Another $23,000 came from political action committees (PACs). While that means the bulk of his $404,000 haul came from non-lobbyist individuals, closer inspection shows that most were “bundled” — by groups like the ophthalmologists or Dunkin’ Donuts owners — typically through fundraisers thrown by industry groups.
In response to inquiries about this fundraising, DeLeo campaign treasurer provided a statement that “Speaker DeLeo’s campaign committee has followed all guidelines regarding the raising and reporting of campaign contributions.”
Lobbyists and interest-group leaders, speaking to the Phoenix on the promise of anonymity, say that DeLeo does not put a heavy hand on them for donations. Rather, they choose to hold these fundraisers, partly for the access it provides, and partly because they know that other, competing interest groups do. “Others do it, so I wouldn’t want [DeLeo] to think I’m not doing it, and not supporting him,” says the executive director of one association.
The Speaker attends many of these events, large and small, shaking hands and speaking with the association members or company executives. The attendees feel that they’ve had a valuable chance to hear the Speaker’s views — and to have him hear their concerns directly.
That doesn’t mean that they get what they want, these lobbyists insist. But even some of them agree that it’s hard for the public to believe that — especially when the contributions aren’t made public until so much later.
“More frequent disclosure would mean more sunshine on the process while the legislation is being made,” says Pamela Wilmot, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts, “So people can make the connections of how influence might be at work.”
As it stands, those connections require a forensic investigation to piece together — to find, among more than 1600 contributions ranging over eight months, a batch from members of the same industry, given on the same date; and then to track down bills that industry or interest group was lobbying for at the time.
Wilmot says that the 2009 reforms, included in the ethics reform bill, did make significant improvements. A mid-year report has been added to non-election years, and there are now required updates of late contributions before elections, in what was previously a “dark period” after the last pre-election filing. Spending on behalf of legislative candidates, by outside groups like the Massachusetts Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union, used to be nearly impossible to track down; now they are quickly available online.
But Massachusetts has not adopted other measures, including bundling reports now required by the federal government and some states. “Given some of the scandals that have taken place in the last couple of years,” says State Senator Jamie Eldridge, “it’s shocking that we haven't had more reform.”
All for one
“Legislative leaders don’t have to work very hard to raise that kind of money,” says Wilmot. “It just comes to their hand.”
Without much effort, DeLeo is hauling in far more than DiMasi or Finneran did, even as everyone else’s fundraising has dropped. Candidates for House seats have raised, all told, roughly $5.5 million this year, according to OCPF data — considerably less than in each of the last two election years, 2006 and 2008, even though there are far more candidates and many more actively contested seats in 2010.