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Challengers point to source of Neal's funds

Date: 4/25/2012

April 25, 2012

By G. Michael Dobbs

Money is the lifeblood of politics and both of the Democrats challenging Congressman Richard Neal saw what they claimed as victories in Federal Election Commission (FEC) campaign finance reports for the first quarter of 2012.

Bill Shein raised $11,235.99 in small contributions during that time compared to Neal's $4,125. Andrea Nuciforo, Jr. received $42,493 during that same time from individuals.

Neither challenging candidate accepted donations from political actions committees (PACS) or lobbyists.

In terms of sheer financial power, according to the report Neal raised $101,250 from PACS.

In a three-way Democratic primary fight, financing will be important, but both Nuciforo and Shein are attempting to make voters aware that the amount of money raised by Neal doesn't necessarily reflect local support. In an effort to distinguish themselves from the incumbent, the origin of campaign contributions has become an issue for both of them.

Between the two challengers, one is claiming a purer faith than the other. Shein will not only decline money from PACS and lobbyists, he limits contributions to just $99. Shein has also had a history of challenging the financial status quo of politics.

Shein has charged that as a state senator, Nuciforo engaged in the same kind of fund-raising as Neal.

When asked about that claim, Nuciforo said, "Bill is entitled to his opinion. It's wonderful to have additional voices in this race."

He added there would be "plenty of time" in the race to examine such issues.

Shein told Reminder Publications, "From the beginning of my campaign I have been talking about changing the old way of doing things in Washington."

Shein said that the type of fund-raising practiced by Neal is "widespread in Washington."

"Neal is not alone," he added.

He added, "This is a principal reason why I have long been an unwavering, full-throated advocate for public financing of elections and a ban on contributions from lobbyists — both in Massachusetts and in federal elections. Virtually every major challenge faced by Americans today — from long-term unemployment, to the foreclosure crisis, to our crumbling national infrastructure — has been caused, or made worse, by the distorted priorities and bad public policy fueled by big money in elections. It's long past time to do things differently."

Shein noted, "Unfortunately, FEC reports do not cross-reference donations with separate lobbyist registration or contribution disclosures, nor are registered lobbyists even required to list 'lobbyist' as their occupation. This makes it difficult for voters and the media to review and understand these contributions, or fully appreciate the extent to which donations from lobbyists and their clients are corrupting the legislative process."

Nuciforo called what Neal does "traditional retail politics."

The "follow the money" strategy is part of a message that Neal is too conservative for the new congressional district that now contain Berkshire County, previously represented by John Olver.

"Neal is the most conservative candidate running in one of the most progressive districts in the county," Nuciforo said.

Nuciforo said that Neal has "voted against Democratic values for 24 years."

He added, "I am the pro-choice, progressive Democrat in this race. Our contributions reflect that."

The contributions made to the Nuciforo campaign reflect a "momentum" in his favor, according to the candidate.

"Not only did we raise twice as much as Richie Neal from actual voters, he continues to base his constituency on corporate donors, millionaire lobbyists, and powerful special interest groups like Wal-Mart, Dow Chemical, and big tobacco firms like Altria. How can Richie Neal say he votes in the best interests of progressive voters, while basing over 80 percent of his campaign on fund-raising from groups who are in bed with, and embraced by the Republican Party?"

Neal's campaign was contacted for comment, but did not respond by press time.

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