Consensus Question 14

Question 14 in the Massachusetts League's study of the Ballot Question Process asks "Should accurate information on campaign donations to and expenditures from ballot question committees be available to the public prior to the election?"

Currently, campaign donations and expenditures are reported directly to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) website on a schedule set by the OCPF. The schedule for reporting donations and expenditures requires a report through November 1, which is due November 5. However, the final report is made after the election, so donations received after November 1 are not known prior to the election.

In instances where there are multiple campaign committees transferring funds among themselves, the overview page of the website on campaign donations and expenditures have been found to reflect inaccurate totals due to “double counting.”

Voters should be able to access accurate information on donations and expenditures on all ballot questions prior to voting. OCPF should ensure that information is reported and presented in a way that provides easy access to accurate information. Funds contributed from one committee to another should be clearly identified as such so they will not be double counted in the total. And large donations (above a defined amount) should be reported immediately, so that this information is known prior to the election.

On the other hand, State budget and system constraints may make it too difficult to make this information completely transparent and accurate prior to the election. OCPF has shown that it will investigate possible wrongdoing and levy fines when appropriate, but a thorough investigation may not be possible prior to the election.

Information on Consensus Question 14 is found on p. 16 of the Study Guide. State and national data about ballot question campaign finance are reviewed in Section 6 of the Study Report.