Thursday January 19, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- A call for federal campaign finance reform by congressional hopeful Andrea Nuciforo has sparked criticism from his two Democratic opponents who say the move rings hollow given Nuciforo's own record of accepting money from corporations and lobbyists.

The exchange of blows marks the first volley in the race to fill the newly reconfigured 1st Massachusetts District seat.

Nuciforo, who served as a state senator between 1997 and 2007, said Tuesday that if he's elected, he'd immediately file a bill that would limit the role of Super PACs and corporate money in elections.

He blasted incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, for "failing to lead on the issue."

"Congressman Neal has been raising money from corporations and special interests in Washington for so long that he can't possibly provide solutions to our nation's campaign finance problems," Nuciforo said in a statement.

Nuciforo's campaign finance promise came the day after Alford-based writer Bill Shein announced his candidacy, which he said would be financed only through small donations from independent contributors -- not corporations.

Nuciforo insisted that his announcement had nothing to do with Shein, but the timing was too much for the newcomer, who sent out his own statement chiding Nuciforo for belatedly adopting the position after Shein brought it to the forefront.

"He's come a long way," wrote Shein, who for years has been writing about the need for campaign finance reform. "During his time in the state senate, he also raised quite a lot of money from [political action committees], corporate insiders and especially lobbyists."

Indeed, Eagle archives show that in 2006, the last full year Nuciforo served as a state senator, his top donors were executives from the Webster-based Commerce Insurance Co. Nuciforo also raised significant funds that year from employees of Liberty Mutual, Nation One Mortgage and Arbella Insurance Group.

Neal, defending his record on campaign finance issues, brushed off Nuciforo's criticism.

"There will be an opportunity to examine the contributions that he accepted as a member of the state Senate -- then he can argue that he was only a little bit pregnant," Neal said.

Neal said he agrees with his two opponents that campaign finance laws need to be changed. He said he's voted in favor of changes in the past, but says there's no way any meaningful reform is going to get through the Republican-controlled House.

Neal said that until real change comes, serious candidates have to raise money from donors, including corporations: "I don't think you can -- given what Karl Rove is doing across the country -- unilaterally disarm."

Neal challenged accusations made by Nuciforo and Shein that his acceptance of money from the likes of General Electric Co., which has donated $67,500 to the candidate since he was first elected, made him beholden to corporate interests. He pointed to his ranking of 95 percent by the League of Conservation Voters and the AFL-CIO.

To reach Ned Oliver:
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