Wednesday, July 18, 2012 • 9:10 AM Post a Comment

Money Changes Everything

posted by Maureen Turner

Campaign finance reports for the second quarter were due to the Federal Elections Commission this week—and, in a surprise to no one, incumbent U.S. Rep. Richie Neal outraised dramatically his two opponents for the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional District.

From April to June, Neal raised $364,000. Andrea Nuciforo, a former state senator and now Middle Berkshires register of deeds, raised $61,485. Bill Shein, a writer and political activist whose campaign will accept no donations of more than $99, and no money from lobbyists or PACs, collected $6,700.

You don’t have to be a math major—or a poli sci major—to know that in our money-centered political system, that leaves Neal with a distinct advantage. As of June 30, Neal had $2,200,165 on hand, according to the FEC, $1,204,323 of it raised in the current election cycle. Of that, $867,844 came from PACs and other candidates’ committees; $291,663 came from individual contributions.

In contrast: Nuciforo has $129,183 on hand. He’s raised $232,865 this cycle, with $201,682 coming from individuals, $30,005 a loan he made to his campaign, and $500 from PACs or other committees, according to the FEC.

And then there’s Shein’s shoestring campaign: He has $6,289 cash on hand, and raised $18,302 this cycle, all of it from individuals. (His campaign committee is called Human People for Shein, a reference to the suffocating influence corporations wield in the political process, particularly in the wake of the Citizens’ United decision.)

But both Nuciforo and Shein found something to crow about in their respective reports—and something to criticize Neal for in his.

Nuciforo’s campaign sent out a release noting that his total contributions climbed significantly—by 44 percent—between the first and second quarters. “Nuciforo received no contributions from PACs in either quarter,” the announcement said, adding that “[h]is opponent, Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield, received $231,143 from PACs, which amounts to 63% of his second quarter fundraising.” (The release failed to mention Nuciforo’s other opponent, Shein, and his PAC-free war chest.)

“These reports show a stark difference between myself and Congressman Neal,” Nuciforo said in the release. “All our money is raised from individuals, whereas Congressman Neal receives the vast majority of his funding from PACs that represent large financial institutions and insurance companies. This kind of special interest, big-money politics is one of the central problems with Washington today, because it distracts elected officials from the issues and has a very strong negative influence on decision making.”

Shein—whose campaign specializes in detail-packed, often hilarious press releases—went further. “Shein Being Outspent 100-1—And He’s Proud of It!” read the headline of his campaign’s announcement. “Corporate interests, Wall Street, Big Pharma and others are ‘protecting their investment in the status quo,’ says progressive Democrat.”

“Given what we all know about decades-long concentration of wealth, flat and declining wages, long-term unemployment, rising foreclosures, unaddressed climate change, mounting student debt, and so many things that are upside-down in America, one thing is clear: All of that corporate and lobbyist money works,” the release continued. “It’s distorting our democracy for the exclusive benefit of those who provide it—in greater sums every election cycle—to both Republican and Democratic lawmakers.

Shein went on to list some of the questionable corporate contributors who’ve given to his opponents (see the full list here), adding, “When you rely on these institutions to fund your campaign, you won’t speak out boldly, advance the policies we need to hold enormous institutions to account, or work to end their overwhelming influence in our elections, legislative process, and broader society. Instead, you’ll be silent.

“Plenty of good, decent people work for these institutions,” Shein continued. “But we can't allow enterprises that care only about profit continue to run roughshod over our democracy, economy, and environment. This age of corporatism must end.”

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