Boston Business Journal
A new fiscal advocacy group joined the ranks of conservative Beacon Hill watchdogs in March by calling for lawmakers to drop plans to boost the minimum wage and require that companies give workers paid sick days off.
But the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance has big plans to set itself apart from conservative stalwarts like the Beacon Hill Institute at Suffolk University and the market-based Pioneer Institute as its pushes for lower taxes and less regulation to make the state a friendlier place for businesses.
“We’re going to be a little more grassroots, a little more confrontational when we need to be,” said Paul D. Craney, executive director of the Wakefield-based group.
“We want to hold elected officials accountable on fiscal issues, budget issues, transparency and good government issues,” Craney said. “We’re going to be pretty out there trying to activate people to get engaged on these issues, like minimum wage and paid sick leave.”
One way is through social media, said Craney, a tenacious tweeter.
But MassFiscal also is a non-partisan, non-profit, 501(c) (4), meaning it can raise unlimited funds from individuals and charities but does not have to disclose its donors.
The group already has held a fund-raiser April 3 headlined by former GOP state Rep. Karyn Polito from Shrewsbury, a 2010 state treasurer candidate. Craney, interviewed before the event, said there wasn’t a specific financial goal.
MassFiscal is still new, and it has not mapped out all of the possible uses for the money it will raise, Craney said. In an interview, he wouldn’t rule out creating a political action committee, which could receive the anonymous funds.
Craney also said he wants to put information into voters’ hands — for instance, scorecards showing how lawmakers vote. And some money will go toward building MassFiscal.
“That is something we’ll develop as time goes on,” he said.
With the money, Craney hopes the new group will focus on an ambitious agenda of reducing “job-killing” regulations, restoring $500 million in local aid to lower property taxes and rolling back the state’s income and sales taxes to 5 percent.
The group currently has waded into the battle against a proposed hike in the minimum wage to $10 an hour and required paid sick leave.
MassFiscal also is pushing a transparency agenda. It is calling for opening the weekly closed-door meetings between the governor, Senate president and House speaker to the public. It also wants government records requests fulfilled for free — there’s now a charge for public records.
The advocacy group appears to have a complicated heritage that includes receiving its corporate charter from an arm of the Greater Boston Tea Party.
Empower Massachusetts Inc. transferred the charter on March 5, 2012, according to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office.
Empower Mass was launched by Christen Varley, a founder of the Greater Boston Tea Party, in 2010. Bradford Wyatt is listed as a corporate clerk for both Empower Mass and MassFiscal, according to Galvin’s office. Wyatt confirmed the transfer in an interview.
Varley, who now lives in Ohio, said she expected MassFiscal to reflect the beliefs of the Tea Party and Empower Mass. “It’s a handover,” she said. “They changed the name and did some tweaking.”
She said she knew Richard R. Green, MassFiscal’s board chairman, and wanted to make him Empower’s chairman before she moved and shuttered Empower. Green referred comments to Craney.
Craney contends MassFiscal snatched a dormant Empower Mass charter to avoid the hassle of organizing one from scratch. He said it’s a coincidence the two groups have very similar goals.
“We’re not a Tea Party organization,” Craney said.
Before taking over, Craney was a Washington, D.C., Republican committeeman. Green has given more than $6,000 to state Republican candidates and U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, according to public records.
Peter Ubertaccio, director of the Martin Institute at Stonehill College and a political scientist, said Craney and company have to demonstrate they’re not just partisan bomb-tossers by putting out thoughtful research or reaching out to the Left on issues of shared interest.
“It will be something they have to overcome,” said Ubertaccio. “It would be very easy to turn this into a narrow, anti-Democratic group.”
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