CLT Update
Friday, May 4, 2001

Give back the extortion money!

House leaders have slipped in a budget provision to boost lawmakers' earnings by up to $10,000 per year in exchange for fully funding a voter-approved campaign finance reform law.

State lawmakers move to hike their own earnings
The Boston Herald
Mar. 30, 2000

Let us not forget: "It's a matter of fairness, a matter of equity."

Those were last year's words of former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Haley, justifying the doubling of legislators' "per diem" pay and doubling legislators' district office slush fund.

He rationalized further, according to the Boston Herald [see excerpts at bottom -- full reports are also available], that the increased office expense money "would allow lawmakers to abide by the 'Clean Elections' campaign finance reform law by absorbing some of the 'constituent service' expenses they currently pay out of their campaign funds."

As we know only too well, those pols will shamelessly say and do anything to benefit themselves and protect the stranglehold on their office ... with the emphasis on "their."

Term Limits; they killed it, twice. Pay raise repeal; they killed it too. Nothing, not even 67 percent of the voters who passed the "Clean Elections Law," is going to stand in the way of their naked greed, ambition, and sense of entitlement.

They didn't miss the opportunity to extort more money for themselves last year, blaming it on "Clean Elections."

But now that the House has gutted "Clean Elections," the Beacon Hill Cabal should give back last year's money-grab: Its alleged justification no longer exist.

It's still "a matter of fairness, a matter of equity," isn't it?

It would be the honorable thing to do, at the very least. To keep ill-gotten gains attained by deceit would be fraud.

If, as usual, the Bacon Hill Cabal can't keep it's end of a deal, can't keep its collective word -- and examples abound -- then it's time they stop playing taxpayers and voters as suckers and fools.

They broke the deal. Give back the extortion money!

Chip Ford

The Boston Herald
Friday, May 4, 2001

Bacon Hill: House pols pushing millions in pork
by Cosmo Macero Jr. and Ellen J. Silberman

House lawmakers have spent week the pushing millions of dollars in pork-barrel spending and questionable pet projects, despite a tight-fisted refusal to budget $10 million for the voter-mandated Clean Elections Law.

While pledging to hold the line on excess spending and saying the state can't afford campaign finance reform, the House's chief Clean Elections foe is promoting more than $3.5 million for a new dog pound in his district, while also pushing other costly amendments.

"We are entering into a period of great belt tightening," said Rep. Joseph Wagner (D-Chicopee), who was point man for House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran in Tuesday's evisceration of public financing for elections. "We've got hundreds of millions in proposed spending increases."

Wagner wants $3.5 million for a regional dog pound to serve Hampden County, and had hoped to get another $10 million to build a new library for Chicopee.

"I'm looking to do something for my water department as well," he said. "That's a higher priority than paying for bumper stickers."

Wagner's library amendment was rejected last night.

But campaign finance reform advocates still balked at the pork-barrel push from House lawmakers.

"The voters of the state set the priority on this issue," said David Donnelly of Massachusetts Voters for Clean Elections. "This is politically motivated, not fiscally motivated."

While his own leadership team continued to promote costly amendments, Finneran yesterday unleashed House Majority Whip Salvatore DiMasi (D-Boston) to attack projects supported by Clean Elections advocates.

In adding $500,000 to Boston's public library budget, DiMasi initially slashed funding for a half-dozen other already approved programs, including $40,000 aimed at helping Russian immigrant teens stay out of jail.

The unusual attack violated House protocol, which says that any local project approved by the Ways and Means Committee is safe on the floor during debate.

DiMasi ultimately relented, saying "leave it at that" when asked about the unorthodox move.

The outrage over Clean Elections' fate spilled right up to the doors of the House chamber yesterday, when about 15 protesters staged a noisy sit-in that disrupted debate and even angered some proponents of the law.

A bevy of campaign finance reform foes had lined up at the rostrum this week in hopes of padding the state budget with their special needs.

Rep. Hank Naughton (D-Clinton) proposed $350,000 to fund prizes for baking contests and agricultural fairs but was rejected.

Rep. Demetrius Atsalis (D-Hyannis) is looking for an additional $82,000 for the Barnstable District Court, even though acting Gov. Jane Swift boosted funding for the court by more than $138,000 in her budget.

Rep. Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow), a top Finneran lieutenant, has filed amendments totaling more than $4.5 million for "community corrections" programs and probation services. The county jail in Ludlow is a key source of jobs in Petrolati's district.

But the budget accounts he hopes to enlarge have already been increased by $4.8 million under Swift's spending plan.

Petrolati acknowledged last night that his budget amendments may be pushing the envelope.

"It's probably going to get shot down," he said. "The speaker is adhering to the fact that this is going to be a very tight budget. He's not going to tolerate so-called 'pork barrel.' "

Other pending budget amendments from Clean Elections Law foes include more than $300,000 for state parks in Methuen and Concord; $111,000 for the Essex County Registry of Deeds; and $75,000 to do a facelift on the Clinton Fire Station.

Finneran himself has been warning of choppy fiscal waters since last year -- and has seized upon fiscal responsibility asreason for killing public funding for elections.

Still, the speaker succeeded last year in quietly passing a $7 million amendment to build a new park just blocks from his childhood home in Dorchester.

House leaders have also failed to undo a budget move that last year dramatically increased the "per diem" travel and other expense reimbursements members collect. The move was designed to blunt the financial impact of the Clean Elections Law, which advocates now say is in shambles.

"Doesn't that mean they have to give it back?" asked Chip Ford of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

During yesterday's protest, a female demonstrator was pushed to the ground during one scuffle, and several brief pushing-and-shoving incidents ensued. Uniformed court officers ripped signs from protesters' hands. A baton-wielding state trooper backed up the unarmed court officers but did not get involved in the donnybrook.

During the protest several members sought refuge in the speaker's office, which is directly off the House floor. Tempers flared, as one source said Rep. Frank M. Hynes (D-Marshfield), a Clean Elections supporter, and Rep. Stephen A. Tobin (D-Quincy), an anti-public financing member, nearly came to blows.

"They were nose to nose, screaming," the source said.

Rep. Jay Kaufman (D-Lexington), one of the Legislature's most outspoken supporters of campaign finance reform, was disgusted with the sit in.

"With friends like these who needs enemies?" he asked. "This is not a good way to win friends and influence people."

Steve Marantz contributed to this report

State lawmakers move to hike their own earnings
The Boston Herald
Mar. 30, 2000

House leaders have slipped in a budget provision to boost lawmakers' earnings by up to $10,000 per year in exchange for fully funding a voter-approved campaign finance reform law.

House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley confirmed last night that his fiscal 2001 budget, slated to be released this morning, doubles the controversial "per diem" travel allowance earned by lawmakers.

The budget also doubles -- to $7,200 a year -- the amount lawmakers can spend on district office and other "constituent services."

'Haley said the increases would help lawmakers comply with the new campaign finance law that, starting next year, severely limits campaign spending in exchange for public financing. "There are legitimate constituent expenses related to constituent services that are being paid for out of campaign funds."

Without the "per diem" and office expense hike, no House or Senate member could participate in the "Clean Elections" public finance law, Haley said.

The House budget also sets aside $10 million to fund the campaign finance law. "It's a matter of fairness, a matter of equity," Haley said. "I don't see how this could possibly be assailed."

Campaign finance reform advocate David Donnelly said he was pleased with the compromise because it didn't "have the kinds of strings attached that last year's House budget had."

Pols pack budget with pork
The Boston Herald
Mar. 31, 2000

As the Herald reported yesterday, the House budget would double members' "per diem" travel allowances and office expense accounts.

The move to double office expenses, which will cost taxpayers $720,000 a year, is particularly controversial because lawmakers collect the allowances in monthly checks and aren't required to account for how they spend the cash. "It might as well be handed over to them in a brown bag, Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation and Government said.

In fact, the state reports the office expenses to the Internal Revenue Service on 1099 forms and lawmakers are free to pocket whatever they don't spend on paper clips and phone calls. And sources say many lawmakers don't like to part with a dime -- even when the stationery runs out.

"Some of them treat it like their salary," one State House source said.

Lawmakers -- particularly those who live more than 50 miles from the State House -- also add thousands to their salaries with "per diem" allowances meant to offset those travel costs.

House Ways and Means Chairman Paul Haley (D-Weymouth) defended the increases, saying the office expense money would allow lawmakers to abide by the "Clean Elections" campaign finance reform law by absorbing some of the "constituent service" expenses they currently pay out of their campaign funds. The voter-approved law offers candidates public funds if they agree to limit their campaign spending.

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