Senate Unanimously Approves SuperPAC Disclosure Bill

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Last night the Massachusetts Senate unanimously approved cutting edge legislation to require real-time disclosure of donors to SuperPACs and other groups and would shed light on the huge influx of money expected in the 2014 gubernatorial race. The bill had previously been approved in similar form by the Massachusetts House of Representatives 143-4 last month.

 “Average citizens’ voices are being drowned out by a deluge of money from ultra-wealthy donors and special interests, much of it undisclosed” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, lead advocate for the bill. “This bill will bring more sunshine to dark money in elections, and will be one of the strongest disclosure laws in the country.”

The legislation (S.2264) would require SuperPACs and other groups making independent expenditures to disclose their donors along with their expenditures within 7 days of running a political ad or other expenditure.  It would also require that the five top donors over $5000 be listed in the ad itself. These provisions would go into effect immediately.

“While recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions have, unfortunately, enabled a flood of money into our political process, this Disclose Act will at least let voters know where that money is coming from and is an important step in creating a more transparent election system,” said Anne Borg, co-president, League of Women Voters of Massachusetts which also supported the bill.

“Today the Massachusetts Senate took a significant step forward in improving transparency of political spending with the MA Disclose Act.  The public will now have better access to what special interests lay behind the Super PACs influencing our state elections.  This will be a big win for the voters of Massachusetts after it is signed by the Governor.” Sara Brady, Policy Director, MassVOTE.
“Massachusetts will be facing a tidal wave of money from SuperPACs and other similar organizations in the 2014 governor’s race,” predicted Wilmot.  “Now voters will have more information to evaluate the veracity of political ads as well as what interests are likely to come calling after election day.”
The legislation would also raise the campaign contribution limit for individuals from $500 to $1000 per year. Common Cause Massachusetts did not support the increase which is roughly commensurate with inflation from its original passage in 1994.  Other advocates for the bill such as the League of Women Voters of Massachusetts, MassVOTE, JALSA, and the Massachusetts Sierra Club had no position on the increase.
The legislation would also close loopholes in the law and increase penalties and the number of disclosure reports required by political action committees and legislative candidates.  The Senate rejected several amendments including one that would have eliminated the so-called 10/15 rule that allows certain organizations to give up to $15,000 to a single candidate.

The bill must now either be approved the by House as amended or be vetted by a six-member conference committee before it reaches Governor Deval Patrick’s desk. The legislature ends formal session on July 31st.