Wrentham Center

An analysis of the campaign financing for the candidates for Scott Brown’s open state Senate seat shows that Richard Ross, Peter Smulowitz and Rich Mitchell have taken almost no contributions from lobbyists or PAC’s. Lida Harkins filings show a disturbing amount of financing by lobbyists and PACs – and a penchant for shopping.

Lets start by looking at the amount of money each candidate had on hand when they last filed disclosures in January:

  • Lida Harkins (D) – $7,192
  • Richard Ross (R) – $14,205
  • Peter Smulowitz (D) – $27,851
  • Rich Mitchell (I)  – Late entrant not yet filed.

Lets start with the simplest ones first.

Peter Smulowitz

Rich Mitchell

Rich entered the race in the new year and so doesn’t have a disclosure on file. But he’s a friend of the blog and I have it on good authority that he hasn’t taken any lobbyist money. He’s just a regular citizen with no vote in the Legislature to buy, so he’s of no interest to lobbyists anyway.

Peter Smulowitz

Smulowitz single 2009 filing is pretty simple. The great majority of his contributions are from physicians at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. If there is one institution that he owes big to its BIDMC.  He hasn’t put in any of his own money – at least not yet. He has taken in a pretty impressive amount of money for a new candidate.

Richard Ross

Richard Ross

Ross has been a legislator since 2005, and has numerous filings ( 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009) – but they are very clean. In all that time , I don’t see any lobbyist or PAC money. Moreover, the contributions seem to be from just the regular citizens of Wrentham. The statutory maximum for individual contributions is $500. But Ross has funded his campaign mostly with small contributions of $150 or less. It looks like honest grass roots politics.

His expenditures are similarly reasonable and campaign related. A typical example shows that he’s spending his money mostly on web site design, printing and mailings. This is the type of reasonable expenses for a campaign. If you contributed to Ross rest assured your contributions have gone to good use.

Lida Harkins

Lida Harkins

But Harkins likes to eat out. A lot. But more on that later.

Lida Harkins filings ( 09, 08, 07, 06, 05, 04, 03, 02 ) are among the worst I’ve seen. It really pays to look at them in chronological order. From 2002-2004 the filings are mostly clean, with small contributions from local voters. But starting in 2005, suddenly she’s awash in lobbyist money – receiving contributions from at least 25 different professional lobbyists including:

  • William F. Coyne – lobbyist for Altria, Philip Morris, Miller Beer, Kraft Foods, Exxon Mobil, the Cigar Association etc.
  • John A. Brennan – lobbyist for real estate developers, health insurance companies and banks
  • Jeffrey Flemming – lobbyist for Fidelity Investments, McDonalds, General Motors, National Paint and Coatings Association etc.

The list is just too long and the corporate interest too varied. Consider William F Coyne. Tobacco Giant Altria pays Coyne about $150,000 per year to influence legislation on their behalf. The other corporate giants pay his firm around $1,000,000 per year.

And Coyne delivers – contributing to about 50 legislators every six months year after year. In 2005 Coyne handed out $24,000 in contributions. And he’s buying them pretty cheap when you consider how much he takes in.

He does this almost every year.  And Lida Harkins is first in line – literally receiving the very first contribution to a Representative in 2005. Most of her filings, after 2005, are similarly packed with lobbyist money.

As House Majority Whip it’s not surprising that lobbyists want to give her money.

But that’s not all of it. She also takes in a lot of PAC money. Every crazy little interest in Massachusetts is in line to give her something:

  • Association of Industries
  • Bridge & Structural Iron Workers
  • Carpenters Local Union 535
  • Coca-Cola Enterprises
  • Massachusetts Association of Realtors
  • Massachusetts Cheifs of Police
  • Massachusetts Conveyancers Association
  • Massachusetts Hospital Association
  • Massachusetts Optometric Association
  • Massachusetss Association for Psychiatry
  • Massachusetts Federation of Teachers
  • Massachusetts UAW PAC Council
  • Physical Therapy PAC
  • Professional Fire Fighters PAC
  • Associated Subcontractors PAC
  • Insurance Agents and Borkers PAC
  • Real Estate Bar Association for MA PAC

The list goes on and on.

But then there is a bit of a mystery – after taking in over $100,000 in contributions over the last 6 years, why does she have only $7,000 in her campaign account?

Compare the expenditures for Harkins and Ross. Ross’ expenditures are what you would expect from a professional legislator. He spends the money on campaign advertising, websites, databases and things like that.

Omni Parker House, one of the places where Harkins spends your campaign donations.

Harkins has been using campaign cash to run a one woman stimulus package for downtown restauranteurs.  She’s dropping at least $2,000 at Anthony’s Pier 4 almost every year. She could write a restaurant guide:

  • Locke Ober
  • Petit Robert Bistro
  • Il Capriccio Restaurant
  • Omni Parker House
  • Byblos Restaurant
  • Crowne Plaza
  • Davio’s
  • O’Haras Restaurant
  • Blue on Highlands Restaurant
  • Scollay Square Restaurant
  • Reef Grill
  • McCormick and Schmick’s
  • Phillips Old Colony
  • Salmon Run Fishhouse
  • The Brew House Cafe & Grill
  • Joe Tecce’s Restaurant
  • Bertucci’s
  • Bickford’s
  • Bugaboo Creek
  • 21st Amendment
  • Bob the Chef’s
  • Erin’s Isle
  • The Last Hurrah
  • Hurricane’s
  • Carmela’s
  • Hub Pub
  • Kennedy’s Midtown
  • Durgin Park
  • Reef Grill
  • Parker’s Restaurant
  • Spinelli’s
  • Avelino’s
  • Legal Seafoods
  • Guido’s

Yankee Candle Factory, one of the places where Harkins buys critical campaign needs.

She’s dropping campaign benjamins in restaurants about twice per month.

When she’s not eating out, she’s eating in. She’s partial to bakeries and donut shops (like Donut Junction, Antoine’s Pastry Shop, Modern Pastry, Dunkin Donuts, Hazel’s Bakery), supermarkets and caterers.

And when she’s not eating in, she’s shopping:

  • Bloomingdale’s
  • Macy’s
  • Peir 1 Imports
  • Hickory Farms
  • Sudbury Farms
  • Costco
  • Hannafords
  • Walmart
  • Party Works
  • Home Goods
  • Yankee Candle Factory
  • Linen’s and Things
  • Toys R Us
  • Building 19
  • Christmas Tree Shop
  • Serengeti
  • Steinmart
  • Boutique Feejo’s
  • Bed Bath & Beyond
  • Annalee Outlet
  • Corningware-Corelle Outlet
  • Maxwell’s Pottery
  • Joanne Fabrics
  • La Boutique de Noel

My favorite has to be the multiple trips to H&H Liquors for “gifts for court officers.”

So that’s what she does with the lobbyists money. And if you’ve been foolish enough to donate money to Harkins, now you know how she spends it.

This year voters in the district have many choices. There is a Democrat, a Republican and an Independent running who aren’t tainted and spendthrift like Harkins. Or you can vote for more of the same.