Big Tobacco, Defense Contractors, Pharmaceutical Companies Gave Richard Neal Third Quarter Funding Boost In Primary Battle

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U.S. Representative Richard Neal (D-Springfield) fended off a primary challenger from his left in Massachusetts’s First Congressional District on September 1 — with more than a little financial support from some big companies.

Neal, who won the primary with 58.6 percent of the vote to his opponent’s 41.2 percent, benefited from a scandal involving his challenger. Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse was accused by College Democrats of Massachusetts of initiating sexual hookups with male students as young as 18 years old at area colleges, including UMass Amherst, where he also worked at the time.

However, there was another major difference between the two campaigns that had nothing to do with policy:  campaign contributions.

Morse, a progressive supporter of the Green New Deal, Medicare-for-All, student debt forgiveness, and race-based reparations, did not take campaign contributions from political action committees. Neal, who chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, did. He is among the top corporate PAC money recipients in congress. Corporations poured money into the race in the quarter leading up to the election, recently released campaign finance reports from the Federal Elections Commission reveal.

Neal didn’t have one campaign contribution from an individual in during the third quarter of 2020 for less than $150. So who funded his campaign? Some names may sound familiar.

They include credit card companies and banks, big tobacco, defense contractors, alcohol producers and sellers, big pharmaceutical companies, and insurance companies, among others.

From the credit card and banking industries, Neal received help from:  TD Bank ($3,000), Mastercard ($2,000), American Bankers Association PAC ($5,000), American Express ($3,500), Bank of America Corporation ($2,500), Visa  ($5,000), Citigroup ($2,500), and State Street Bank and Trust Company ($5,000).

Tobacco giant Altria Group kicked in $3,000; it is the parent company of Philip Morris USA, which produces Marlboro cigarettes, and U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Company, which produces Copenhagen and Skoal dip.

As for defense contractors, two gave to Neal during the third quarter. Boeing contributed $5,500 while General Electric, which now makes more money as a defense contractor than it does selling light bulbs (according to NPR), contributed $4,000.

Neal’s alcohol industry contributions came from Molson Coors ($2,500), WineAmerica ($1,000), the Wine Institute ($2,500), the Beer Institute ($5,000), Constellation Brands ($10,000), Brewers Association ($5,000), and the Wine and Spirits Wholesalers of America ($5,000).

Some other noteworthy donations to Neal came from pharmaceutical company Amgen ($8,000); insurance companies Geico ($2,000), Metlife ($5,000), and Massachusetts Mutual ($5,000); as well as $5,000 from the pro-immigration (legal and illegal) Immigration Reform Fund.

Neal’s record includes opposing pulling U.S. troops out of Syria;  supporting increasing the excise tax on e-cigarette tobacco but not traditional tobacco products; and tanking a bipartisan proposal to end surprise medical billing.

The 2016 Democratic Party platform condemned the influence on politics the party said comes from donations from corporate political action committee. The 2016 platform states:  “Big money is drowning out the voices of everyday Americans, and we must have the necessary tools to fight back and safeguard our electoral and political integrity.” The 2020 Democratic Party platform states:  “Democrats will ban corporate PACs from donating to candidates and bar lobbyists from donating, fundraising, or bundling for anyone they lobby.”

Even though Morse did not take corporate PAC donations, his campaign out-raised Neal’s during the third quarter of this year. Morse raised $1,265,599.37, according to Federal Election Commission filings while Neal raised $1,212,981.88. Overall though, Neal vastly out-raised Morse: $4,244,387.80 to $2,105,720.64.

Neal is the longest-tenured current U.S. representative from Massachusetts. First elected in 1988, the 71-year-old was previously the mayor of Springfield, the biggest city in his district.

Neal is running unopposed this November.

Neal’s campaign did not respond to New Boston Post’s request for comment on his fund raising.