By Matt Murphy
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE -- Secretary of State William Galvin has asked Senate leaders to consider closing what he described as a loophole in current campaign finance law that has allowed statewide Republican candidates to withhold the names of individual donors until the end of a reporting cycle even though they have already deposited the funds into their campaign accounts.
Galvin told the News Service on Monday that he has spoken with Senate Majority Leader Stanley Rosenberg about the issue as leaders vet a super PAC disclosure bill, but the Brighton Democrat said he doesn't want to do "anything to screw up the bill or cause a problem" that would jeopardize the underlying bill's passage.
The House has already approved legislation that would force super PACs, which can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money, to abide by enhanced public reporting requirements and would also double the maximum individual political contribution limits to any one candidate to $1,000 a year.
In light of Galvin's request and other ideas being contemplated, Senate leaders have pulled back the reins on a super PACs disclosure bill that Senate President Therese Murray told the News Service last week would be debated in the Senate this week. An aide to the Plymouth Democrat said on Monday the bill is no longer on the agenda as it continues to be reviewed.
The Senate on Friday referred the bill (H 4226) to the Ethics and Rules Committee, chaired by Rosenberg.
"A number of additional requests have been made by other entities, including the secretary of state, and so those are under review," Rosenberg told the News Service Monday afternoon.
Galvin said that Republicans may be following the letter of the law by withholding the names of political donors until the end of each month when they must be reported to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, but said, "In the interest of transparency it might be something we want to correct."
"All the statewide Republican candidates have had a history of holding back the identity of their contributors until the end of the reporting period," Galvin said. "They were depositing the checks but not reporting the identities of donors. It seems to me as they put the money in they should be disclosing it. Most, if not all of the Democrats, have been doing that."
Galvin also said that he is exploring possible solutions to a problem raised by legislation currently on Gov. Deval Patrick's desk that would require the names of candidates to be transliterated into Chinese and Vietnamese on Boston city ballots. The change is supposed to take effect for the Sept. 9 primaries, but Galvin said the ballots for Boston have already been printed.
"Time is a problem depending on what the governor does and when he does it," Galvin said. "I had urged all the parties to consider a delay until at least the general election, but they felt that because it was a home rule petition from Boston they couldn't delay. We're exploring what that means and my greatest concern is that ballots are printed and available."
Patrick intends to sign the bill (H 4089) on Tuesday at a ceremony in Chinatown, according to his public schedule.
Rosenberg said he is considering his own changes to the campaign finance bill, including a measure that could require the voter information guides mailed to residents to include a cost estimate on each ballot question.
After asking the Patrick administration a few years ago to review what it would take to cost out each ballot question, Rosenberg said lawmakers have received the report, but attempts to incorporate a proposal into bills this session have gotten hung up in conference committee.
"We're taking another run at it, so we're not trying to drag our feet but we have a few weeks left and we have a few more ideas that are still being vetted," Rosenberg said. The price tags on ballots questions would not take effect until after this election cycle when voters will decide four ballot questions.
Rosenberg also acknowledged lobbying around the bill's proposal to require political action committees to disclose their top five donors in their television ads. The Globe reported last week that the Massachusetts Teachers Association was trying to have the measure stripped from the bill.
Rosenberg said asking super PACs to disclose donors in television advertisement could turn a 30-second spot into a 35-second advertisement, or force groups to cut content from their ads.
"Disclosure is a very good idea. Coming up with a practical execution of that is a challenge so people are still not quite settled on whether that's the best way. Online is really easy. We're still looking at that," Rosenberg said.