BOSTON (AP) State revenues increased 15 percent in January, despite predictions of an
economic slowdown and calls for belt-tightening on Beacon Hill.
Revenues totaled $1.94 billion in January, up $254 million from January 2000, according to
the Department of Revenue. The January report came as a surprise after revenues fell by 1.4
percent in December.
But Revenue Commissioner Frederick Laskey sounded a note of caution.
"Just as we did not panic when revenues were less than robust in November and December,
we see no reason to celebrate now based on these numbers," he said in a statement. "One
month does not make a trend."
Statehouse officials, especially in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, have predicted leaner
times, particularly because of the income tax cut approved by voters in November. The tax
cut is expected to reduce state revenues by $400 million this year.
Gov. Paul Cellucci's budget last week predicted that revenues would grow 6.6 percent this
fiscal year, down from 10.2 percent last year.
But DOR officials said December's actual revenue numbers may have been higher than they
appeared and January's lower than they appear because $30 or $40 million of December
sales tax payments didn't arrive until January.
"They just got delayed in the holiday post," said Tim Connolly, a DOR spokesman.
Income tax collections for January totaled $1.4 billion, up 15 percent from a year ago. Sales
tax collections were up 15 percent, and withholding tax collections increased 12 percent
over January 2000.
Since the start of the fiscal year in July, the state has collected $9.5 billion in taxes, up 9
percent over last year at this time.
The MetroWest Daily News
Saturday, February 03, 2001
Lawmakers dip into campaign cash for cars,
restaurant bills and more
By David B. Caruso and John Gregg
News Staff Writers
BOSTON -- Efforts to gut the Clean Elections Law this winter could have a hidden benefit
for legislators -- protecting a system that allows them to tap campaign funds for lavish perks
often only marginally related to their State House jobs.
A News survey of campaign-spending records revealed dozens of examples where Beacon
Hill's political elite spent the money, which is supposed to be used for political or official
purposes, on activities that had clear personal benefits.
At least a dozen legislators used campaign cash last year to lease new cars. Others took
frequent trips to exotic locales. Scores of lawmakers used donations to eat at expensive
restaurants and buy wedding and christening gifts for political allies and supporters.
Among the year 2000 "campaign" expenses some lawmakers listed with the state:
-- House Speaker Thomas Finneran, a major critic of the Clean Elections Law, rang up
more than $67,000 last year on his campaign credit card. Almost half that money paid for
expensive dinners with political supporters and allies, gas for his car,
and globetrotting trips that included a trade mission to Japan and Australia with his wife.
-- Rep. Salvatore DiMasi, D-Boston, spent $3,141 at three country clubs on frequent golf
outings with constituents and colleagues.
-- Sen. Cheryl Jacques, D-Needham, rented a computer from her father, paying him more
than $2,000 annually out of campaign funds.
-- Sen. Edward "Chip" Clancy Jr, D-Lynn, had his campaign committee pay $580 a month
to lease and insure an Infiniti sedan, and Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees, R-East
Longmeadow, spent $7,228 in campaign funds last year on his car.
-- Even Republican Gov. Paul Cellucci used campaign funds to splurge on $269 worth of
wedding gifts from Tiffany's for two political supporters.
While not involving public funds, the spending is fueled by donations from constituents,
lobbyists and other corporate and union interests -- many with active business before the
Such practices draw criticism from supporters of the Clean Elections Law, who say its
voluntary spending limits and public financing will force lawmakers to devote the funds to
obvious campaign and constituent services, such as newsletters and advertisements.
The meals and car payments struck a sour note with Citizens for Limited Taxation founder
"C'mon, be reasonable. How can they represent their constituents if they have to walk
everywhere and starve to death?" said Anderson, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "It's
not like the rest of us, who have to pay for these things out of our personal paychecks. These are
very important people."
"There's a lot of extraneous spending going on in their so-called campaign accounts," added
George Pillsbury of the Massachusetts Money and Politics Project. "Most legislators
don't have campaigns."
Under current law, Beacon Hill lawmakers are allowed to spend campaign funds on anything
that "enhances" their political future, as long as it is not primarily for their
Lawmakers use that standard to say that meals with colleagues, cars to carry themselves to
community meetings, even floral arrangements for constituents who have died, all
serve a political purpose.
Denis Kennedy, spokesman for the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, conceded that
the law has many "gray areas." But, he said, the required public disclosure of campaign
spending serves as an important check to potential abuses.
"If something is questionable, or not covered in our law, at least it's disclosed, and the
judgment can then be made by the constituent or the public about whether it's legitimate,"
Kennedy said."That's the flip side to having a vague standard."
'It's on me'
Some lawmakers use their campaign funds to finance what appears to be extraordinarily
busy, and refined, social calendars.
DiMasi spent almost $4,000 on meals at pricey Boston-area restaurants, including
Siro's, Davio's and the popular Beacon Hill hangout No. 9 Park.
Senate Ways and Means Chairman Mark Montigny last summer spent thousands of dollars
treating friends to dinner at the Four Seasons and the Armani Cafe, and to" business
meetings" at pubs and taverns like the Black Rose, Pravda 116 and the Gramercy Tavern in
New York City.
In one three-day stretch in September, Cellucci, who supports the Clean Elections law, spent
almost $800 in meals at Ciao Bella, Legal Sea Foods and Maison Robert. His chief of
staff, Stephen O'Neill, dipped into the campaign account for several pricey meals that doubled as
Jacques, the Needham Democrat now planning a run for lieutenant governor, spent
thousands of dollars buying lunch, dinner and coffee for colleagues, constituents and herself.
She said the expenses are justified.
"I meet a tremendous amount of people -- constituents, supporters, community leaders --
and more often than not, when we meet, we meet in a restaurant," Jacques said. "I absolutely
feel compelled to pick up the tab. I don't know if people agree or disagree with that. But I
feel I have to do it. And I couldn't pick it up out of my own pocket."
'I used to own a Cadillac'
Leasing cars with campaign funds is a common practice for several legislators.
Sen. Richard Moore, D-Uxbridge, leases his car for $400 a month, although he reimbursed
the committee for about $845 for the time he spent driving the car on personal business,
according to records.
Rep. Marie Parente, D-Milford, splits the lease payments on her Chevy Impala, picking up
one-third of the cost herself and charging the remaining $245 a month to her campaign.
Parente said using campaign cash to pay for a car is legitimate because of the many meetings
she must attend.
"The job requires travel," she said. "Why should I spend part of my hard-earned salary going
to all the places the job takes me to? ... It's not the taxpayers' money."
Lawmakers are required to reimburse their campaign funds for the personal use of such cars,
at the IRS rate of 32.5 cents per mile. But enforcement, for all practical purposes, relies
on the honor system, and the campaign funds subsidize car costs for legislators, even if they pay
for personal miles.
Clancy, a former Lynn city councilor who also practices law, said he reimburses his
campaign between $250 and $300 a month for the personal use of his Infiniti sedan,
generally regarded as a luxury car. His campaign spent $7,764 last year to lease,
insure and maintain the vehicle.
Asked why he chose an Infiniti, Clancy said he does not live" extravagantly" and drove an
even more expensive car before joining the Legislature.
"I used to own a Cadillac, and I pay in money every month as campaign finance requires,"
Massachusetts lawmakers already receive base salaries of more than $50,000, with
committee chairmen earning thousands more. Each representative and senator also receives
$7,200 per year to cover job-related expenses, including mileage allowances and cellular
But many lawmakers use campaign cash to pick up the actual cost of travel, pocketing their
legislative travel allowance for personal use.
"I declare my travel allowance as income. I pay taxes on it. It's not really for travel,
In addition, they are eligible for stipends of between $10 and $100 a day to cover trips into
Boston, a perk worth up to $9,000 annually for some lawmakers.
House opponents of the Clean Elections Law, notably Finneran and
DiMasi, are threatening to delay or scuttle implementation of the measure, which was approved by voters in 1998.
Publicly, they say they oppose the law because it could give millions of
dollars a year to fringe candidates, with no strings attached to how the money is spent.
David Donnelly of Massachusetts Voters for Clean Elections said the spending caps in the
law would, in fact, discourage questionable use of campaign funds, besides its more obvious
intention to level the playing field between challengers and incumbents.
"Candidates will have to think how best to communicate with voters, as opposed to
potentially spending money that may not be directly related to their public functions of the job
or their re-election campaigns," Donnelly said.
But some lawmakers have also argued that they use campaign funds for expenses that
taxpayers might otherwise be asked to cover.
Finneran, who did not respond to an interview request Friday, dipped into his campaign
coffers to buy $225 worth of firewood for his plush State House office. He spent another
$320 to clean his office rugs.
But he also used campaign funds for other expenses, including $13,000 on a Pacific Rim
trade mission that included his wife, and $5,951 for a car lease through Chrysler.
Huge warchests also put lawmakers in an expansive mood.
Treasurer Shannon O'Brien used $5,472 in campaign funds for Boston Symphony Orchestra
tickets, then held a fund-raising reception tied to the performance.
And, in a similar move, Auditor Joseph DeNucci spent $7,660 for greens fees and cart
rentals to hold a fund-raiser at the Wayland Golf Club.
Montigny spent $113 on an unidentified "gift for colleague" at a duty-free shop in Frankfurt,
Germany. He spent another $230 in November on "refreshments for colleagues" at a New
Bedford-area liquor store.
Cellucci's campaign bought gifts for a staffer and fund-raising host who had invited the
governor to weddings, according to Rob Gray, Cellucci's top political aide.
"He gets invited to a lot of weddings and occasions which he can't always attend, but itís
appropriate to send a gift," Gray said.
Montigny used campaign cash last year to visit New York, Washington, D.C., Texas and
Russia. He shelled out $2,581 for a trip to Cuba last month, where lawmakers delivered
children's books to Cuban libraries.
And DeNucci, the auditor, spent $7,643 for six nights' lodging for himself and two aides at
the Beverly Hilton during last summer's Democratic National Convention. Most of the other
statewide candidates also had similar expenses related to the national conventions.
Moore, the Milford-area senator, said travel can serve a valuable legislative purpose --
especially if a committee chairman is attending a conference related to a particular area
"You can even make an argument that the taxpayer should pick it up, because it is official
business, "Moore said." I don't golf, so you won't see me golfing at a conference. I'm there to
Even Jacques' arrangement to lease a computer from her father also appears to fall within
campaign-finance standards, which allow market-rate transactions with relatives as long as
a service or product is being provided.
Jacques' campaign paid her father $172 a month last year for use of an iMac computer,
printer and scanner, in a leasing arrangement that has been in place for years.
Jacques said the practice started when, as a fledgling lawmaker, she could not afford to buy
an up-to-date computer for her home office. She said her father wound up buying the
new system, which he has periodically updated as part of their agreement.
"He has basically put out the thousands of dollars to buy the equipment, and I am leasing it
back," Jacques said.
But some still wonder about the arrangement, given that sophisticated systems can be
purchased for around $1,500.
"I can see you need a computer, but why would you rent one?"