Common Cause Applauds House Passage of Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill; Releases Report

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BOSTON — June 23, 2016 — Yesterday afternoon, the Massachusetts State House of Representatives passed bill H.543 with a bipartisan vote of 142-10. This legislation – An Act relative to enhanced disclosure of top-five contributors information – proposes to enhance the 2014 Massachusetts Disclosure Law by expanding the Top Five Donor Disclosure Requirement to include electioneering mailings and billboard advertisements for political campaigns. It now goes onto the State Senate for their consideration and approval.

“Yesterday, the Massachusetts House advanced transparency in elections on a bipartisan basis,” said Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “Expanding the top five donor requirement will add more accountability and give voters the information they need to make informed choices. Kudos to the House and to the Speaker for moving this important reform forward.”
If passed by the Senate, this legislation will expand the current Top Five Donor Disclosure requirement to include reporting of an organization’s top five donors above $5,000 directly on all of the most common forms of campaign communications. It will also capture some groups that have previously evaded disclosure by exclusively using secret money electioneering mailings.
Common Cause report, released today, details how the existing Top Five Donor Disclosure requirement and other aspects of the 2014 Disclosure Law have done a substantial amount to improve the accessibility of campaign finance information to voters. It also reveals how some groups have still evaded the Disclosure Law.
“The study we are releasing today clearly shows both how effective the 2014 Disclosure Law is and, at the same time, how much secret money is left in our elections,” said Wilmot. “We are pleased that the Massachusetts legislature appears to be moving towards enacting reforms that will shine a light on the remaining pockets of secret money.”
By expanding the Top Five requirement, the new legislation will enable even more voters to go the polls armed with knowledge about the funding of the campaign advertisements they receive, and who their elected officials may be beholden to.
The report shows that after passage of the Massachusetts Disclosure law, there was a significant decrease in secret money between 2010 and 2014, the statewide election years directly before and after the reform. Additionally, it details how the Disclosure Law has done a great deal to improve the timeliness of campaign finance information, requiring that reports be available before the election, rather than after – as was allowed before 2014.
“Secret money in elections denies voters the information they need to determine the credibility of election materials, and the kinds of interest and individuals that are supporting or opposing particular candidates,” said Wilmot. “As voters, we have the right to know this information. We also deserve the accountability that comes with full disclosure—donors shouldn’t be able to hide in the shadows and not be willing to stand up for their beliefs. It’s clear that when election funding is secret, campaigning tends to be much more negative and deceptive and that turns voters off and discourages good people from running for office.”
For the full Common Cause report, please see:
For the full text of H.543, please see:
Pam Wilmot, Executive Director
Common Cause Massachusetts
(617) 962-0034;