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March 15, 2014

Senate passes campaign finance reporting bill

METHUEN — Candidates in municipal elections will be held to the same records keeping standards as those running for county and state office, once Gov. Deval Patrick signs into law new campaign finance reporting legislation.

The Senate yesterday passed a bill sponsored by State Rep. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) that would keep local candidates off the ballot for preliminary and final elections if they fail to file timely reports with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Under the existing law, candidates for state or county office who fail to file campaign finance reports are prohibited from appearing on an election ballot. Yet, the law does not apply to municipal candidates.

The reform bill, filed last year by DiZoglio as the direct result of former Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua’s actions, was intended to close what became known as “The Lantigua Loophole.”

State Attorney General Martha Coakley sued Lantigua for failing to file a 2011 campaign finance report and for not paying outstanding fines totaling $5,000 for those violations. Lantigua became mayor in January 2010, but lost his bid for a second four-year term last November to Daniel Rivera in a close election and a recount which Lantigua requested.

Despite repeated requests from the state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Lantigua refused to file the campaign finance report by the due date, Jan. 20, 2011. He was subjected to a $25 per day fine that maxed out at $5,000. OCPF turned the debt over to a collection agency.

“With the passage of this legislation, candidates in municipal elections who file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance will be held to the same standards as those running in county and state elections,” said DiZoglio.

“I want to express my gratitude to, among others, Senators Barry Finegold (D-Andover), Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester), Kathleen O’Connor Ives (D-Newburyport), Jamie Eldridge (D-Acton) and Richard Moore (D-Uxbridge) for their tireless work in advancing through the legislative process a common sense bill that will bring more transparency to our government. This required a bipartisan team effort and without their willingness to meet with me and discuss this issue, this legislation would not have made it as far as it has.”

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