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Campaign finance requirements for Massachusetts ballot measures

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Campaign finance requirements for Massachusetts ballot measures are promulgated by the Massachusetts Office of Political and Campaign Finance. The Office of Political and Campaign Finance regulates all campaign finance laws in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Office has a online disclosure database that lists all campaign finance activity of groups in Massachusetts that are supporting or opposing ballot measures.

If someone feels a person or committee is violating Massachusetts campaign finance law, the first step is to file a complaint with the Office of Political and Campaign Finance. It is up to the Director of the Office of Political and Campaign Finance to fully investigate the complaint along with authorizing the courts to issue any summons notices. Once all evidence is gathered, a hearing is held to determine if there is enough probable cause to find someone in violation of campaign finance laws[1].

If probable cause is found, the complaint is referred to the Attorney General for further prosecution[2].

General requirements

Ballot question committee

Any group that is in support or opposition of a ballot measure in Massachusetts is considered a ballot question committee[3].

Statement of Organization

Any ballot question committee in Massachusetts must file a Statement of Organization with the appropriate filing officer before accepting any contributions or making any expenditures[4].

Campaign finance requirements

Accepting/earmarking contributions

Under Massachusetts law, all contributions must be deposited within seven days of receiving a contribution[5]. Also, the ballot question committee is required to earmark the purpose of the contribution.

Under the law, a campaign must fill out a earmark slip like this:

(Check One and Fill in Specific Purpose)

TV, Radio ____ Printing ____ Signs or Displays ____

Newspaper ____ Office ____ Transfer of Fund ____

Meetings ____ Travel ____ Other ____

Specific Purpose ____________________________________________________[6].

Contribution limits

There are no limits on contributions to ballot question committees. Any corporation, labor union, state or local party committee, along with individuals can donate unlimited sums of money to a committee[7][8].

Corporate contributions

Massachusetts allows corporations to contribute to ballot question committees. However, corporations are banned from contributing to candidates[9].

Filing reports

All ballot question committees are required to file campaign finance reports.

Mandatory electronic reporting

Any ballot question committee that has the expectation of raising or spending $25,000 or more must file their campaign finance reports electronically[10].

No forced public contributions

Massachusetts strictly forbids any public employee from contributing to a campaign in support or opposition of a ballot question if it comes as a condition of their employment[11].

Reporting requirements and reports

Massachusetts uses a frequent reporting system which includes two semi-annual reports along with twice-a-month reports beginning sixty days before the general election.

60 day report

Under Massachusetts law, the first campaign finance report for a ballot question committee is not due until 60 days before the general election. For the 2010 cycle, the 60 day report is due on September 2, 2010. The reporting period begins on January 1, 2010 or when the committee first formed up to August 28, 2010. August 28th is the end date of the reporting period which is five days before the report is due.

Twice-monthly reports

Ballot Question Committees are required to file campaign finance reports twice a month before the general election. For September of 2010, the reporting periods are September 1 to September 15th and September 16th to September 30th. The September 15th report is due on September 20, 2010 while the September 30th report is due on October 5, 2010. For October 2010, the reporting periods are October 1st to October 15th and October 16th to October 31st. The reports are due on October 20th for the October 15th report and November 5th for the October 31st report.

For November of 2010, there is a one reporting period from November 1, 2010 to November 15, 2010. The report is due on November 20, 2010.

Year-end report

The year-end report covers all activity from November 16 to December 31, 2010. The report is due on January 2, 2011[12].

Campaign advertising restrictions

There are no restrictions on campaign advertising under Massachusetts law for ballot question committees.

Terminating a committee

In order for a ballot question committee to dissolve, a report must be filed with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance that indicates the committee has received zero contributions or made zero expenditures. The report must be filed within 60 days of the actual dissolution. Ballot question committees must state how they will disburse surplus funds at the time of filing a statement of organization. Surplus funds can be used towards donations to the Massachusetts Local Aid Fund, the general revenue fund of any city or town in Massachusetts, a scholarship fund as long there are no beneficiaries closely aligned to a committee, or to any charity or religious organization recognized by law[13].

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