This document is designed to introduce candidates for municipal offices and the treasurers of their political committees to the provisions of the campaign finance law. The Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is responsible for administering and enforcing Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 55, the campaign finance law. The office is available to assist individuals in complying with the statute and encourages treasurers, committee members and interested parties to familiarize themselves with these laws and regulations.
This publication is meant only to be an introductory guide to the campaign finance law, not a substitute for it. It is the responsibility of all those participating in political campaign financing in Massachusetts to become knowledgeable with the provisions of the law and regulations. Violations of the law carry serious penalties of fines, imprisonment or both. For additional information please contact the
Office of Campaign and Political Finance
One Ashburton Place
Boston, MA 02108
About the Office of Campaign and Political Finance
Chapter 1173 of the Acts of 1973 strengthened the state campaign finance law and established the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. While the 1970s saw a push for reforms in campaign finance disclosure laws all across the country, portions of the campaign finance law were on the books in Massachusetts as early as 1884. Some of those original laws provide for restrictions on and protections for public employees and will be discussed later in this brochure. Significant changes to the law were made through Chapters 43 and 292 of the Acts of 1994. Many of these changes affect municipal candidates and are addressed in detail in this brochure.
The Campaign Finance Law
Chapter 55 of the Massachusetts General Laws is a comprehensive statute concerning the financing of political campaigns in the Commonwealth. The statute requires, for example, that candidates and political committees disclose all contributions received and expenditures made. The campaign finance law also provides for limitations, and in some cases absolute prohibitions, on certain sources of campaign contributions. Additionally, the way in which campaign funds may be spent is regulated by the statute as well as by regulations and guidelines established by OCPF. Chapter 55 also regulates certain conduct in connection with the raising and spending of campaign funds, such as the activities of public employees and the prohibited use of governmental resources for political purposes. OCPF has promulgated regulations (970 CMR 1.00
et seq.) on contributions and expenditures which should be consulted for more specific guidelines.
The Municipal Candidate
If you are thinking about running for elective office, you should contact your city or town clerk, election commission or OCPF before undertaking any activity. The statute has a very broad definition of "candidate." An individual may be considered a candidate under the law well before any formal announcement of candidacy is made.
This document is designed to address issues concerning candidates for elected municipal office, except for members of a representative town meeting, who are exempted from the reporting and disclosure provisions of the campaign finance law. Activities of the treasurer of a political committee organized on behalf of a municipal candidate are also covered in this brochure. This brochure does not apply to candidates seeking citywide office, except for the office of school committee, in the cities of Boston, Worcester, Springfield and Lowell, who are now required to designate a depository bank and file periodic bank reports with OCPF. Citywide candidates in any of these four cities should contact OCPF or their local election officials for further information.
In order to familiarize you with the appropriate forms required for municipal candidates, a summary of these forms and an explanation of their purpose is provided here. Your city or town clerk, election commission or OCPF will, upon request, review these forms with you, along with the procedures for filing them. Unless otherwise noted, all forms are available from and are to be filed with the city or town clerk or election commission in your community.
FORM CPF M 101: STATEMENT OF ORGANIZATION OF A CANDIDATE COMMITTEE
Although the law does not require a candidate to have a political committee organized on his or her behalf, many candidates have one. A public employee who runs for elective office and wishes to raise funds must have a committee organized on his or her behalf to handle all fundraising since public employees are prohibited by law from political fundraising, even for their own campaigns.
Form CPF M101 should be filed with the city or town clerk or election commission as soon as the committee is organized. A political committee may not accept any contributions nor incur any expenses until the treasurer qualifies for the office of treasurer by completing, signing and filing Form CPF M101.