BOSTON —In a 36-0 bipartisan vote, the state Senate passed legislation Monday that would require new levels of disclosure and transparency for corporate political spending in the wake of the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision.
This vote follows a resolution passed by the Senate last week calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United decision.
“Because of the Citizens United decision, for-profit corporations can currently spend unlimited amounts to influence elections at all levels of government – and without basic disclosure laws, they can do so secretly and anonymously,” said state Sen. Jamie Eldridge, D-Acton, the lead sponsor of the bill and the Senate resolution on Citizens United. “The best long-term solution is to pass a constitutional amendment correcting the Supreme Court decision, but 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.”
The Massachusetts Disclosure Act, formally known as “An Act Relative to the Disclosure of Political Spending” (S2375, formerly S304), would update the state’s campaign finance laws to ensure that corporations are required to follow the same disclosure and reporting rules that currently apply to individuals, unions and associations, according to Eldridge’s office.
Additionally, the Disclosure Act would close a loophole that allows organizations to avoid disclosure by funneling funds through intermediary groups, require disclosure for paid Internet advertisements, and require organizations to state their “Top Five” contributors in paid advertisements. All of these provisions will help ensure voters are aware of special interests that are funding advertisements and empower the public to hold corporations accountable for political activities, Eldridge’s office said.
“Citizens United left a gaping hole in our state disclosure requirements, giving corporations the ability to spend unlimited and undisclosed money to influence our elections,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause. “This loophole, and others that allow for undisclosed money in politics, must be closed. The Senate has taken an important step to stop secret money from influencing Massachusetts elections.”
Last session, the Legislature passed a pre-cursor to this legislation in the budget, subjecting corporate-sponsored political advertising to the same disclosure laws that apply to other political spending, and requiring CEOs to “stand by their ads” by appearing in the ads to say they “approve this message.”