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OP-ED: Who’s Your State Legislator Taking Money From?

Jan 18, 2018 01:35PM ● By Brian Genest

“Follow the money.”

That advice from my journalism professor decades ago has served me well, both as a news reporter and a voter.

Of course, when politicians take (or give!) money, it often has little to do with the voters at all. 

Try not to let this information from their 2017 mid-year campaign finance reports destroy your faith in the Democrat politicians “representing” Dracut, Lowell and area towns…

Who is State Sen. Barbara L’Italien (D-Andover) taking money from? 
Lobbyists, unions and PACs, oh my! 

Of the 169 donations Barbara L’Italien hauled in during the six-month period, 74% of them – 125 donations – were from outside her state senate district, which also includes Dracut, Tewksbury and Lawrence. 

Isn’t that special? As in the special interests. Just 44 donors – only 26% – came from within her district.

35 of Barbara L’Italien’s donors were “legislative agents” who pitched in $6,150 and 28 donors were unions or political action committees who shelled out $10,150. Together, the special interest groups are responsible for the majority of the dough on her report. 

The pile of special-interest cash isn’t even related to the fact that Barbara L’Italien is currently running for Congress in a district she doesn’t live in, either. The dough was raked in three months before her September announcement and it’s also nothing new. Her 2016 report is full of lobbyists, too – former State Sen. Steve Panagiotakos (D-Lowell) among them. Ditto for plenty of out-of-district donations.

Barbara L’Italien appears to be very skilled at accepting political donations but not so great at paying her state taxes. Which is to say, of course, she has street cred with Dems, both near and far.

There’s no carpetbagger like one in well-heeled high heels!

Who is State Rep. Colleen Garry (D-Dracut) taking money from? The usual cast of characters… Townies. Millionaire business owners. Current and former elected and appointed town officials. It’s her own little special interest group, very little. 

Colleen Garry isn’t taking in the big bucks. Her receipts are more like chump change, especially for an entrenched, career politician with more than 20 years in office. 

Perhaps it has become more challenging for Colleen Garry to get donations because she was fined $5,000 for violating the campaign finance law.

[Related – 
Ironic Colleen Garry: Silly, But Dangerous]

But fear not. In true Democrat fashion, Colleen spent $3649.17 – $104.17 more than the $3,545 she took in during the same period. 

If you’re one of the 38 people who made a donation to Colleen Garry, did you expect her to give it to Republicans? If not, you won’t like her list of campaign expenditures.

Since she barely hung onto her seat the last time she had a challenger, Colleen Garry has become very selectively bi-partisan. Colleen Garry’s campaign donated to the two elected Republicans who supported Cathy Richardson, her GOP opponent in 2014: Selectman Alison Hughes and former School Committeeman Matthew Sheehan, who lost re-election last year. Both got $50 donations from Colleen Garry. 

It’s not like Alison Hughes and Matthew Sheehan keep low, apolitical profiles, either. As an attendee at the 2016 GOP caucus in the Third Congressional District, Alison Hughes, who is currently chair of the Dracut Board of Selectmen, nominated her husband to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention. (He declined the nomination.) 

Matthew Sheehan is GOP Gov. Charlie Baker’s appointee to the Dracut Housing Authority. He bounced former Gov. Deval Patrick’s previous, embattled appointee

Matthew Sheehan also ran against Colleen Garry for state representative as an unenrolled candidate in 2010 and lost, finishing a distant third behind his Democrat opponent turned future donor and Republican George Boag.

Colleen Garry sure knows how to “work” the system, to benefit herself.

There’s nothing more swamp-like than small-town politics!

Who is State Sen. Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) taking money from? Anyone her paid fundraising consultant can get it from, apparently.

Eileen Donoghue took in $22,450 during the six-month period. Naturally, there are the usual donations from the Lowell power players, politicos and pukes. Some on the list fall into more than one of those categories. 

Eileen Donoghue’s donors also include fellow lawyers, unions, PACs, lobbyists and dozens of people outside her district. A Beacon Hill tradition!

What’s notably missing are donors from the towns actually in her district. 

Of the 97 donations she took in, there are only a total of five from Dunstable, Groton, Pepperell, Tyngsborough and Westford, the towns in her district besides the city of Lowell. 

Three of those five donations are from Tyngsborough. One of them, a $500 donation from “homemaker” Marilyn Campbell is certainly nothing to turn up your nose at. Exactly where she makes her home is unclear, however, as her address is listed as a post office box. (I’m no lawyer, but that seems to fall short of the requirement to provide a residential address for each donor, per the state statute.)

One of the other Tyngsborough donations – $200 – was from Patricia McCafferty, vice chancellor at UMass-Lowell. Right below her on the report, also with a $200 donation, is former Lowellian Martin Meehan, president of UMass, and now of Boston. Small world.

The sole donation from Dunstable was $100 from Mark Cochran, president and CEO of Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union. Along those lines, Eileen Donoghue’s donors also include three employees of Enterprise Bank and one from TD Bank. That’s business as usual: it would be shocking if you didn’t see donors from these organizations, as some of them have been part of the political scene for decades. 

There was one donor from Westford and none from Groton or Pepperell on Eileen Donoghue’s report.

But that’s only half the story. Eileen Donoghue is a professional politician and the $22,162.71 in expenditures on her campaign report make it hard to hide. 

Eileen Donoghue’s fundraising consultant, from Andover, got $6,000, more than a quarter of the total expenditures. You have to spend money to make it, I guess.

A Dedham “accounting and compliance services” firm was paid $1,800.  

With this kind of campaign cash available, there’s no need to break a sweat or a sculptured nail!

Eileen Donoghue doesn’t just take money from PACs, she gives it, too. The Committee for a Democratic Senate got $500 from her campaign. 

The Massachusetts Democratic State Committee got donations from Eileen Donoghue – three days in a row! – for a total of $650.

There are campaign expenditures for a Lowell storage unit, $780.93 in airfare to a conference for women in government and a $661.61 tab for a “senate luncheon” at Sam Lagrassa’s.

There’s also an expenditure of $655.07 for lodging last January in sunny Scottsdale, AZ, at the “winter meeting” of the National Council of Legislators from Gaming States. It was evidently money well spent, as Eileen Donoghue received a $1,400 donation from that organization, based in NJ, later that month.

There’s no expenditure for a proofreader to check Eileen Donoghue’s campaign report, which is unfortunate. While most donors are listed last name first, at least eight names on the report appeared to be reversed. As a result, they are not in the proper alphabetical order, another requirement of the statute. For example, when you download the pdf file of the report, the $100 donation received from Trevor Bloom of TD Bank is entered on page 7 of the report, under the letter T, as opposed to on page 2, under the letter B.

There appear to be other typos, too, unless Bedfprd is a new town in NH and they took the “c” out of Prescott Street in Lowell after 200 years.

There’s obviously a lot to like about being the Lowell senator nonetheless!

If you’d like to see what Lowell’s state representatives have been up to, check out the campaign reports for 
Tom GoldenRady Mom and David Nangle. Hint: Expect more of the same! What they haven’t been up to is getting money to fix the Rourke Bridge.

The 2017 year-end reports are due at the end of this month. So there will be six more months of money to follow, both incoming and outgoing. Once those reports are filed, you can bank on an update! 

(Brian Genest is a member of Dracut Republican Town Committee.)


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