By Gintautas Dumcius
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- A state campaign finance law signed on Friday by Gov. Deval Patrick took center stage on Monday in the increasingly bitter Democratic primary for governor.
Attorney General Martha Coakley's campaign accused the super PAC backing her top rival in the primary, Treasurer Steve Grossman, of breaking the new law. Coakley's campaign demanded that the super PAC, known as Massachusetts Forward, disclose its donors and called on the television stations to cease broadcasting an ad criticizing Coakley's stance on limits on gun purchases.
Before the end of the day, the super PAC had begun listing its top five donors in the ad. The ad also directed viewers to the website of the independent Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) for more information.
The pro-Grossman super PAC launched the ad on July 28. It is titled "Mothers" and focuses on Grossman's support of Gov. Patrick's proposal to limit gun purchases to one per month while it said Coakley has repeatedly opposed the proposal. The super PAC said the ad had a "six figure media buy" behind it in the greater Boston area.
Grossman supporters Barry White, a former U.S. ambassador to Norway, his wife Eleanor, and Colette Phillips, a public relations executive, are the co-chairs of the super PAC.
The top donors, according to the revised ad, include Shirley Grossman, the treasurer's mother, and Paul Egerman, a top fundraiser for U.
"Not only is Martha Coakley wrong on guns, but she's wrong about who is supporting Steve Grossman through Mass Forward," the super PAC said in a statement posted on its website on Monday afternoon. "We aren't corporations or outside special interests, but Massachusetts citizens and philanthropists."
The new law's provisions dealing with super PACs, which can spend and raise unlimited amounts of money, went into effect immediately. Michael Sullivan, the director of OCPF, said his office is in the midst of writing the regulations for the statute.
The independent agency plans to contact the independent expenditure political action committees, also known as super PACs, and others affected by the statute to ensure compliance with the new law, he said on Monday.
Under the law, super PACs must list the top five donors in their ads. Violation of the provision carries a fine of not more than $10,000 or imprisonment of not more than a year, or both.
Super PACs must also disclose donors within seven business days of an independent expenditure.
"Our software is ready to roll right now for people to file those reports," Sullivan said.
"We want as much disclosure as soon as possible," Sullivan added.
The law's other provisions, including upping the individual contribution limit to $1,000 from $500, and requiring all mayoral candidates to file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, go into effect in January 2015.
Tim Foley, Coakley's campaign manager, called on Grossman to sign a pledge deployed by Warren and then-U.S. Sen. Scott Brown in 2012 to stem the spending power of super PACs.
"I applaud the Legislature and Governor Patrick for acting quickly to bring more transparency and accountability to the SuperPACs that right now have the ability to raise unlimited amounts of money from outside, special interest groups," he said in a statement before the ad was changed to reflect the top donors. "Now that this legislation is law, Barry White should immediately disclose his donors. Massachusetts voters have already made it clear that SuperPACs have no place in our elections. We hope that Steve Grossman joins Martha in recognizing that and will disavow the SuperPAC's ads and sign a People's Pledge today."
The super PAC said its donors have backed other Democratic candidates, including Warren, Hillary Clinton, President Obama and Gov. Patrick, as well as made donations to the Museum of Science and the Perkins School for the Blind.
"These donors are not 'outside, special interest groups' as Martha Coakley claims, nor are the mothers of murdered sons who speak out in Mass Forward's ad," the super PAC said in its statement. "Instead of attacking them, Ms. Coakley should explain to the people of Massachusetts why she refused support sensible gun control measures to make Massachusetts a safer place."
Outside groups have played an increasingly large role in Massachusetts politics, with super PACs and unions pouring money into campaigns, such as the 2013 Boston mayoral race, where groups spent $4 million.
The Massachusetts Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee, which has ties to Democratic activists, formed earlier this year to oppose Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker.
Grossman's campaign declined to comment on Coakley's back and forth with the super PAC.
Separately on Monday, Grossman pushed for Coakley to release three years of tax returns to reporters. Grossman released his tax returns to the Boston Globe in July and a Coakley campaign aide said the campaign plans to release her tax returns on Tuesday.
Don Berwick, a former Obama health care official, is also competing in the Democratic primary, which is set for Sept. 9. Other gubernatorial candidates include Republicans Baker and Mark Fisher, and independents Evan Falchuk, Jeff McCormick, and Scott Lively.