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Massachusetts Initiative Would Muzzle Firms

October 31, 1994|From Associated Press

BOSTON — A Massachusetts ballot question that would ban companies from spending money on ballot campaigns has drawn plenty of corporate interest and dollars, particularly from the giants of the chemical industry.

The spending, supporters and opponents of the question say, is being driven by a fear that past ballot initiatives the companies successfully fought could be resurrected if the question passes. And the companies would have to stand mute.

If the ballot question passes on Nov. 8, Massachusetts would be the first state in the nation to prohibit corporations' spending money from their treasuries to argue for or against referenda.

A virtual "Who's Who" of American chemical companies have donated more than 50% of the $1.6 million collected by opponents of the ballot question. The list is topped by major oil and chemical companies like Shell, Mobil and Sunoco, which gave $50,000 apiece.

The roll continues with large donations from companies such as DuPont, Dow and Union Carbide. Dozens of lesser-known chemical companies also contributed thousands of dollars against Question 1.

Opponents say Question 1 is unfair and, at worst, an unconstitutional violation of free speech. They're worried it could set a national precedent. They've also emphasized that the law would not only prohibit big companies from funding ballot question campaigns, but would also shut out small businesses and nonprofit corporations like hospitals and universities.

Both sides say the campaign is, at least partly, a grudge match between environmental groups and industries that have become alarmed about unsuccessful ballot question campaigns in 1992 designed to encourage recycling and cut toxic waste.

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