Mass. Senate Approves PAC Disclosure Bill

The Massachusetts Senate has approved a bill designed to tighten reporting requirements for independent political expenditures, including those made by political action committees known as super PACs.

Under the bill, corporations, labor unions and political committees would be required to file a campaign finance report within seven days of making an independent expenditure -- or within 24 hours if the expenditure is made within 10 days of an election.

Independent expenditures can include television, radio, Internet or newspaper ads made on behalf of a candidate but without consulting with that candidate's political committee.

The Senate bill, like a version of the bill approved by the Massachusetts House, also doubles the amount an individual could donate to a candidate in a calendar year from $500 to $1,000. The $500 limit was put in place 20 years ago.

A 2010 Supreme Court ruling allowed outside groups like super PACs and nonprofits to take unlimited contributions.

The Senate bill would also require that voter guides mailed out by the state secretary's office include a statement explaining the fiscal impact of each ballot question on state and municipal finances starting in 2015.

Critics, including the group Citizens for Limited Taxation, have argued that the provision would make it more difficult to pass almost any initiative petition, since it would highlight the cost to the state of that initiative.

The bill would also require that all television, Internet or print ads paid for by independent expenditures include the names of the top five contributors exceeding $5,000 and directions to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance website for a list of all contributors.

The bill would also require all mayoral candidates to file reports with the state campaign finance office and increase the frequency of reporting for state legislative candidates.

The House and Senate will now try to hammer out a single, compromise bill.


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