Friedman Votes on Campaign Finance Reform Bill to Bolster Transparency and Accountability

BOSTON Senator Cindy F. Friedman (D-Arlington) recently voted along with her colleagues to pass legislation that increases transparency and accountability in the Commonwealth’s elections by reforming fiscal reporting requirements. The bill, An Act relative to campaign finance, was later signed into law by Governor Baker on November 26, 2019.

“Ensuring transparency and accountability are a critical component of good government,” said Senator Friedman. “I’m pleased that we took a step forward to reform our campaign finance reporting system so that legislators are held to the same standard as statewide, county and municipal candidates who choose to run for office. Voters should be able to easily access accurate and timely information regarding campaign donations and expenditures, and this law will make that possible.”

The depository reporting system, run through the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF)—the independent state agency that administers Massachusetts’ campaign finance law—directs candidates for public office to submit to stringent campaign finance reporting requirements.  Currently, the legislature and some mayoral candidates are exempt from the law that requires statewide, county and many other municipal candidates to use this reporting system. As such, this legislation seeks to remedy this disparity by requiring all legislative and mayoral candidates in Massachusetts to participate in the depository system.

By including all legislative and mayoral candidates in the depository reporting system, this bill will increase accountability by requiring more frequent reports disclosing campaign contributions and confirmation of the expenditures reported in monthly statements filed by their designated financial institutions. Currently, filings for those presently exempt from the depository system occur only two or three times a year.  By increasing filing frequency and pairing candidate disclosures with bank reporting, the legislation seeks to increase transparency in statewide campaign finance activity.

This revised process will assist OCPF in identifying discrepancies between a candidate’s public disclosure of campaign finance activity and their bank accounting records. It would also help OCPF promptly address issues associated with data entry errors, missed deposits, balance issues and uncashed checks.  In addition, the change will make it easier to see how much money a candidate is raising and spending during the course of the entire election cycle.