Updated August 14, 2014: Governor Deval Patrick signed H.4366, an Act Relative to Campaign Finance Disclosure and Transparency, into law on August 1. The sections of the new law that address Independent Expenditure PACs take effect immediately, while other sections do not take effect until next January.
Posted July 31, 2014: Disclose Bill on Campaign Finance Passes
The Massachusetts legislature took a major step in campaign finance reform, passing the Disclose Act during the final day of the legislative session to combat the rise of “dark money,” spending by outside groups on elections.
The bill, H.4366, passed the House on a 140-10 vote and the Senate, 38-1, July 31. Gov. Deval Patrick is expected to sign it. An “emergency preamble” attached to the bill will put the disclosure provisions in force for this fall’s election.
The Disclose Act will require SuperPACs to reveal the sources of their funding no more than seven days after making an expenditure, such as placing a television ad. The reporting deadline changes to within 24 hours for the 10 days before an election.
In addition, groups placing television, print and internet ads must list their top five donors in the ad and include the website of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, where voters can find a list of all contributors.
The bill also doubles the amount of money individuals can contribute to campaigns for state offices and the legislature, from $500 to $1,000, but that increase does not become effective until 2015, after the current election cycle.
Corporations, labor unions and special interests would be required to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races under this bill.
While recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have removed many of the limits on contributions to campaigns and on outside spending in elections, this bill makes those sources of funding more transparent in state, county and local elections in Massachusetts.