By Colleen Quinn
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- Legislation aimed at requiring super PACS to publicly disclose the source of their funding cleared the Massachusetts House Wednesday by a vote of 143-4.
Individual limits on annual campaign contributions for any one candidate were also boosted from $500 to $1,000, under the bill (H 4226).
Rep. James Murphy (D-Weymouth), co-chair of the Elections Law Committee, told his colleagues before debate began that the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the Citizens United case paved the way for unprecedented amounts of campaign spending by special interest groups.
The bill that passed in the House will shed light on so-called "dark money" spending, he said.
Corporations, labor unions and other entities would be required to disclose expenditures in statewide, county or local races, as well as the sources of their funding, within seven days.
The top five donors to an independent expenditure group would also have to be listed in the group's TV advertisement or newspaper advertisement, according to supporters of the bill.
Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, described the reforms surrounding super PACS as "fantastic."
On Wednesday, she said her organization is also pleased to see that the top five donors must be listed in advertisements.
Common Cause would have preferred annual individual campaign contributions to remain at $500, or align with inflation, which would be around $800, Wilmot said.
The House rejected an amendment filed by Rep. Ryan Fattman (R-Sutton) that would have limited to $1,000 the amount organizations, such as teachers unions and charity groups, can contribute to any candidate.
Another Supreme Court decision in April struck down aggregate federal campaign contribution limits, and the Office of Campaign and Political Finance said the ruling would apply to the state's aggregate limits of $12,500, or maximum contributions to 25 candidates for statewide and district offices. The bill codifies the elimination of aggregate contribution limits in Massachusetts.
The bill also frees statewide candidates to use their campaign accounts to make donations to other candidates in Massachusetts, as long as they are not receiving public financing.
House lawmakers declined to debate an amendment that would have required photo identification to vote, filed by Rep. Marc Lombardo (R-Billerica).
Fattman, Lombardo, and Reps. Kevin Kuros (D-Uxbridge) and James Lyons (R-Andover) voted against the bill.