doing we might as well wait until we get the home-rule petition, which of course we all know will never happen, and then ordain the ordinance,” Zondervan said. 

The council voted against the amendment and will instead consider sending a home-rule petition in a separate order, which will not prevent the ordinance from taking effect while the city waits on a ruling from the legislature. The law will take effect at an unspecified date in 2022, according to the draft ordinance. It bars anyone receiving financial benefit from the city, including those seeking to enter into a contract, approval for a special permit, a zoning change enhancing permittee value or approval of a planned unit development, from contributing more than $200 a year to candidates in municipal elections for four-year, or the duration of their contract with the city. 

Limiting all contributions  The law does not include people who have signed a citizens petition seeking a zoning ordinance change, the ordinance said. Those who violate the ordinance and make contributions exceeding $200 despite having received financial benefit from the city can be fined $300.00 per day for each violation.

Councillor Tim Toomey said he has been supportive of campaign finance reform for many years, but he didn’t feel comfortable allowing some people to be able to make large contributions while limiting what others can contribute. He said it puts lesser known candidates at a “complete disadvantage. “It really is very discriminatory,” Toomey said.

“We have discussed this is such great detail, more than any zoning I might add, which has huge implications,” Carlone said. While the council went back and forth about whether or not to send a home-rule petition to the legislature, Councilor Dennis Carlone said the proposal had been discussed for more than a year and that it was time for the council to act.