MapLight reveals Wall Street firms circumvent anti-corruption laws to gain influence

October 30, 2016

As part of a series of articles exposing how companies circumvent anti-corruption laws designed to restrict their political influence, MapLight and the International Business Times investigated the Wall Street contributors supporting a Massachusetts ballot measure.

We revealed that executives at eight financial firms that manage Massachusetts pension assets, including teachers’ retirement funds, gave money to support a measure to expand charter schools in the state—an initiative that teachers unions said could harm public education and cost educators their jobs. The executives contributed nearly $800,000 to groups backing the ballot measure championed by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, skirting laws that prevent them from contributing money directly to the governor. (An SEC rule bars executives at firms that manage state pension assets from donating to governors who have influence over pension investment decisions.) After the story was published, Gov. Baker said he “wasn't aware” of the Wall Street executives’ support for the measure.

Two teachers unions cited our story in a complaint filed with the SEC, asking the agency to investigate whether the financial firms violated anti-circumvention provisions of pay to play rules. In addition, our research was cited by Boston Magazine, the Boston Globe, Esquire, the Washington Post, Politico, and other outlets. Massachusetts voters ultimately defeated the measure in the November election.