Central MA Pols Spend Campaign Cash on BBQ’s and Wedding Gifts
Wednesday, January 16, 2013
The "Normal Course of Business"
"This is all part of the normal course of business," Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, said of the $381 he spent at Boston’s Emmet’s Pub as a good-bye to a member of his legislative staff.
"When dedicated staff leave, it’s expected," that their boss will throw them a party, Brewer said.
Brewer, chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, ran unopposed this election. He spent $11,000 between Aug. 20 and Oct. 19, including $650 on a dinner for his Ways and Means staff catered by Red Roof Catering, plus $125 in beverages from Kappy's Liquors.
He spent $4,139 on his annual chicken BBQ at the Southborough Rod and Gun Club.
"It's a good chicken dinner. The second largest political event in Western Mass," Brewer said.
Brewer still had $169,000 in campaign cash as of Oct. 19, the latest report available.
Massachusetts lawmakers receive a base pay of $61,132.99 per year. In addition, they can spend money given to them as campaign donations on their legislative office and staff, or in any way that will further their political careers, as long as it isn’t primarily for personal use, according to the OCPF.
Is Reform Needed?
These rules should be changed so that campaign money is spent only on campaigning, said Pam Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause.
"We don’t need to be funding a lot of lavish activities," and donations to non-profits, Wilmot said. "Office expenditures should be paid for by the government and should be separate activities," as they are for Congress, Wilmot said.
"The term clean elections is a misnomer. It should be state welfare for politicians," said Binienda, chair of the House Committee on Rules.
Binienda spent $45,000 between Aug. 20 and Oct. 19.
"I just had a tough re-election," Binienda said.
His opponent, Republican William G. Lebeau, of Leicester, spent a total of $2,560 from January through Oct. 19.
Binienda spent thousands on advertisements and also paid $18,000 to a consultant. He also gave a $150 wedding gift to Mr. and Mrs. Tony Nguyen, of Worcester, and a $200 wedding gift to Mr. and Mrs. James O'Brien, of Worcester.
"They are people who worked on my campaign and were with me for 30 years," Binienda said.
Binienda had $380,000 in campaign cash remaining on Oct. 19.
Assistant Minority Leader, Rep. George N. Peterson, R-Grafton, donated $500 to the Blackstone Chamber of Commerce Education Foundation, plus $200 to the Blackstone Valley Chamber of Commerce itself. He had $11,000 in campaign cash as of Oct. 19.
"I didn't have an opponent so I had no need to raise money. I think its abhorrent that some people have half a million in their account and haven't had a challenger," Peterson said.
Sen. Harriette L. Chandler, D-Worcester, spent $5,300 in campaign funds, including $432 for lunch from Milano's Deli in Boston, for herself and senate colleagues.
"Believe me it was a working lunch," Chandler said. "Of course it doesn't help me get elected but it's my job," she said. "That's how things are done in the senate."
Chandler donated $250 to St. Peter's Parish Youth Basketball and $500 to help elect Joseph Patrick Kennedy III to Congress.
"People ask me to contribute to things, to charities that help the community. That is part of my responsibility as a legislator," she said.
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