New Massachusetts Campaign Finance, Ethics and Lobbying Law


After the well-publicized scandals with Salvatore DiMasi and Dianne Wilkerson, the lawmakers on Beacon Hill passed ethics legislation yesterday banning politicians from accepting gifts and upping the consequences for ethical violations.

The Governor had threatened to veto a sales tax increase unless this act was passed, along with reforms in the pension system and the the transportation network.

Here are some of the highlights of the new ethics law:

Gift Ban

  • Prohibits public officials from accepting gifts of “substantial value” for or because of their position.
  • Bans lobbyists from giving gifts.

Tougher Penalties

  • Increases the maximum punishment for bribery to $100,000 and 10 years imprisonment.
  • Increases the maximum penalties for conflict of interest law violations involving gifts and gratuities, revolving door violations and other abuses to $10,000 and 5 years imprisonment.
  • Increases penalties for a civil violation of the conflict of interest laws from up to $2,000 per violation to up to $10,000 per violation. For bribery, the civil penalty would increase to $25,000.
  • Increases the civil penalty for a violation of the financial disclosure law from $2,000 per violation to $10,000 per violation.
  • Increases the criminal penalty for violating registration-related lobbying rules to up to $10,000 and 5 years imprisonment.

Stronger Lobbying Laws

  • Defines lobbying to include background work, strategizing, research and planning.
  • Expands the revolving door provision to apply to members of the executive branch.
  • Reduces the amount of allowable incidental lobbying from 50 hours in each 6-month reporting period to 25 hours in each 6-month reporting period.

Expanded Enforcement Authority

  • Makes compliance with the Ethics Commission’s summons mandatory.
  • Grants the Secretary of State authority to impose fines and to have the same civil enforcement authority over lobbying violations as the Ethics Commission has over ethics violations.
  • Gives the Attorney General concurrent jurisdiction with the Ethics Commission to enforce civil violations of the conflict of interest laws.

Enhanced Campaign Finance Laws

  • Eliminates arrangements between state political parties and elected officials.
  • Bars individuals from making committee checks to themselves.
  • Requires disclosure of expenditures and sources of funding for any anonymous third-party campaign mailings or ads that support or criticize a candidate or campaign.
  • Increases penalties for late-filed campaign finance reports.

Open Meetings

  • Expands and better defines the requirements of the open meeting law