Today the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts dismissed Herrmann v. Attorney General, the lawsuit brought by Free Speech For People and Equal Citizens on behalf of ten Massachusetts voters challenging the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office decision to reject a ballot initiative petition to end super PACs in Massachusetts elections. The ballot petition proposed a limit to contributions to independent expenditure PACs, commonly called “super PACs,” to $5,000 per individual per calendar year, effectively ending super PACs.

The SJC did not address the Attorney General’s Office’s erroneous rejection of the initiative. Instead, the SJC dismissed the case because the petitioners did not gather signatures supporting the petition by December 6, 2022. By filing our petition in 2022—more than two years before the 2024 election in which the petition might have appeared on the ballot—we ensured that the court might have adequate time to consider important constitutional issues that might—and did—arise in this case. The court’s unfortunate decision deferring any decision on the merits until after signatures are collected (and, likely, under a compressed schedule dictated by ballot printing deadlines) is contrary to clear language in the Massachusetts Constitution that allows petitioners to gather signatures either during the 2022 or the 2023 signature-gathering period.

In declining to reach the pressing constitutional question of whether limits on contributions to super PACs are constitutional, the Court noted that such limits raise primarily an issue of federal constitutional law, best left to the federal judiciary and ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court. As we argued in our brief before the SJC, under the U.S. Constitution and the relevant Supreme Court precedent, as well as the Massachusetts Constitution, it is well within voters’ and legislators’ right to limit contributions to super PACs to protect our elections from corruption and the appearance of corruption.

FSFP will continue to work on efforts to end super PACs in Massachusetts and throughout the United States.

To read the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court’s decision, click here.

To learn more about this case, click here.