Citizens United: Massachusetts’ response


The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United v. FEC case has rendered 24 states’ election laws unconstitutional. The 5-4 ruling in favor of Citizens United reversed a provision of the McCain-Feingold act that prohibited any electioneering communication—defined as advertising via broadcast, cable or satellite that is paid for by corporations or labor unions. Many states have acted fast to counter corporations’ ability to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections by passing laws that force disclosure of all independent expenditures in near real time. The Sunlight Foundation Reporting Group has decided to report what each of these states is doing to respond to the highly-contested ruling. Today we’re looking at Massachusetts:

State: Massachusetts
Legislation: 2011 Budget
Passed: N/A
Web site:

Massachusetts  is addressing the Citizens United decision by forcing corporations making advertisements to insert disclaimers identifying who is paying for the ad. 

The state’s effort is minimal in comparison to changes other states are making. For instance, the language for the new rule inserted in the 2011 annual budget request doesn’t touch the idea of nonprofits revealing their funders. This is a highly debated element of the federal response to the decision known as the DISCLOSE act. 

A requirement of executive approval, while not stated outright, is implied by making disclaimer statements be spoken by the Cheif Executive Office of an organization, or the equivalent. The statement must be in video and placed in the television commercials. 

The state already requires groups to file a disclosure statement within seven days of making independent expenditures. If an ad is placed within 10 days of an election then disclosure must take place within 24 hours.