Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick has signed what has been called “The Lantigua Bill” by some lawmakers after the former Lawrence Mayor refused to file his campaign finance reports with the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finances.
The new law, authored by State Representative Diana DiZogio (D-METHUEN), will prohibit candidates for municipal office from having their name appear on the ballot if they are in violation of the state’s campaign finance laws.
DiZoglio filed the bill in her first week in office back in 2013, after Lawrence residents complained that state officials couldn’t have their name on the ballot if they violated campaign finance laws but Lawrence Mayor Lantigua hadn’t filed reports in four years and was still able to run for local office.
House Bill 3760 was passed unanimously by the House and Senate .
“Candidates in municipal elections will now be held to the same standards as those running in state and county elections,” said DiZoglio, who represents portions of North Andover, Methuen, Lawrence and Haverhill.
DiZoglio said that candidates for office are required to register all of their campaign finance activity (spending, fund raising, etc.) with the State’s Office of Campaign and Political Finances (OCPF).
“During my first week in office, some of my constituents in Lawrence raised serious concerns over loopholes in commonwealth’s campaign finance laws. There was no repercussion, no penalties for local candidates who violated the law and refused to file their campaign finance forms with OCPF. If a state representative or a candidate for governor doesn’t file, their name can’t appear on the ballot. But municipal candidates could still run over and over even if they refused to file.”
“In Lawrence we had a situation [with Lantigua] where campaign finance requirements were not being bet. That was unacceptable, and I am very grateful that my colleagues in the House and Senate saw the wisdom in having consistency in the laws for state and municipal candidates for office,” DiZoglio said.
Under the new law penalties for refusing to file or refusing to pay fines have been increased to $25 a day for every day they are late after the filing deadline. That amount is capped at $5,000 but further action could be taken by the Attorney General.
“The bottom line is, you have to file and you have to pay all fines with OCPF or you are off the ballot. You need to be in good standing with OCPF or you can’t run. I think that is a good way to make sure those who are making our laws, those who are seeking to represent the public at election time are following the law themselves ,” DiZoglio said.
Other Valley legislators who co-sponsored the bill were; Frank Moran (D-LAWRENCE), Linda Dean Campbell (D-METHUEN), Tom Golden (D-LOWELL), and Coleen Garry (D-DRACUT). In all there were 31 co-sponsors for the bill. Lawrence State Rep. Marcos Devers (D-LAWRENCE) also spoke on the house floor in favor of the bill.
“In the senate, I had the support of what I call the ‘fantastic four’,” she said. “Senator Ives (D-Newburyport), Tarr (R-West Newbury), Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Barry Finegold (D-Andover) all signed off on the bill and made this happen in the senate.”
“I’m very happy that in my first term a bill I filed in my first week was not only able to get unanimously passed with bipartisan support but signed by the governor into law.”
“Someone very smart once told me that it doesn’t matter what you say or promise it only matters what you do. If you out-work and out-perform people’s expectations of you, it doesn’t matter what anyone says, you will be judged by your actions. He was a pretty smart guy and he turned to be right. A lot of people worked very hard to make this bill become law and I’m grateful that we now have more accountability in our election system.”