Among the legislation filed in this session by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) is a bill to increase transparency in the Commonwealth’s public elections.
Senate Bill 399, An Act enhancing disclosure of campaign finance activity by expanding the depository reporting system to include legislative candidates, requires legislative candidates in Massachusetts participate in a depository reporting system.
The benefit is designed to be twofold – the legislation allows for any disparity to be identified by the Commonwealth’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) early on so that candidates can review records more immediately to clear the issue and it allows for more transparency in government.
Common problems encountered with the current non-depository system include missed deposits, data entry errors, balance issues and uncashed checks – issues that would be remedied through a depository system. Where non-depository reports are filed merely two or three times per year, depository reports are filed twice monthly by the candidate’s bank, an independent third party.
Recently, DiZoglio testified before a public hearing of the Joint Committee on Election Laws in favor of the legislation.
“Virtually all candidates, including statewide officers, county officers, Governor’s Council, mayors and councilors in cities over a population of 65,000, participate in this depository reporting system today – except for legislative candidates,” said DiZoglio. “This bill enhances government transparency, assuring the public that the information they review on the OCPF website is accurate, and makes it easier for OCPF to do its job by having the ability to promptly address campaign finance reporting issues. In the event of a problem that needs to be addressed, a notification would come quickly, as opposed to several months down the line.”
“Expanding the depository system to include more candidates makes good sense,” said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “It will increase the accuracy and completeness of campaign finance information and that is a win for voters and candidates alike.”
“Many legislative candidates have contacted OCPF over the years to self-report that their balances do not reconcile to their actual bank balances, usually due to errors that have snowballed over several years,” said Michael J. Sullivan, director of OCPF, in testimony delivered to the committee. “Some of these issues include errors when entering credit card contributions, bounced checks, not entering all expenditures that clear the account, previously reported expenditures that never clear the account, and not accurately carrying the ending balance from the last report as the beginning balance for the next report. Most of this won’t happen if legislative candidates are in the depository system. If this bill passes, OCPF looks forward to working closely with all House and Senate candidates to transition from the non-depository system to the depository system.”