Massachusetts lawmakers OK PAC disclosure bill
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers have accepted a bill designed to tighten reporting requirements for independent political expenditures, including those made by political action committees known as super PACs.
Under the bill, corporations, labor unions and political committees would be required to file a campaign finance report within seven days of making an independent expenditure — or within 24 hours if the expenditure is made within 10 days of an election.
Such expenditures can include television, radio, Internet or newspaper ads made on behalf of a candidate but without consulting with that candidate’s political committee.
The bill also doubles the amount a person could donate to a candidate in a calendar year from $500 to $1,000.
The bill would require that all ads paid for by independent expenditures include the names of the top five contributors exceeding $5,000. The ads would also have to include directions to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance website for a list of all contributors.
The House approved the bill on a 140-10 vote. The Senate approved it later Wednesday on a 38-1 vote. The bill requires a final vote in each chamber before being sent to Gov. Deval Patrick for his signature.
The formal legislative session ends Thursday.
Supporters of the bill the say the changes are needed to help counter what they say could be a flood of super PAC money into the state this election season. A 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowed outside groups like super PACs and nonprofits to take unlimited contributions.
“Voters deserve to know what shadowy groups are trying to influence our elections,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Massachusetts Common Cause.
Outside political groups have already spent money on ads in the Democratic primary for governor and the state’s 6th Congressional District race.
Critics, however, have faulted a portion of the bill that would require that voter guides mailed out by the state secretary’s office include a statement explaining the fiscal impact of each ballot question on local and state government budgets starting next year.
The group Citizens for Limited Taxation says that part of the bill could unfairly discourage voters from backing ballot questions aimed at cutting taxes.
“The death of the initiative petition process began here, today,” the group — which has supported tax-cutting ballot questions in the past — said in a statement Wednesday.
The bill would also require that all television, Internet or print ads paid for by independent expenditures include the names of the top five contributors exceeding $5,000 and directions to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance website for a list of all contributors.
The bill would also require all mayoral candidates to file reports with the state campaign finance office, prohibit public employees from serving as the treasurer of a political committee, and remove the aggregate limit on individual campaign contributions in response to the Supreme Court ruling.