Defense Contractors, Bankers, Police, Alcohol Funded Massachusetts Gubernatorial Candidate Ben Downing As A State Senator

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Benjamin Downing says he will run for governor of Massachusetts, and to run an election, he will have to raise money.

Downing, a Democrat who served as a state senator from Pittsfield from 2007 to 2017, has experience doing that already. So when he was running in elections in the state legislature who funded him?

Defense contractors, police organizations, the alcohol industry, and bankers were among his major donors.

In three years — 2009, 2010, and 2011 — Downing received a combined $900 for one Waltham-based defense contractor:  Raytheon. The Raytheon MA PAC contributed $300 to his campaign each year, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. In fiscal year 2019, Raytheon was the federal government’s fourth-largest defense contractor, receiving $16.35 billion in federal disbursements.

Law enforcement and corrections officers organizations were also supporters of Downing throughout his tenure in the state legislature. Various organizations associated with police and corrections officers donated a combined $6,300 to him.

The Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union PAC, for example, contributed a total of $1,000 to him among three donations. The political action committee gave him $500 in 2007, $250 in 2011, and another $250 in 2013, according to Office of Campaign and Political Finance records.

Then police officers kicked in another $5,300, Office of Campaign and Political Finance records show.

The biggest contributor of the bunch was the Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association PAC, which gave Downing gave him $2,500, and then $500 in 2007, in 2008, in 2009, in 2010, and in 2015. 

The State Police Association of Massachusetts PAC gave him Downing $1,500 total among three donations. Donations of $500 came in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

The Massachusetts Police Association PAC gave Downing $250 in 2007 and $125 in 2008, for a total of $375 in the 2008 election cycle. The political action committee also gave him $200 in 2009, totaling $575 among the three contributions.

Other police organizations that donated to Downing one time include the Massachusetts Fraternal of Police State Lodge, which gave him $125 in 2007; the Massachusetts Chiefs Of Police PAC, which gave him $100 in 2008; and the Emergency Medical Services Division of Boston Police Patrolmen’s Association PAC, which gave him another $500 in 2007.

When asked for comment, Mark Leahy, the executive director of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association, told NewBostonPost in an email message, “From 2008? No, we don’t have any comment on such an old contribution — or, frankly, remember it!”

The alcohol industry also donated to Downing’s campaigns.

The Beer Distributors’ PAC gave Downing a combined $4,000 between 2006 to 2013. Each of those years, the beer political action committee gave him a $500 campaign contribution.

The beer political action committee later opposed legalizing marijuana in Massachusetts. The group donated $25,000 to the Campaign for a Safe and Healthy Massachusetts in 2016, three years after Downing left the Legislature. That organization led the unsuccessful campaign to get people to vote No on Question 4, which legalized recreational marijuana for people 21 and older in Massachusetts.

Banks’ political action committees also chipped in to Downing’s campaigns. MA Bankers PAC, which represents the Massachusetts Bankers Association, gave several contributions to Downing during his state Senate days. In all he received six donations from the political action committee of $300 apiece, totaling $1,800. The donations came in 2007, 2009, 2012, 2013, and two in 2011.

Kathleen Murphy, president of the Massachusetts Bankers Association, told NewBostonPost that Downing was a key member of the state legislature on matters of interest to banks at the time of the campaign donations.

“A key component of the Massachusetts Bankers Association’s government relations strategy is to support the campaigns of policy makers who engage on issues that are important to the banking industry,” Murphy said in an email message to NewBostonPost last week. “The Association’s Political Action Committee supported Rep. Downing in those years when he served in a leadership role of a committee on Beacon Hill that addressed energy issues and was also the lead sponsor of a bill to encourage savings.”

Downing served as the Senate chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, according to his web site. And as Murphy mentioned, he sponsored a bill passed by the Legislature and signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker in 2016 (S. 2374 – An Act to promote personal savings) that authorized banks and credit unions in Massachusetts to offer prize-linked savings accounts. Typically offered by credit unions, “these initiatives require members to make at least one deposit per month into a savings account and those deposits then qualify account holders for the chance to win periodic rewards,” according to American Banker.

Downing could not be reached for comment last week.

NewBostonPost was also unable to reach Raytheon, the Beer Distributors of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Correction Officers Federated Union, the State Police Association of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Police Association, and the Massachusetts Fraternal of Police State Lodge.