STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, OCT. 29, 2014…..A national recycling group based in California says it has returned money raised to help “fight against misinformation” from the beverage industry, which has poured more than $8 million into defeating a Massachusetts ballot question that would expand the state’s bottle deposit law.
The Container Recycling Institute, a supporter of bottle deposits and a source of data for the state Department of Environmental Protection and bottle bill supporters, is not registered to campaign on the ballot question, and bottle bill opponents said the Office of Campaign and Political Finance should investigate potential illegality.
“If CRI is not registered and is raising money to support Question 2, then they appear to be violating the law and OCPF should investigate,” No On Question 2: Stop Forced Deposits, said in a statement to the News Service on Wednesday, a day before the recycling group said it had returned the funds raised.
After inquiries this week by the News Service, CRI President Susan Collins said late Thursday she had spoken to OCPF and returned the donations.
“CRI issued a funding appeal letter less than 10 days ago. We received donations from individuals in 17 U.S. States and 5 countries. All of these donations have been refunded to the donors,” Collins said in a statement. “We have discussed the situation with both our attorney and the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. The OCPF is satisfied that our fundraising appeal error was done unwittingly and that the situation has been promptly and appropriately remedied.”
Non-profits like CRI are permitted to engage in ballot question initiatives, according to the Internal Revenue Service. But OCPF has fairly clear guidelines that any group attempting to influence a ballot question must disclose its involvement. CRI has not registered as a campaign group, nor has it listed any in-kind donations of material or staff time to any of the three political groups registered to campaign for passage of the referendum.
The CRI fundraising pitch cast the bottle bill ballot referendum as a fundamental battle for recycling proponents, and Collins said it resulted in just under $5,000 in donations.
“Our zero hour is upon us. It is our now or never,” read the email from Collins. She wrote, “UNLESS WE PULL TOGETHER FOR THE NEXT TWO WEEKS, everything CRI has worked for since 1991 – along with every major bottle-bill victory gained by you, our allies, over the last four decades – is at risk on November 4.”
In her email suggesting donations of $25, Collins wrote that the organization’s staff is working “overtime responding to the onslaught of media requests and information requests that are coming in from Massachusetts as environmental advocates work to expand that state’s container deposit law through a ballot measure.”
A California-based non-profit, CRI was founded in 1991 and promotes container recycling through newsletters, its website and recycling research provided to more than 500 “non-profit organizations, state governments, and corporations,” according to the institute.
Copyright 2014 State House News Service