BOSTON – State Senator Benjamin B. Downing (D- Pittsfield) announces that on Wednesday the Senate unanimously passed a bill to strengthen reporting requirements for independent expenditure committees and bring a higher level of transparency to elections in the Commonwealth.
“This bill restores transparency to our election process and ensures voters in Massachusetts will know who is contributing to candidates and campaigns in a timely manner,” said Downing. “Once enacted, I believe this legislation will put the Commonwealth at the forefront of election law reform nationally, restore the public’s faith in government and hopefully inspire more participation in elections.”
During the debate the Senate adopted an amendment sponsored by Downing which requires 72 hour reporting for depository candidates on the ballot during the last six months of an election cycle. This amendment was supported by the Commonwealth’s chief elections officer, Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin. The Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance (OCPF) defines depository candidates as statewide and county candidates, Governor’s Council candidates and mayoral and city council candidates in Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Springfield and Worcester. State parties are also in the depository system.
The bill requires any independent expenditure or electioneering communication transmitted through paid television, internet advertising or print advertising appearing larger than 15 square inches to include a written statement of the top five contributors if contributions exceed $5,000 and directions to the OCPF website for a listing of all contributors.
The bill directs political action committees to designate a depository for campaign funds and to report on all contributions received and expenditures made twice a month. The bill also prohibits public employees from serving as the treasurer of a political committee.
The bill also requires all mayoral candidates to file reports with OCPF and increases the frequency of reporting for state legislative candidates. Under the bill, candidates for state Senate or Representative must file with OCPF by July 20 before a biennial state election and by the thirty-fifth day before a special primary, among other reporting requirements.
In addition, the bill increases individual contribution limits from $500 to $1,000 in a calendar year and increases the contribution limit by money order or bank check from $50 to $100.
The bill also removes an aggregate limit on individual campaign contributions in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling which struck down a similar federal provision.
For statewide candidate committees, the bill allows a contribution of up to $100 to another candidate committee, with an overall limit of $1,500 in a calendar year. However, if a committee receives public financing in the same year, no contributions are allowed.
To address accurate reporting for joint contributions, if a joint contribution does not indicate the amount to be attributed to each contributor, the amount will be attributed equally unless it will cause a contributor to exceed contribution limits.
The bill also requires that mailed voter guides include a statement of the impact of each ballot question on state and municipal finances starting in 2015.
The Senate and House of Representatives will now appoint a 6-member Conference Committee to produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.