Lobbyists Silent On Past Benjamin Downing Donations As He Reverses Policy

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2021/02/17/lobbyists-silent-on-past-benjamin-downing-donations-as-he-reverses-policy/

Benjamin Downing is running for governor of Massachusetts with a promise that differs from his practice when he was a member of the Massachusetts Legislature.

The 39-year-old Democrat said on Twitter last week that he will not accept any money from lobbyists or political action committees. He even included a gif of what appears to be former Atlanta Hawks Dikembe Mutombo wagging his finger. This came after he tweeted a link to ActBlue so that people knew where to donate to his campaign.

That’s a change from when he represented the Berkshire, Hampshire, Franklin, and Hampden District in the Massachusetts Senate from 2007 to 2017, when he lived in Pittsfield. (He currently lives in East Boston.)

As NewBostonPost has previously reported, Downing had no problem taking money from political action committees when he was a state senator, but what about lobbyists? They, too, were substantial contributors to Downing during his time in the Massachusetts Legislature.

NewBostonPost compiled data from the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth’s web site and found that between 2006 and 2015, Downing received 868 donations from lobbyists totaling $137,675. That’s 16 percent of the $860,838.82 donations he received as a state Senate candidate and as a state senator, according to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Those donations from lobbyists were typically either $100 or $200 apiece, with an average of $158.61 per donation.

Since there is no way to offer a direct link to Downing’s lobbyist contributions from the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s web site, NewBostonPost took the data from the site and made it available for public view via a Google spreadsheet.

So why did these people give him so much money?

On Monday and Tuesday this week, NewBostonPost contacted 25 lobbyists on the list who contributed in 2015 to see why they gave to Downing. As of yet, not one has responded.

Downing could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

As for political action committees, while they are a no-no for Downing in his campaign for governor, they were frequent fliers during his campaigns for state Senate. Most of those that donated to his campaign represented unions or industries, but his donors included at least one corporate political action committee:  the Raytheon MA PAC, which gave him $900 among three years (2009 to 2011). Each of those donations was for $300. Raytheon was the fourth-largest defense contractor for the federal government as of fiscal year 2019, receiving $16.35 billion in federal disbursements.

It’s not clear how much money Downing has raised for his run for governor, which is still new. His campaign account page on the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance web site had no updates to reflect new contributions as of the morning of Tuesday, February 16. It was opened Monday, February 8. The campaign account’s first monthly reporting deadline isn’t until early March.

He does not have campaign cash on hand coming into the race — Downing closed out his old state campaign funds account in September 2017. The final transaction was a $20,401.08 donation to Providence College for the creation of a scholarship fund in September 2017. Previous to that, he gave $15,000 to The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts in May 2017.