By: State Rep. Linda Dean Campbell
The House of Representatives recently passed legislation that will substantially increase the disclosure of specific donors to Super Political Action Committees (PACs).
This was a direct response to the ever increasing influence that ‘dark money’ or undisclosed contributions had in the most recent Boston Mayoral race, and the expectation it will have a great impact upon the coming race for Governor.
As the Vice Chair of the Election Law Committee, I knew that the Boston mayoral race was going to highlight the changes allowed under ‘Citizens United’ passed in 2010 by the U. S. Supreme Court.
The non-disclosure law resulted in Super PACs and many labor unions pouring approximately 4 million dollars into Boston’s last November Mayoral race.
In this race, a PAC with unidentifiable contributors spent approximately $480,000.00 on television advertisements immediately before the election promoting Marty Walsh for Mayor. By law, under the Supreme Court Ruling “Citizens United,” this was all quite legal.
In January, following the election, it was disclosed that these funds came via the “One Boston” PAC through a New Jersey PAC that that does not file any campaign disclosures in New Jersey. After the election, the American Teacher’s Association disclosed that it was the entity that had funded the “One Boston” PAC.
The public wants more disclosure. We all understand and want to protect our rights and the rights of others to contribute to candidates. However, we also want to know who really is speaking to us, who is giving large sums of money, game changing sums, to sway us to whichever candidate they favor. We simply want to know where labor, corporate and non-profit money is coming from and where it is spent. This legislation is an important step in this direction and will place Massachusetts as the national leader in helping voters to be able to follow the money.
Under this legislation, PACs will have to disclose their funding sources within seven days of each expenditure they make, and every 24 hours during the eight days before a primary and general election.
Also, very importantly, is that PAC television and print ads will have to list the top five persons or entities that contributed the most money to their advertisements.
This legislation will also double the amount that individuals can contribute to individual candidates from $500 to $1000.
This contribution threshold has not been raised for over a decade and is well behind that of other states.
The vote received bi-partisan support and passes to the Senate. The legislation must be agreed upon by both branches of the legislature before the current legislative session ends on 31 July.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, the Joint Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee and is Vice Chair of the Committee on Election Law. She can be reached at: 617.722.2305/Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov