Power Brokers On Hill Also Have Deepest Campaign Coffers

Printed from: https://newbostonpost.com/2023/04/03/power-brokers-on-hill-also-have-deepest-campaign-coffers/

By Sam Doran
State House News Service

Massachusetts state lawmakers’ campaign accounts run the full gamut, the latest finance rankings show, and while each House or Senate member represents about the same number of constituents as his colleagues, some find electoral success with next to nothing in their bank account while one representative is skyrocketing toward $1 million.

At the top of the heap, besting his 157 colleagues, is House Ways and Means chairman Aaron Michlewitz. The North End Democrat is seen as a leading contender for the speakership in a future leadership election, and if his fundraising keeps pace, he will likely become the Legislature’s million-dollar man when the March numbers come in.

Michlewitz had amassed $967,029.11 cash on hand as of February 28, according to his campaign’s latest bank report filed last month. That included a haul of more than $67,000 in donations in the shortest month of the year, coming right after the dust had settled on last November’s elections.

In March last year, which was an election year, Michlewitz brought in more than $53,000, according to Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance data.

His most recently declared high-spending donors, from January’s bank report, each chipped in $1,000:  a restaurant owner from Boston’s Chinatown, a retiree from Warwick, Rhode Island, and attorneys from Shrewsbury and Hingham.

Like some other top lawmakers, Michlewitz’s campaign expenses from this February included payments to gourmet restaurants and cocktail bars ($220 to Bricco in the North End, $381 to Wink and Nod in the South End) and to event venues (total of $3,320 to TD Garden), as well as floral arrangements (total of $576 to Florists’ Transworld Delivery), and newspaper advertising ($550 to The Boston Guardian).

Michlewitz is an eight-term incumbent who took over the House’s budget-writing committee in 2019.

Each House member represents around 44,000 constituents. In recent months, it was a five-term incumbent who weighed in with some of the lightest pockets.

Brockton Democrat state Representative Michelle DuBois maintained a $220.25 deficit last October and November, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. First elected in 2014 with 50.7 percent of the vote, she faced no primary or general election challengers in 2022.

“I represent a very poor district. And I win resoundingly without a lot of money because I do a good job,” DuBois said last week.

Currently serving as vice chairman of the Mental Health, Substance Use and Recovery Committee, she represents three wards in Brockton, previously served 10 years as a city councilor, and actively engages with constituents on social media.

She sustained three overdraft fees on her depleted account in October 2022 along with an “insufficient funds fee,” according to the bank reports.

DuBois’s House campaign reported bringing in $500 in December from the Brockton Fire Fighters People’s Committee. While subsequent bank reports show a $0 balance, DuBois told State House News Service she changed bank accounts at the end of December and believed she had around $300 in the bank.

Legislative campaigns have until April 20 to file their finalized quarterly deposit reports.

House Majority Leader Michael Moran (D-Brighton) also showed $0 cash on hand in February, though his balance is normally well over $100,000. His campaign committee told State House News Service he is in the process of transferring to a new bank account.

One spot better than a $0 balance was first-term state Representative Judith Garcia (D-Chelsea) with $72.30 in her campaign coffers at the end of February.

The Chelsea Democrat raised around $70,000 in the run-up to last fall’s elections and spent almost all of it as she fought through a three-person primary field and an opposed general election.

Garcia won the seat, which represents two Everett precincts in addition to the city of Chelsea, with 41 percent of the primary vote and 72 percent of the vote against her Republican opponent Chelsea city councilor Todd Taylor.

Ringing in at the next-highest balance, below Michlewitz, are two senators — one who was once said to have thoughts of higher office, and another who may still harbor such aspirations.

Former Senate Ways and Means chairman Mark Montigny (D-New Bedford) doesn’t fundraise like he used to, and since the start of 2020, his $866,000 war chest has ebbed to around $801,000 while bringing in periodic infusions to keep the account in the high six-figure range.

Montigny, who was discussed as a possible candidate for the Senate presidency in 2018 as part of a crowded field, has served in the Senate since 1993.

Current Senate Ways and Means chairman Michael Rodrigues (D-Westport) had $622,345 in the bank in February. In either branch, the budget chief is often the subject of speculation around a future run to lead the chamber and a target for donations from people affiliated with groups that are for or against bills.

Some of Rodrigues’s most recent itemized spending from December 2022 included a $1,229.22 “luncheon with Azorean president” at the UMass Club and two dinners at the Sagres Restaurant in Fall River totaling $592.76.

The Westport Democrat’s top reported donors in February were a Fall River insurance agent ($600) and a Westport retiree ($625).

House Speaker Ronald Mariano (D-Quincy) rang in at fourth place in cash on hand ($539,663). Senate President Karen Spilka (D-Ashland) was ninth ($275,604), coming after two retired elected officials, former Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) ($505,016) and former state Representative Thomas Petrolati (D-Ludlow) ($361,631).

Former electeds often hold their accounts open as they spend down what are sometimes hefty balances.

Petrolati, of Ludlow, doled out $100 in February to current state Representative Carlos Gonzalez’s (D-Springfield) campaign committee.

In the same month, DeLeo’s campaign fund reported spending $164 on flowers, $352 on consulting fees, and a $40,000 donation to “BHSA” without elaborating on the acronym.

Sixteenth place on the Office of Campaign and Political Finance rankings belonged to former House Ways and Means chairman Paul Haley, who last served in the House more than 20 years ago. The Weymouth Democrat is still holding $199,414 in his campaign coffers, and other than routine expenses like tax preparation, he does not seem to be spending it away.

Three other incumbents listed among those with the 10 deepest campaign pockets were Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) ($469,091); state Representative Tackey Chan  (D-Quincy), who co-chairs the Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee ($382,212); and state Representative Tram Nguyen (D-Andover), vice chairman of the House Steering, Policy and Scheduling Committee ($233,768).


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