BOSTON, Mass. — Legislation that would close loopholes in state campaign finance laws and require corporations to follow the same disclosure rules as individuals and unions passed in the Massachusetts State Senate on Monday.
Sponsored by state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, the Massachusetts Disclosure Act was introduced in response to the Supreme Court's decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. That 2010 case held that the First Amendment prohibits the government from limiting independent political spending by corporations and unions.
"Because of the Citizens United decision, for-profit corporations can currently spend unlimited amounts to influence elections at all levels of government," Eldridge said. "And without basic disclosure laws, they can do so secretly and anonymously."
Though he said the best solution would be a federal constitutional amendment effectively overturning the Citizens United decision, Eldridge said this bill would be a good start. "Passing the Massachusetts Disclosure Act is an important step we can and should take now to make sure voters at least know who is paying for the ads they see," he said.
The bill also would close a loophole that previously allowed organizations to funnel campaign donations through other groups, thus avoiding disclosure. In addition, the bill would mandate disclosure for paid Internet advertisements and require organizations running advertisements to state their top five contributors.
This bill followed a resolution passed in the Senate on July 26 calling on Congress to pass a constitution amendment overturning Citizens United. "In two short years, the Citizens United decision has upended our election system, and the voices of ordinary Americans risk being drowned out by the tens of millions of dollars that are being poured into attack ads paid for by corporate donors," said Eldridge, who also sponsored that resolution. "The problem is real, resulting in a strong grassroots effort across the Commonwealth coming together to support the only effective, long-term solution."
A 7 News/Suffolk University poll of Massachusetts voters conducted in February found that 83 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of Republicans and 81 percent of independents oppose the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.