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Leonardo Angiulo: Money in Politics

Monday, April 21, 2014

 

April has been a big month for money. Taxes are being paid, the Supreme Court has said campaign contributions are protected by the First Amendment and some college professors allege documentary evidence proves economic elites have an outsize influence in U.S. Government policy decisions. Like I said, money has been in the news a lot lately.

Most people will acknowledge that fundraising is one of the consistent parts of being an elected official. According to a recent paper by Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University, the political process and its financiers have become increasingly intertwined. In fact, one of their assertions is that the preferences of economic elites have far greater impact on U.S. Government policy than the preferences of average citizens.

The professors cite the influence of organized interest groups as a highly significant factor on policy in general and the interests of affluent citizens as the most influential. The vehicle for this influence is found, in part, in lobbying activities. The United States Senate cites the federal law in defining lobbying as things like preparing, planning, researching and other background work for legislation. In practice, as referenced in the Gilens and Page publication, it is well known that laws are sometimes even drafted by lobbyists.

If lobbyists are hired by individuals and groups, and politicians are in a cycle of constant fundraising, then it would be a logical conclusion that someone with financial resources could impact legislative outcomes. This is not to say that envelopes of cash are passing under tables to buy votes. In a more subtle way, well funded candidates could get elected and actually vote their conscience. It just may be that the person, or group, funding that candidate's campaign have a personal interest in line with the politicians ideology. 

How a campaign gets funded has evolved through two major cases focused on First Amendment rights. The first, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, ruled restrictions on corporate and union funding of political speech to be unconstitutional. One example of the speech corporations and unions could engage in after the 2010 ruling is direct advocacy for the election or defeat of a particular candidate. The second case, McCutcheon et al v. Federal Election Commission decided on April 9, 2014 that campaign contribution limits as they existed at that time restricted participation in the political process without preventing corruption or the appearance of corruption and struck as violative of the First Amendment. This decision included the logic that there is a difference between direct quid pro quo corruption, like bribes, and influence in the system due to legitimate participation, like contributing to campaigns.

The response to these cases and the recent publication from Gilens and Page is mixed. The term “oligarchy” is roughly defined as a government controlled by a limited group for their own purposes. Opponents of unlimited contributions and corporate participation in campaigns cite this term when describing our current political system. One theory goes that current precedent is turning our nation into an oligarchy by allowing people and groups with money to hijack U.S. policy.

Another perspective is that some fear of potential corruption, or interest in leveling the playing field level for different economic statuses, does not outweigh an individual's First Amendment right to participate in the electoral process. This second perspective might say that preventing public corruption is an honorable goal, but as soon as we allow the restriction of one type of speech we open the door for other kinds of restrictions that may not be as honorable. If a hallmark of our country is free speech, the logic goes, then that means everyone is afforded that same opportunity to speak freely. Importantly, public corruption can be addressed by other statutes like the criminal offense of honest services fraud that strikes directly at things like bribery that are offensive to clean government.

However people feel about the current situation regarding campaign finance one safeguard we have against tyranny is the ballot box. If you do not like a candidate's past performance, talk about it. Organize yourself with like minded people. If you support a candidate's ideology, contribute to their campaign and encourage your friends and neighbors to do the same. And then vote accordingly. As Congressman Tip O'Neill once said, all politics is local.

Leonardo Angiulo is an Attorney with the firm of Glickman, Sugarman, Kneeland & Gribouski in Worcester handling legal matters across the Commonwealth. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

 

Related Slideshow: Central MA State Legislature Candidates’ Campaign Finances

The candidates listed below represent the Massachusetts candidates who filed papers with the Board of Elections as of March 27, 2014.  Since Campaign Finance Reports are filed bi-annually, reports are not available for those who filed after December 31, 2013.  

The slides below list the candidates ending balance for the most recent filing period. Full reports are available through the The Massachusetts Office of Campaign & Political Finance by following the links provided 

Prev Next

Senate

First Worcester District

Harriette L. Chandler (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $182,870.00

2013 Year End Report

 

Paul J. Franco (R)

Ending Balance: $1,161.18

2013 Year End Report

 

Sean M. Maher (D)

No report available

 

William Feegbah (D)

No report available

Prev Next

Senate

Second Worcester District

Michael O. Moore (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $73,948.85

2013 Year End Report

 

Todd Williams (R)

No report available

Prev Next

Senate

Worcester & Norfolk

Richard T. Moore (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $131,471.62

2013 Year End Report

 

Ryan C. Fattman (R)

Ending Balance: $106,179.81

2013 Year End Report

 

Andrew Pontbriand (U)

No report available

 

Shella Fitzpatrick (U)

No report available

Prev Next

Senate

Worcester, Hampden, Hampshire & Middlesex

James P. Ehrhard (R)

Ending Balance: $14,173.93

2013 Year End Report

 

Michael J. Valanzola (R)

Ending Balance: $13,782.46

2013 Year End Report

 

Anne M. Gobi (D)

Ending Balance: $4,366.63

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

Senate

Worcester & Middlesex

Jennifer L. Flanagan (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $22,428.30

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

Senate

Middlesex & Worcester

James B. Eldridge (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $5,013.82

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

Senate

Hampshire, Franklin & Worcester

Stanley C. Rosenberg (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $64,012.74

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

House

1st Worcester District

Kimberly N. Ferguson (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $4,158.69

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

House

2nd Worcester District

Jonathan D. Zlotnik (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $16,250.34

2013 Year End Report

 

Richard Bastien (R)

Ending Balance: $282.17

2013 Year End Report

 

Dustin Colby Cabral (D)

No report available

Prev Next

House

3rd Worcester District

Stephen Louis DiNatale (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $48,581.10

2013 Year End Report

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House

4th Worcester District

Dennis A. Rosa (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $8,657.31

2013 Year End Report

 

Daniel M. Phillipo (R)

No report available

Prev Next

House

5th Worcester District

Stephen J. Comtois, II (R)

Ending Balance: $324.17

2013 Year End Report

 

Jennifer J. Gaucher (R)

No report available

 

Donald R. Berthiaume, Jr. (R)

No report available

 

Jason M. Petraitis (R)

No report available

 

James Cooke (R)

No report available

 

George Yiantsidis (D)

No report available

 

Matthew Castriotta (D)

No report available

Prev Next

House

6th Worcester District

Peter J. Durant (R)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $10,159.73

2013 Year End Report

 

Karen A. Spiewak (D)

Ending Balance: $2,396.18

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

House

7th Worcester District

Paul K. Frost (R)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $13,671.78

2013 Year End Report

 

Terry Burke Dotson (D)

No report available

Prev Next

House

8th Worcester District

Kevin J. Kuros (R)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $8,169.42

2013 Year End Report

 

Joseph M. Hall (D)

Ending Balance: $1,802.04

2013 Year End Report

 

Joe F. Guertin (U)

No report available

Prev Next

House

9th Worcester District

David K. Muradian, Jr. (R)

No report available

 

Robert Shawn Craig (R)

No report available

 

Martin Green (D)

No report available

 

Eric Denison (U)

No report available

Prev Next

House

10th Worcester District

John V. Fernandes (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $6,473.93

2013 Year End Report

 

Christopher T. Kivier (R)

No report available

 

James Teed (R)

No report available

Prev Next

House

11th Worcester District

Matthew A. Beaton (R)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $13,731.09

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

House

12th Worcester District

Brad P. Wyatt (R)

Ending Balance: $40,894.64

2013 Year End Report

 

Harold P. Naughton, Jr. (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $26,369.83

2013 Year End Report

 

Bill Connolly (U)

No report available

 

Mary J. Richards (D)

No report available

Prev Next

House

13th Worcester District

John J. Mahoney (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $28,127.53

2013 Year End Report

 

Jacqueline Gisela Kostas (R)

No report available

Prev Next

House

14th Worcester District

James J. O'Day (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $20,278.12

2013 Year End Report

Prev Next

House

15th Worcester District

Philip Palmieri (D)

Ending Balance: $51,817.36

2013 Year End Report

 

Mary S. Keefe (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $20,925.95

2013 Year End Report

 

Ralph Perez (D)

No report available

Prev Next

House

16th Worcester District

John Fresolo (D)

Ending Balance: $11,453.39

2013 Year End Report

 

Daniel M. Donahue (D)

Incumbent

Ending Balance: $7,626.88

2013 Year End Report

 

Martin J. Cariglia, Jr. (U)

No report available

Prev Next

House

17th Worcester District

Michael Germain (D)

Ending Balance: $4,814.69

2013 Year End Report

 

Douglas Belanger (D)

Ending Balance: $453.44

2013 Year End Report

 

Michael Harper (D)

No report available

 

Moses S. Dixon (D)

No report available

 

Kate D. Campanale (D)

No report available

Prev Next

House

18th Worcester District

David P. Cortese (D)

Ending Balance: $2,383.31

2013 Year End Report

 

Brenda Ennis (D)

Ending Balance: $166.16

2013 Year End Report

 

Mark G. Dowgiewicz (D)

No report available

 

Joseph D. McKenna (R)

No report available

 

Jesse Limanek (R)

No report available

 
 

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