Senate Passes Campaign Finance Legislation

We provide this press release from the Senate President’s office. You may read Senator Brownsberger’s post on this issue at this link.


Senate Passes Campaign Finance Legislation

BOSTON – The Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill to strengthen reporting requirements for independent expenditure committees and bring a higher level of transparency to elections in the Commonwealth.

“Cloaked spending continues to unfairly influence elections nationwide and it is destroying the civility of the political process,” Senate President Therese Murray (D-Plymouth) said. “It’s time that we restore transparency to our elections process and allow voters in Massachusetts to know who is contributing and where money is going in a timely manner.”

“By doing what we did today, Massachusetts will be at the forefront of election law reform,” Senator Barry R. Finegold (D-Andover), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Election Laws. “This bill will ensure a more democratic election process by shining sunlight on money spent on our elections.”

“The ultimate goal of any campaign finance reform is to help restore the public’s faith in government and encourage participation in elections,” Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg (D-Amherst) said. “Historically, Massachusetts has been recognized as one of the most progressive states in the nation when it comes to the transparency of our political process and the restrictions placed on campaign contributions. This bill demonstrates that we continue to live up to that well-earned reputation.”

Under the bill, corporations, labor unions and political committees will be required to report within seven business days of making an independent expenditure or within 24 hours of making an independent expenditure if the expenditure is made within 10 days but more than 24 hours before a primary or general election.

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 Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (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 will now produce a compromise bill for final passage and consideration of the Governor.