Strange Campaign Finance in New Bedford Elections [OPINION]
Money is speech in American politics. A candidate has to be able to communicate directly with the voters to persuade them to vote for their candidacy.
Massachusetts has extremely strict campaign finance laws. Candidates are required to disclose their campaign finance activity to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance and that information is then provided to the public.
Because of its size, New Bedford is grouped in with other large Massachusetts cities when it comes to municipal elections and the campaign finance laws. Candidates and elected officials in Boston, Fall River, Worcester, New Bedford, and 10 other communities must follow specific reporting guidelines on the campaign activities. They are considered "depository committees" by state law:
"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 twice-monthly reports with OCPF listing their total deposits and providing detailed information about the committee's expenditures for the reporting period. In addition, these candidates file twice-monthly reports of contribution information, and, if applicable, detailed reports for any sub-vendor, reimbursement or credit card payments made by the committee. During an election year, candidates on the ballot may also file late contribution reports. These candidates are also responsible for filing year-end summary reports."
So it is strange that so many of the candidates running for election this year have yet to comply with the law. The law is in place to create an environment of transparency for the voters prior to elections. The voters in Massachusetts are legally entitled to know who is funding a political candidate in a city like New Bedford.
Additionally, some of the candidates who haven't complied with the law are actively spending money on campaign materials to influence voters in New Bedford. Like many people, I have seen campaign videos on social media and flyers being posted by at least two different candidates for mayor this year, but the state has no documentation of who is paying for this material and how much money has been spent on these election activities.
The reason we know how much campaign cash Mayor Mitchell, Steve Martins, Hugh Dunn, and Linda Morad have on hand, how they have spent their money, and who donated to them is that they have followed the law.
I understand that being a first-time candidate can be difficult and there is a learning curve. However, part of the process for running for elected office is dealing with government requirements and following the various election laws. The rules and regulations for candidates are nothing compared to those that are involved in running a city like New Bedford.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.