Limited Taxation & Government
Post Office Box 408    Peabody, Massachusetts   01960     (617) 248-0022
E-Mail:       Web-page:

CLT&G Update
Tuesday, December 1, 1998

Looks like "The Best Legislature Money Can Buy" was at it again, the day before Thanksgiving passing "non-controversial" legislation when nobody was there or looking! But at least this time they restricted themselves to doing it just to their own!

The following is the text of Barbara's "Citizens Update," carried daily on the North Shore's WESX AM-1230 radio station:

WESX - November 27, 1998

This is Barbara Anderson for CLT&G, with a WESX Citizens Update:

The day before Thanksgiving, when most politically aware people were blissfully unaware, the Massachusetts Legislature, without debate or a roll call, passed a bill making several major changes to the state's campaign finance law that would make it harder for members of the state's congressional delegation to run for office.

Now I don't really care if Marty Meehan or Joe Kennedy can use their federal campaign war chests to run for governor or not. But here is the problem.

Unless you read the Thanksgiving Day exclusive by one alert reporter, Frank Phillips of the Boston Globe, you don't know anything about this new law that was passed by the House and Senate and signed by the governor on Wednesday. And except for a few leaders on Beacon Hill, neither do your elected representatives.

Like you, they were shopping for squash or driving to grandma's or preparing for football games. In fact, if you want to have some fun, call your state rep or senator today and ask him how he voted Wednesday on the new campaign finance bill, and what it says. Then you will find out just what kind of government we poor turkeys are paying for on Beacon Hill.

This is Barbara Anderson.

The Boston Globe
Thursday, November 26, 1998
Metro | Region

Campaign finance bill slips into law
Some Mass. Congressmen could be in for surprise

By Frank Phillips

The Massachusetts Legislature, quietly and without debate, yesterday whisked through a bill that makes several major changes to the state's campaign finance law and could undercut efforts by members of the state's congressional delegation to run for state office.

With the State House all but empty on the eve of Thanksgiving, the House and Senate leadership quickly pushed the measure through each branch on voice votes during informal sessions and sent the legislation to the desk of Governor Paul Cellucci, who immediately signed it.

The bill would ban any direct transfer from federal campaign accounts to a state campaign account. Only noncontroversial bills can be taken up during informal sessions, and objections from just one member can derail passage.

While unanimous consent implies tht the bill is not controversial, its passage nevertheless is a blow to any members of the state's congressional delegation who might be considering running against Cellucci or the Democratic leaders of the State House and Senate. For example, Representative Martin T. Meehan, a Lowell Democrat who some expect will run for governor, could have transferred some of his huge federal war chest to a state political account.

[ . . . ]

Voters this year passed a sweeping campaign finance law, Question 2 on the ballot, that provides significant public funding for state candidates and limits contributions under certain situations. Many legislators feel the law is unworkable but are reluctant to tinker with it because of the broad-based public support it won. However, it is still expected to meet a court challenge by the American Civil Liberties Union and others.

One state elected official, who asked not to be identified, said yesterday's vote was payback for the 10 members of the congressional delegation who endorsed Question 2.

"They're just tickling the federal guys," the official said.

Finally on Saturday, AP's Martin Finucane reported in:

[ . . . ]

As far as most observers knew, however, the bill only contained ho-hum technical changes in the law.

The bill sailed through the day before Thanksgiving as the Statehouse halls echoed with emptiness. It glided through during an informal session normally reserved for noncontroversial issues.

If it hadn't been done that way, it's easy to imagine that some lawmaker would have objected, derailing the whole thing.

Take Rep. Kevin Murphy, D-Lowell, a Meehan supporter, for example.

He said he would have taken a "long hard look at it."

And Murphy said he objected to the way the bill was brought forward.

"This is everything that's wrong with the House of Representatives," he said.

[ . . . ]

The Boston Herald
Tuesday, December 1, 1998

Mass. Dems knife their D.C. buddies
By Wayne Woodlief

That was quite a Thanksgiving tweak the Democrats in the state Legislature gave their counterparts on Capitol Hill, a special little slap at two seasoned camera hogs and big-bucks raisers, U.S. Reps. Joe Kennedy and Marty Meehan.

A new law was whisked through on a voice vote in an informal session of the Legislature the day before Thanksgiving, with virtually no one in either chamber. It makes it illegal for a member of Congress to switch money from his federal account to a state campaign committee. And it was immediately signed into law by Gov. Paul Cellucci, before he flew off on a mission to Israel.

The act and the suddenness with which it was passed were surprises to Joe K and Meehan, both of whom are known to have an eye on the Golden Dome's Corner Office as one of the "options" for campaign 2002.

"I've raised a million dollars in my federal account and Joe has $1.3 million," Meehan said yesterday. He said he and Kennedy are close friends and it's "highly unlikely we would be in the same race." Translated, that means Joe K would have first dibs on trying to put a Democrat back in the governorship. But if he passes on it again, well -- there's Marty.

The new no-transfer rule -- part of an overall campaign finance law triggered by passage of a ballot question on Nov. 3 -- may be more inconvenience than stumbling block. A candidate from Capitol Hill could simply send money from his federal account back to donors and ask them to re-contribute to his new state account.

But that's cumbersome. And who can say whether the stock market -- or the candidate's political stock -- might have dropped enough by then so they wouldn't get the same amount back?

So there's no mystery why Republican Gov. Cellucci was in such a rush to get this deed done. It makes life a little tougher for two guys who could cloud his future.

But why would a Democrat-controlled Legislature help a Republican governor and rankle fellow Dems?

House Speaker Tom Finneran (D-Mattapan) said: "This is a leveling of the standards. A Tom Birmingham (the state Senate president) couldn't use money from his state account" if he had run for the congressional seat Kennedy will leave next month, Finneran said.

"He'd have had to start from scratch," while Meehan or any other congressman could have simply transferred money from his congressional campaign to a state account. "When that was explained to me, I scratched my head and said, 'That's not even close to fair,'" said Finneran.

Birmingham said, "It was an indefensible loophole."

But this being Massachusetts, some pols speculated this little twist must be payback to the congressmen who endorsed the public-funding campaign finance ballot question that a lot of legislators privately opposed. Others speculated Finneran or Birmingham might want to run for governor himself someday.

But Finneran may enjoy running the state as speaker more than he would as governor. And he'd have a hard time getting elected. There are a lot of Scott Harshbarger Democrats who'll long remember Finneran's hobnobbing with Cellucci and musing that Harshbarger might kowtow to the "looney left." Besides, do you think King Tom would get a single vote our of Foxboro?

As for Birmingham, he'd probably prefer his next career move to be to the Supreme Judicial Court.

Meanwhile, back in Washington, where Meehan is among those trying to tote Bill Clinton's water against GOP impeachment brigade, the congressman sought to shrug off Beacon Hill's snub.

"I have no quarrel with its substance. But it's unfair to pass a major piece of legislation without open and fair debate with all members having a chance to vote," Meehan said.

The congressman is a long way from making any firm decision about his future. If long-shot lightning should strike in 2000 and we elect a President Kerry, Meehan might even take a hard look at running for John Kerry's Senate seat.

Meehan also is wondering whether to release himself from his self-imposed term limits pledge not to seek re-election in 2000.

He said citizens, columnists and newspapers urged him to. He might heed them, he said, to avoid "becoming a lame duck" and thus less effective in advancing his causes.

For now, he'll take the Legislature's little tweak in stride. But I'd bet if he should ever become governor, he won't forget it.

NOTE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. section 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only. For more information go to:

Return to Updates page