Candidates for Senate, House and mayor to face new campaign reporting law

  • Greenfield Town Hall RECORDER FILE PHOTO/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2019 4:26:41 PM

NORTHAMPTON — Candidates for mayor in four of the region’s largest cities — Northampton, Easthampton, Holyoke and Greenfield — will be required to name a bank that will report their campaign finances on a monthly basis under a new state law that is believed to be the first in the nation.

The state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance is celebrating the new law that requires independent, third-party disclosure of campaign finance reports for House, Senate and all mayoral candidates. The law is intended to ensure accuracy and requires monthly public disclosure of activity.

The bill will require legislative and mayoral candidates to appoint a bank to file their campaign finance reports. Known as “the depository system,” third-party disclosure is already used for some candidates, such as those running for statewide office, county positions or mayoral and city council candidates in large cities with more than 65,000 residents. Expanding the requirements to legislative races and mayoral races in cities with less than 65,000 residents will bring greater accuracy and transparency, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

“The public will see the data more frequently, and the candidates can feel comfortable that their reports are accurate,” Michael Sullivan, director of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, said in a statement. “Because reports are filed monthly by a third party, OCPF’s auditors can quickly identify any issues and work with candidates to fix them.”

Gov. Charlie Baker signed the law into effect last week, and the campaign finance agency says the transition to the new system — which will affect some 600 candidates, in addition to the 900 already operating under the system — will occur by early 2020.

For politicians like Northampton Mayor David Narkewicz, this will be a new process.

The campaign finance agency has already sent out an information email to possible candidates about the new system, Narkewicz said, and the agency had already been moving mayors toward an online system that provides real-time information.

“This is, I guess, the next step in the transition,” he said. “I think it’s really an effort to try to get more real-time reporting and allowing OCPF to have quicker access to the bank records.”

Under the previous system, candidates like Narkewicz, as well as state House and Senate candidates, would file itemized receipts and expenditures on campaign finance reports. However, there was no third-party verifying the accuracy of that information, which was available for the public to see.

Now, candidates will file reports with a list of contributors, and banks will file monthly reports with itemized receipts and a summary of receipts. The campaign finance agency will reconcile those reports and post them to the internet.

Narkewicz said the new system should provide increased transparency. He noted that previously, in an off year, campaigns would file only one campaign finance report. But banks will submit monthly reports under the new system.

Narkewicz said he doesn’t see the system as adding an extra burden on candidates.

“I know that OCPF is going to be holding trainings all around the state, including some in Northampton,” he said.

Dusty Christensen can be reached at dchristensen@gazettenet.com.


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