Berkshire representatives in favor of pending state campaign finance bill

Berkshire representatives in favor of pending state campaign finance bill

By Jim Therrien, Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD -- Local state representatives believe pending campaign finance legislation could have an immediate positive impact on the fall elections.

The bill, which requires disclosure of the top donors to a political action committee sponsoring political advertisements, has cleared the House and is now before the Senate. The bill also requires declaring campaign expenditures by corporations, labor unions and other groups and their funding sources during the campaign, rather than afterward.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, one of the sponsors of the House version, said that "while it won't stop the super PACs from contributing to campaigns, at least they will have to declare who the top five donors are."

That provision of the bill would take effect this year, she said, and will require PACs to list the top donors in their ads.

The legislation is seen as something that could be done at the state level to counter the effects of the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision of 2010, which shot down campaign donation limits on corporations, labor unions or associations. The state bill seeks to address through transparency the effects of so-called "dark money" on campaigns, contributed by groups from within or outside the commonwealth.

"This is absolutely going to affect the campaign," Farley-Bouvier said, adding, "It will still be up to the voters to pay attention [to the source of contributions]."

Sen. Ben Downing, D-Pittsfield, said Thursday he believes the Senate will pass the bill and it will be sent to the governor's office before the end of the session.

"I think it makes a great deal of sense in the post-Citizens United world," Downing said. "It is the one thing that we can and need to do."

The provision regarding PAC contributions will bring immediate transparency, he said, adding, "This is a good first step, but I hope it is not the last step" toward campaign finance reform.

Downing said he would like to see a broad discussion with all reform options on the table, including public financing of elections.

The state bill also would increase from $500 to $1,000 the amount an individual can make to a state, county or local campaign, although that provision won't take effect until next year.

Some critics of the bill say it fails to eliminate a loophole in current state law that allows a union to contribute more to elections than individuals. Downing said he would favor "a level playing field" in the amounts each can contribute.

The 2014 governor's race is likely to be the one in Massachusetts most affected by the proposed financing legislation, becauzse of expected super PAC contributions including those originating out of state.

Posted on 7 Jul 2014, 9:00 - Category: News

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