Who has to register with OCPF?
- Statewide Offices
- The Constitutional Offices: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, State Secretary, State Treasurer or State Auditor.
- The General Court
- The State Legislature: Seats in the State Senate or State House.
- The Governor's Council
- One of the eight district seats of the Executive Council.
- County and District Offices
- County Clerks of Court, Commissioners, and Treasurers; Registers of Deeds and Probate; District Attorneys; Sheriffs and Suffolk County Clerks
of the Superior and Supreme Judicial Courts
- Barnstable Assembly of Delegates
- Mayor or City Council Seats in Cities with 100,000+ Populations
- This includes the communities of: Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Springfield and Worcester.
- Mayor in Cities with between 40,000 and 100,000 Populations
- This includes the communities of: Attleborough, Brockton, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Lawrence, Leominster, Lynn, Malden, Medford, Methuen,
New Bedford, Newton, Peabody, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Salem, Somerville, Taunton, Waltham, Westfield, Weymouth.
- State Political Parties
- The state committees of political parties organized under M.G.L. chapter 52, section 1.
- Local Political Parties
- Ward, town and city committees of the state political parties.
- State Ballot Question Committees
- For questions appearing on the ballot of the next state election.
- Political Action Committees
- Federal or out-of-state PACs that wish to support or oppose Massachusetts candidates must organize a separate Massachusetts PAC with OCPF.
Once organized, the Massachusetts PAC must ensure that all of its fundraising activities comply with the Massachusetts campaign finance law.
Funds raised must be kept in a separate bank account established for the Massachusetts PAC. No transfers may be made from the Federal PAC or
out-of-state PAC to the Massachusetts PAC.
Who does not have to register with OCPF?
- Candidates for federal office
- Candidates for municipal office (other than those listed above)
- Municipal ballot question committees
- Municipal political action committees
These candidates and committees must register with their local election officials.
Depository and Non-Depository Candidates and Committees
There are two different groups of candidates and committees that report to OCPF. The groups are defined by the reporting system they use:
- Depository Candidates and Committees
- Statewide, county and Governor's Council candidates and committees, state party committees and mayoral and city council candidates
in Boston, Cambridge, Lowell, Springfield and Worcester.
The term "depository" refers to the fact that these candidates and committees must appoint a specific financial institution as the
depository for their campaign / political account. All campaign finance transactions must be processed through this designated account.
These candidates and committees arrange for their financial institutions to file monthly reports with OCPF listing their total monthly
deposits and providing detailed information about the committee's expenditures. In addition, these candidates file monthly reports of
contribution information, and, if applicable, detailed reports for any reimbursement or credit card payments made by the committee. For
candidates on the ballot, the frequency increases to twice-monthly in the last six months of an election year and may also include late
contribution reports. These candidates are also responsible for filing year-end summary reports.
- Non-depository Candidates and Committees
- Candidates for the State Legislature or the Barnstable Assembly of Delegates, mayoral candidates in cities with 40,000-100,000 populations,
political action committees, local party committees and ballot question committees.
These candidates and committees file directly with OCPF. Non-depository candidates and PACs file two reports in a non-election year: a mid-year
report and a year-end report. In an election year, they file three reports: a pre-primary report, a pre-election report and a year-end report.
Local party committees file an annual year-end report, with two extra reports due in years in which they support or oppose candidates on the
ballot: a pre-primary report and a pre-election report. Ballot question committees file on a slightly different schedule before and after the
election. With the exception of the depository candidates noted above, municipal candidates and committees, including local ballot question
committees, file locally based on the dates of their local elections. Those reports are available from local city or town clerks or election
Political Committees and Other Organizations
A political committee is a committee that raises money for a specific political purpose, such as:
- The election of a single candidate (candidate's committee);
- The election or defeat of one or more candidates (political action or people's committee);
- The promotion of a particular party (state and local party committees);
- The passage or defeat of a ballot question (ballot question committee); or
- Making independent expenditures, without direct or indirect coordination with any other Massachusetts political committee or candidate.
(independent expenditure political action committee).
Before it can raise funds for its specified purpose, a committee must be properly organized with
OCPF or, if applicable, a local election official.
In general, organizations that are not political committees may spend money for political purposes, such as contributions to candidates or PACs
or expenditures to support or oppose ballot questions, without having to organize as a political committee. That assumes that the group is spending
its general funds (such as dues) and has not raised the funds specifically for a political purpose, such as giving to candidates. Raising funds for
a political purpose would make the organization a political committee that would have to organize with OCPF or the proper local election official.
Contributions and expenditures by organizations are subject to disclosure by the recipient candidate or committee or the organization, or both. In
addition, business corporations, and organizations that receive corporate funds, professional corporations (PCs), partnerships, limited liability
companies (LLCs) and limited liability partnerships (LLPs) are prohibited from making expenditures to support or oppose candidates, parties or PACs.
What is an Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee?
OCPF issued an Interpretive Bulletin, IB-10-03, to provide guidance and
direction to groups that raise funds solely to make independent expenditures:
In Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, 558 U.S. ___, 130 S.Ct. 876 (2010), the Supreme Court ruled that independent expenditures by
corporations that are made to influence candidate elections cannot be limited, because doing so would not be consistent with the First Amendment.
130 S.Ct. 876 at 913. Although the decision concerned application of a federal statute, it also impacted OCPF’s longstanding interpretation of M.G.L.
c. 55, § 8 as prohibiting both contributions and independent expenditures by corporations to support or oppose candidates or political parties.
Corporations may now make independent expenditures without limit, but such corporations would be subject to disclosure requirements. Corporations or
other entities named in M.G.L. c. 55, § 8 may still not make direct contributions to candidates or political parties.
A group which receives contributions and makes expenditures for the purpose of influencing the nomination or election of more than one state or local
candidate in Massachusetts is a political action committee or PAC. See M.G.L. c. 55, § 1 and
IB-88-01. Prior to Citizens United, any political action
committee that raised money to make contributions to candidates or independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates was subject to a $500 limit
on what could be received from individuals, and was also subject to a prohibition on the receipt of contributions from business corporations. See M.G.L.
c. 55, §§ 7A and 8. As a result of Citizens United, a different standard is now required for PACs that only raise money to make independent
expenditures and then subsequently only make independent expenditures.
For more information see OCPF Interpretive Bulletin IB-10-03