Support and opposition committees for Massachusetts Question 1 (“Right to Repair Law” initiative) reported $34.8 million in combined contributions

Updated on Sept. 19, 2020

Massachusetts voters will decide Question 1 on Nov. 3. The initiative would require manufacturers that sell vehicles with telematics systems in Massachusetts to equip them with a standardized open data platform beginning with model year 2022. The platform would need to allow vehicle owners and independent repair facilities may access to retrieve mechanical data and run diagnostics through a mobile-based application.

The Right to Repair Coalition, the sponsors of Massachusetts Question 1, reported receiving over $9.2 million in its August report. The committee reported spending $6.7 million. The largest contributors to the support committee were the Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($3.1 million) and the Auto Care Association ($2.6 million).

The top-five largest contributors to the support committee were 

  • the Coalition of Automotive Repair Equality ($3.1 million)
  • the Auto Care Association ($2.6 million), 
  • Advance Auto Parts ($1 million),
  • Auto Zone ($1 million), and
  • O’Reilly Auto Parts ($1 million).

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, the committee registered in opposition to Massachusetts Question 1, reported receiving $25.6 million in contributions in its latest campaign finance report filed September 4. The committee had spent over $6.8 million. Fifteen automobile manufacturers and two automotive trade organizations contributed to the committee. The following were the top five contributors to the committee:

  • General Motors ($5.5 million)
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc ($4.5 million)
  • Ford Motor Company ($4.5 million)
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc ($3.0 million)
  • Nissan North America, Inc. ($2.4 million)

The next campaign finance reports are due Sept. 21.

The first “right to repair law” was approved by the Massachusetts General Assembly and signed into law on Nov. 26, 2013. The 2013 law reconciled the differences between Question 1 (2012), which was approved by 87.7% of voters, and the alternative version resulting from a legislative compromise approved on July 31, 2012. Since the legislative compromise was passed after the July 3 signature deadline, the 2012 initiative could not be removed from the ballot after qualifying.

The 2013 “right to repair law” exempts telematics systems from wireless accessibility by vehicle owners and independent repair facilities. Under Question 1 (2020), Telematics systems would be accessible through a mobile device application and could be used by independent repair facilities to access data and send commands to the system for repair, maintenance, and diagnostic testing.

According to the Right to Repair Coalition, the group proposed the 2020 initiative to update the previous law. Barry Steinberg, the owner of Direct Tire in Watertown and a member of the Right to Repair Coalition, said, “Massachusetts voters voted 86% in 2012 to require car companies to give access to repair information and diagnostics. But now big auto is using the next generation of wireless technology to get around our law, shut out independent repair shops, and cost car owners more money. That’s not what we voted for.”

The Coalition for Safe and Secure Data argued the measure would dangerously expand access to car data. Conor Yunits, the spokesman for the Coalition for Safe and Secure Data, said, “This ballot question will create easy opportunities for strangers, hackers and criminals to access consumer vehicles and personal driving data–including real-time location. It will put people at risk, without doing anything to improve the consumer experience.”

Massachusetts is the only state that has adopted a “right to repair law.” During the 2019-2020 legislative session, none of the 17 states that introduced a “right to repair law” had approved it.

Massachusetts voters will also be deciding on an initiative that would enact ranked-choice voting for primary and general elections for state executive officials, state legislators, congressional and senate seats, and certain county offices beginning in 2022.

So far, Ballotpedia has tracked a total of $572.4 million in contributions to and $228.1 million in expenditures by campaigns supporting or opposing the 123 2020 statewide measures. The following five states have the most ballot measure campaign finance activity reported so far:
California – $316.8 million in contributions
Illinois – $80.4 million in contributions
Massachusetts – $38.8 million in contributions
Florida – $28.4 million in contributions
Colorado – $23.4 million in contributions

A previous version of this article stated that the support committee, the Massachusetts Right to Repair Coalition, had received $5.7 million in contributions and did not list Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, or O’Reilly Auto Parts as top donors. That version was based on original campaign finance report filings. Those reports were subsequently amended by the committee to include, among other contributions and expenditures, contributions of $1 million each from Advance Auto Parts, Auto Zone, or O’Reilly Auto Parts. This article was adjusted on Sept. 19 to account for the campaign finance report amendments.

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