Campaign Finance Reform

Recent Posts on LWVMA Action on Money in Politics

“Restore Democracy” takes on money in politics and wins LWVMA high school video contest.

button for convention 3 inThe pernicious and distorting effect of money on our political system at every level is a matter of grave concern to the League of Women Voters, particularly since the 2010 U.S. Supreme Court Citizens United decision opened the floodgates to unprecedented amounts of outside spending in elections and catalyzed the formation of “dark money” groups that do not have to disclose their donors.

The Massachusetts League has been deeply committed to reforming the federal campaign finance system. Beginning in 2010 with a local League endeavor that soon grew into a statewide Campaign Finance Study Committee, LWVMA has played an especially active role bringing attention to the urgent need for federal campaign finance reform through public educational programs, online materials, and strong public opposition to decisions that create loopholes in campaign finance protections, such as McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission (2014).  The Massachusetts Committee also focused its efforts on garnering support from League members across the country for action at the national League level on campaign finance reform, culminating in the formation of an LWV Money in Politics Committee to update the national League position on campaign finance regulation and to shape the contours of the League’s future advocacy on this important issue. In April 2016, LWVUS announced this new position statement, broadening the scope of the League’s campaign finance reform advocacy.

In addition, LWVMA has long played a key role reforming the rules governing the campaign finance system here at home in Massachusetts.

  • In 1975, LWVMA helped ensure passage of the state’s Campaign Finance Act that established the Office of Campaign and Political Finance to monitor compliance with reporting rules.
  • We were at the forefront of efforts in the late 1990s to pass the state’s Clean Elections legislation (which enjoyed overwhelming public support, but was later repealed by the legislature).
  • And, most recently, our advocacy helped pass the Disclose Act to combat the rise of “dark money” spending by outside groupson elections. Signed into law by Governor Deval Patrick in August 2014, the Disclose Act requires Super PACs 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. 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. Corporations, labor unions and special interests would be required to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races under this bill.

We are proud of our work. But much more needs to be done.

 You can help us drive reform of our campaign finance system, both at the federal and the state level. Remember: Advocating for state level reform while we work on change at the federal level is an important part of the reform effort. In order to fight the corrupting influence of money in politics, we need to:

Strengthen Regulations on Coordination: Although independent groups such as Super PACs are legally prohibited from coordinating with campaigns, in practice this prohibition is routinely circumvented at both the federal and state level.

Improve Disclosure: The Massachusetts Disclose Act was a step forward, but Congress has failed to pass a federal Disclose Act mandating disclosure of donations and spending to shine a light on secret money. The League is a longtime supporter of this important piece of legislation.

Establish a Public Financing System: The League believes that public financing of elections is the best long-term solution to getting big money out of politics.

What can individual citizens do?

  • Be informed. Information on our campaign finance position can be found at our state and national websites
  • There is strength in numbers. Connect and be an active member of organizations dedicated to campaign finance and fair elections like the League of Women Voters.
  • Urge your state and congressional legislators to pass legislation to strengthen campaign finance laws. Constituent in-district meetings are a particularly effective option. Be prepared by reviewing state and national positions regarding the issues you care about.
  • Attend candidate events and talk to candidates and legislators at every level about campaign finance reform and your concerns as
    a voter.
  • Write letters-to-the-editor for your local paper.
  • Vote! Voting is the most powerful form of expression available to individual citizens and the single best way to drive money out of politics. We must improve voter turnout and engage with our communities to combat the undue influence of money in our political system.  Register and participate in election 2016!