Elected Officials Beginning To See $1,000 Contributions

Top elected officials in Massachusetts already are taking advantage of a change in the state's campaign finance law doubling the annual campaign contribution limit for individual donors from $500 to $1,000.

Since the changes took effect in January, 10 donors to Gov. Charlie Baker have already maxed out for the year by writing $1,000 checks to the Republican's campaign committee, according to an Associated Press review of campaign finance records.

Most of the top donors are executives, including the owner of an ambulance firm, president of a mineral company and president of a professional staffing group.

Of the $28,000 Baker raised in February, more than a third came from the 10 donors who gave the $1,000 maximum.

Donors to state Secretary William Galvin also have begun increasing their contributions to his campaign. Nine donors - including lawyers, developers and business owners - have given $1,000 to the Democrat.

Democratic Attorney General Maura Healey has received three $1,000 donations - all from lawyers.

Three other statewide elected officials - Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Auditor Suzanne Bump, and Treasurer Deb Goldberg - haven't reported any $1,000 donations yet.

With Baker and the other statewide officials not up for re-election until 2018, the pressure is off to raise large sums of campaign funds.

The readiness of supporters to open up their checkbooks, however, could make it easier for statewide candidates to more quickly amass larger campaign war chests when elections are closer.

The change in the campaign donation limit was part of a larger bill passed by lawmakers and signed by former Gov. Deval Patrick designed to tighten reporting requirements for independent political expenditures, including spending by political action committees known as super PACs.

The $500 limit had been in place for 20 years.

The $1,000 limit also applies to state lawmakers. While statewide elected officials report their contributions every two weeks, Massachusetts House and Senate lawmakers won't have to file a campaign finance report until July, covering the first six months of the year.

According to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Baker raised more than $5.8 million for last year's campaign for governor under the old $500 contribution limit. His Democratic challenger, Martha Coakley, raised more than $3.7 million.

Those totals don't include the $16.9 million in political spending by outside groups. In 2014, most independent spending was from super PACs, much of it to support the top candidates for governor, Baker and Coakley.

Under the new campaign finance law, corporations, labor unions and political committees are 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.

Such 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 law also requires the top five donors who give more than $5,000 to a PAC be identified in that PAC's ad.


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