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Many things changed this year on Beacon Hill, but not the power of the almighty dollar
By DAVID S. BERNSTEIN  |  January 30, 2008


Even though the dollar has taken an international whupping of late, there remains at least one place where the love of the greenback remains strong: Beacon Hill.

Despite it being an electoral off-year for state officeholders, 2007 saw incumbents collect millions in contributions, a Phoenix analysis of campaign-finance reports found.

Much of that loot — hundreds of thousands of dollars — came from registered lobbyists. Those lobbyists, meanwhile, found themselves taking in more money than ever from their special-interest clients.

The more things change, it seems, the more they stay the same — and there was undoubtedly a mighty change on Beacon Hill in 2007, as the first Democratic governor in 16 years took office. That wasn’t all: Senate President Robert Travaglini and Senate Minority Leader Brian Lees both left office; John Walsh replaced Philip Johnston as head of the state Democratic Party; and Peter Torkildsen took the reins of the state Republicans.

A whole new set of policy issues came to the fore, including casinos, auto insurance, telecom taxes, criminal-record reform, and energy conservation; while others, particularly gay marriage and health insurance, seemed to be put to bed for the time being.

So, while a Boston mayor set the fundraising bar — more on that later — state legislators found the money flowing in, even without an upcoming election.

State senators — not including the two newly voted in through special elections during the year — raised more than $3.2 million in 2007, for an average of around $85,000 each. State representatives raised close to $5 million, an average of about $35,000 per candidate.

Those are big numbers for a non-election cycle — comparable, in fact, with what incumbent candidates raised in 2006, when they were all facing re-election.

Then, 38 incumbent state senators raised $3.4 million; 146 representatives seeking re-election raised a combined $5.4 million. Clearly, they didn’t take the off-year as a year off from fundraising.

Moving up the leadership ladder paid off for several legislators, as it always does. Fundraising for Travaglini’s successor, Therese Murray, jumped from $232,000 to $390,000. New Senate Majority Leader Frederick Berry and new Senate Ways and Means chair Steven Panagiotakos both joined the elite $100,000 club, while new Ways and Means co-chair Steven Tolman came close to that mark.

On the Republican side of the aisle, new Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei’s booty jumped from $104,000 to $153,000.

Otherwise, though, Massachusetts’s always-endangered Republicans have little to smile about in the year-end financial reports.

The Democratic state party raised $590,000, and ended the year with $180,000; the Republican Party raised less than $70,000 and ended with $17,000 on hand. And though the Democratic house and senate PACs raised nearly a quarter-million dollars this past year, the Republican Party’s raised less than $10,000 combined.

Plus, the lack of strong challenger candidates in 2006 has allowed some Democratic incumbents to stockpile their war chests. We have yet to see any significant fundraising from potential ’08 challengers, who will have to start from far, far behind.

Lobbying winners and losers
Patrick’s debut was good for Beacon Hill lobbying firms. Nine of them topped the million-dollar mark in client fees for State House lobbying in 2007, up from eight the year before, and 27 made a half-million, up from 22.

As most veteran lobbyists will tell you, the need for their services increases when the government seeks to enact change. Recent legislative sessions saw huge lobbying resources triggered by two hot-button proposals: universal health insurance, and a ban on same-sex marriage. The health-care interests’ spending dropped sharply after the health-reform bill was signed in April 2006, and groups like scaled back after the proposed marriage amendment was defeated this past June.

But a new governor means new proposals — in 2007, every time Deval Patrick’s administration got behind an idea, those who would be affected upped their lobbying budgets.

Patrick’s proposal to fix a so-called loophole in telecom taxes caused Verizon to more than double its lobbying expenses, paying William F. Coyne and Nutter, McClennan & Fish an extra $100,000-plus each in 2007. The association representing telecom interests spent just $60,000 lobbying Beacon Hill in 2006; in 2007 it was one of the 10 biggest spenders, at $434,000.

Meanwhlie, the biggest casino lobbyist, the owners of Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, who want to build a casino at the track, upped their lobbying five-fold, from $90,000 in 2006 to $460,000 this past year.

Several lobbying firms took advantage of the shifting landscape to boost their bottom lines. O’Neill & Associates, headed by Thomas O’Neill III, made the biggest jump, from $1,121,944 in 2006 to $1,649,900, making it the top earner of the year. The group picked up several new clients, including health insurer Tufts Associated Health Plans, technology provider ACS State & Local Solutions, and Brockton-based teen-services provider MY TURN.

Johnson Haley LLP (with former state representative Pierce Haley) jumped from seventh to third on the earnings list, thanks largely to an $85,000 increase in its contract with Wal-Mart. Suffolk Group, Quinn & Morris, Dewey Square Group, Bay State Strategies Group, and Nutter McClennan & Fish were also winners.

1  |  2  |   next >
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  Topics: Talking Politics , Tom Menino , Deval Patrick , U.S. Government ,  More more >
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Pierce Haley was never a state legislator. He was a top committee staffer at the Joint Committee on Insurance prior to becoming a lobbyist.
By Hilltowner on 01/31/2008 at 11:00:17

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 See all articles by: DAVID S. BERNSTEIN

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