A group that tracks the role of money in politics has asked the state office that oversees campaign finance laws to investigate the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound to determine whether the organization should have reported spending on a radio ad that attacked the governor’s support for a controversial wind energy project.
In a letter to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Massachusetts Common Cause said the Alliance ad aired within 90 days of the Nov. 2 election and specifically mentioned Governor Deval Patrick by name, factors, Common Cause said, that should have triggered a new law requiring reporting of the expense.
“As an entity making an electioneering communication, the Alliance had an obligation to report the expenditure and any donors that contributed to it,’’ said Pamela H. Wilmot, executive director of Massachusetts Common Cause.
Audra Parker, president of the Alliance, said she was not aware of the new reporting requirement, which took effect in January, and pledged that the organization will report the expenditure if the state determines that the ad meets the definition of an electioneering communication.
“We’re very careful to follow the letter of the law,’’ Parker said. “If there is a reporting requirement that we missed, we will make every effort to rectify that.’’
The ad, a transcript of which was included in the Common Cause letter, derided Patrick’s support for a power-selling deal in which developer Cape Wind would sell 50 percent of its power to National Grid.
“Tired of paying high electric bills?’’ the ad began. “If Governor Patrick has his way, 172 communities across Massachusetts will soon be paying even more.’’
The ad also said that “the other candidates for governor’’ opposed the Cape Wind plan, which calls for erecting 130 wind turbines, each 440 feet tall, over 24 square miles of Nantucket Sound. Since Patrick’s reelection, the state Department of Public Utilities has approved the power-selling deal, a decision the Alliance is planning to appeal. Construction is expected to begin as early as next year.
The new law requiring reporting of electioneering communications was enacted in 2009 as part of a series of ethics law changes passed by the Legislature and signed by Patrick. It is designed to cover so-called “sham issue ads’’ that advocate for one side of a public policy issue and mention a candidate’s views even if they do not expressly urge listeners or viewers to vote for or against a candidate.
In its letter to the state, Common Cause, which supported passage of the law, said it believes that the Alliance is not the only organization that might have failed to comply with it.
“Unfortunately, we believe that many groups may have disregarded or been unaware of [the law], as very few reported any electioneering communications, including organizations that have typically engaged in electioneering,’’ Wilmot said.
By yesterday, the website maintained by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance showed that seven organizations reported spending on electioneering communications, including Bay State Future, a group supported by the Democratic Governors Association, the Coalition for Marriage and Family, and the Republican Governors Association.
Jason Tait, a spokesman for the office, would neither confirm not deny that it is investigating the Alliance.
In general, he said, the new law requires organizations to report spending on electioneering communications that air within 90 days of an election. Organizations must report the expenditure within seven days, he added.
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