House and Senate negotiators agreed Tuesday night to a multifaceted campaign finance bill, aimed, in part, at immediatelyincreasing the transparency of super PACs, the shadowy political action committees that can raise unlimited funds from people, corporations, and labor unions and use them to influence elections.
As it works to boost transparency, the bill also doubles how much money individuals can give to state candidates each year: from $500 to $1,000 beginning in 2015.
The bill would require super PACs to disclose donors within seven business days after making an independent expenditure — for example, buying time on a local station to air a political television advertisement. Within 10 days of an election, the groups would have to disclose donors within 24 hours after making such an expenditure.
In an effort to let voters know who is backing political ads, the bill would also mandate a written statement at the bottom of super PAC ads that lists the five persons or entities that made the largest contributions to the group.
Under current state regulations, super PACs must report how they have spent money within seven business days of making expenditures. But they only need to report a list of contributors three times: eight days before the primary election, eight days before the general election, and in a year-end report.
That disclosure gap can leave voters wondering who is behind nasty ads from PACs with often innocuous- or mundane-sounding names.
The compromise bill is set to go to both chambers for final approval and is expected to be sent to Governor Deval Patrick and signed into law.
Super PACs have proliferated in the state’s gubernatorial race this year and this bill could bring greater disclosure to those groups.
Proponents of increased disclosure lauded the compromise measure, which did not deviate substantially from the original House and Senate bills.
This compromise “has basically everything we had asked for in the bill regarding disclosure,” said Pamela H. Wilmot, the executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, a group that pushes for accountable government.
Wilmot said if this bill becomes law, it will be one of the strongest in the country at “shining a light on dark money,” money from an unknown source spent to influence elections.
“The more transparency and disclosure we have, the better we are as a society, especially when it comes to elections” said state Senator Barry R. Finegold, an Andover Democrat who was part of the group of legislators from both chambers that hammered out the agreement.
The bill also would also give the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance additional authority to try to find the original donors behind shadowy groups.Joshua Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jm_bos.