November 8, 2011
I support Richard Neal against "Luciforo".
- Jonathan Melle
Links by The (Springfield) Republican on the Western Massachusetts campaign for United States Congress between Richard Neal, Andrea Luciforo, & Bill Shein.
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, left, could face a challenge from former Pittsfield state senator Andrea F. Nuciforo if a draft congressional redistricting map is ultimately approved.
"Nuciforo still plans to run for Congress"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, November 8, 2011
PITTSFIELD -- Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. confirmed Monday that he still intends to run for Congress, but observers say his chances of winning are slim given the proposed reconfiguration of the state’s congressional districts.
The redistricting proposal released by the state on Monday would pit any Democratic Berkshire County congressional hopeful in a primary fight against incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, of voter-heavy Springfield.
Still, Nuciforo said he won’t back down.
"There are some things I can control. Redistricting is not one of them. So this appears to be the district that the Legislature has created, and the race begins now," said the former state senator and the current Register of Deeds in the Berkshire Middle District.
Area politicians say joining the Berkshires and Springfield in the same congressional district makes it seem unlikely that any Berkshire County politician could now win in a run for Congress.
"I think this is the worst scenario [Nuciforo] could have come up against," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox. "He’s running against a long-time and very popular incumbent from a major population base."
Current 1st Massachusetts District Rep. John Olver said he respected Nuciforo’s resolve to run, but said he "wouldn’t bet on him" given the new dynamic.
The re-drawn maps may have also dashed congressional aspirations of current state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield.
Downing hasn’t publicly announced any plans to run in the 1st Berkshire District, but campaign expenditure reports show he’s spent almost $16,000 this year in consulting fees to a firm that specializes in launching congressional campaigns.
Asked about the expense, Downing wouldn’t confirm or deny any plans.
"I’ve been considering a lot of options and I haven’t closed any of them yet," he said.
Like most current lawmakers in the Berkshires, both Downing and Nuciforo decried the loss of the 1st Berkshire District as a haven for small cities and towns.
"Many Western Massachusetts residents, including me, have feared that we would lose the small town and small city character of the 1st District," said Nuciforo. "That is clearly a risk given this new map, but small town and small city values are worth fighting for."
"Congressman Richard Neal could face challenge from former Pittsfield state senator Andrea Nuciforo under proposed redistricting map released by legislators"
By Dan Ring, The Republican, November 07, 2011
BOSTON - Top state lawmakers Monday released a new congressional district map that dramatically overhauls the district of U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal of Springfield and positions him to face a former state senator from Pittsfield in next year's primary.
Under the proposed map, Western Massachusetts would lose one of the two congressional districts currently based in the region. If approved, the new districts would go into effect for next year's election.
Neal's new 1st congressional district would pick up all of Berkshire County and would expand from 41 communities to 82. The new 1st district would include all of Hampden County and would run from the New York border east to Bernardston along the Vermont border and southeast to include Easthampton and South Hadley and farther south to take in parts of southern Worcester County such as Charlton and Dudley.
Parts of Hampshire and Franklin counties, including Amherst, Belchertown, Deerfield, Northampton, Ware and Greenfield, would go into the new 2nd congressional district of U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern, a Worcester Democrat.
State legislators split up the current 107-community district of U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, an Amherst Democrat who announced 10 days ago that he would not run for re-election next year after 20 years in Congress.
In a phone interview from his Amherst home last night, Olver said legislators did "a very good job" at apportioning most of his district among Neal and McGovern. Olver described Neal and McGovern as two of the most powerful members of the state's U.S. House delegation. Olver said he had no regrets about his plans to step down after his term concludes next year. "It was the right decision for me," Olver said.
Olver said that if he had decided to seek another term, his district would have been moved farther into Middlesex and Worcester counties to account for population growth in the east, meaning he would have had to spend half his time in those two counties. Olver said it probably would not have mattered for Western Massachusetts to be the base of two members of Congress if one of those members had to spend half his time outside of the region.
Neal said he was pleased with the new map, which includes about 320,000 people now in the district of Olver including Holyoke, West Springfield and Westfield. Neal said people in Berkshire and Franklin counties are familiar with his record in Congress and he looks forward to getting to know them better.
"The Berkshires and parts of Franklin County will be very good for me," Neal said. "I intend to vigorously represent them."
Neal said he is definitely running for re-election, saying he has a good record of success on the international, national and regional levels. Neal pointed out that he voted against authorizing the War in Iraq and also voted against tax cuts approved under former President George W. Bush.
Neal said he was looking forward to a primary contest if it happens, saying it would be a good exercise.
"I'm going to run as Rich Neal," said Neal, elected in 1988 and currently the sixth-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and the No. 3 most senior member of the state's U.S. House delegation. "I'm not going to reinvent myself."
The new map sets up a primary contest for Neal next year with Andrea F. Nuciforo, a Pittsfield Democrat, former state senator from 1997 to 2007 and current register of deeds in Pittsfield.
Nuciforo Monday said he planned to run next year against Neal in the Democratic primary for the newly-designed 1st congressional district.
"Let's face it," Nuciforo said. "My progressive credentials are well-established. We can't change the game in Washington unless you change the players."
Gardner and Fitchburg, currently in Olver's district, would go into the new district of U.S. Rep. Nicola S. Tsongas, D-Lowell.
Sen. Michael R. Knapik, a Westfield Republican, said McGovern's base is solidified by gaining the liberal communities of Amherst and Northampton and other parts of Hampshire and Franklin counties, making it difficult for a Worcester-based Republican to win the seat.
Knapik said the new congressional map seems to have some logic behind it, but it could have been written to include more of Western Massachusetts in Neal's new district. "The identity of the Pioneer Valley will be broken up," Knapik said.
Sen. Stanley C. Rosenberg of Amherst and Rep. Michael J. Moran of Boston, the co-chairmen of the Joint Committee on Redistricting, said Amherst is a good fit for Worcester because Worcester is home to the University of Massachusetts Medical School. Northampton also meshes well with Worcester because of a high number of colleges in each community, he said.
Rosenberg said a main goal was to keep all of Berkshire County in one congressional district. Rosenberg and Moran said Nuciforo's planned candidacy, or anyone else's election plans, was not a factor in the map.
Rosenberg said the hill towns of Franklin and Hampshire were kept in Neal's new district because they are similar to the small towns in Berkshire County.
Rosenberg said he preferred that Western and Central Massachusetts keep three congressional seats but population trends meant it was not possible.
Massachusetts lost one of its 10 congressional seats because it did not grow as much as other regions of the nation during the past decade. Berkshire County lost population, making Olver's current district the slowest growing in the state since 2000. State legislators needed to design a new nine-seat map and enlarge the population of districts.
Moran said the committee plans to vote on the new map on Thursday. The state House of Representatives would vote on Tuesday, he said. The state Senate and Gov. Deval L. patrick would also need to approve the new congressional map.
Moran and Rosenberg said the public has three days to comment on the new districts map for the U.S. House of Representatives. The two legislators said it is the first time the state has established a period of public comment for a draft congressional map.
Outside of Western Massachusetts, the map would force two members of the state's all-Democratic delegation into a single district. It would also create one incumbent-free district in the southeast including Cape Cod, parts of the South Shore and New Bedford.
The map also configures the state's first congressional district where minority voters are in the majority by extending the Boston-area district currently represented by Rep. Michael E. Capuano of Somerville.
The proposed map would place U.S. Reps. Stephen F. Lynch of South Boston and William R. Keating of Quincy in the same district by moving Quincy into Lynch's current district.
Keating, a former district attorney whose family owns a home on Cape Cod, could avoid a showdown with Lynch by running in the newly-formed southeast district, some of which he already represents.
MaLegislature.com - The proposed 2012 Massachusetts congressional districts.
Rep. Richard Neal has had a seat in Congress since the late 1980s. | AP Photo
"Massachusetts Democrats map reelection routes"
By ALEX ISENSTADT | POLITICO - 11/8/11
Richard Neal has led a charmed political life. The longtime House Democrat from Massachusetts hasn’t had a competitive primary in two decades and has had few serious GOP opponents.
Those days might be over.
Andrea Nuciforo, a former state senator who has been raising money for several years in anticipation of a congressional bid, told POLITICO on Tuesday that he would challenge Neal in 2012.
“You can’t change the game unless you change the players,” Nuciforo said. “Voters in Massachusetts and across the country want to see something very different.”
On Monday, Massachusetts state lawmakers unveiled a draft congressional map that erased the western Massachusetts seat of retiring Democratic Rep. John Olver, establishing one expansive district in the region for Neal and Nuciforo to compete for. Massachusetts is losing one House seat in the current round of reapportionment, shrinking its delegation to nine seats.
Nuciforo faces a heavy lift. In taking on Neal, the 47-year-old Nuciforo would be trying to unseat a senior member on the powerful tax-writing Ways and Means Committee who has had a seat in Congress since the late 1980s. Through the end of September, Neal had nearly $2 million more in the bank than Nuciforo.
Mary Anne Marsh, a longtime Massachusetts-based Democratic strategist, said Neal would need to vigorously campaign in his new district — nearly two-thirds of which comprises areas he has never represented before — but predicted that Nuciforo would nonetheless find it difficult to run against Neal, who is a well-known figure in many parts of the state.
“If the only thing standing between Richie Neal and reelection is Andrea Nuciforo, Richie Neal will win,” she said.
A Neal spokesman declined to respond to Nuciforo’s announcement. But in a statement released after the map was unveiled, Neal pledged to launch an aggressive campaign in the new district.
“The people of Berkshire and Franklin counties are already very familiar with my record in Congress, from bringing high-speed Internet access to the region to investing millions in our local transportation infrastructure, and I look forward to getting to know them better,” he said. “I am not a stranger to the historic and scenic communities in that part of the state, and I know jobs and economic development are top priorities. I expect to be a frequent visitor to their classrooms, small businesses and coffee shops very soon.”
The map, which was released by a joint legislative redistricting committee, is not final, but it is already having ripple effects across the state, complicating the political fortunes of several other members.
Democratic Rep. William Keating announced that he would run for a newly crafted, Cape Cod-area seat, bypassing a 2012 race against Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, with whom he was drawn into the same South Boston-based district.
The decision offers Keating his clearest path to reelection. Running against Lynch would have been a tall order for Keating, forcing the freshman to compete against his more senior colleague in a heavily blue-collar area that is well oriented to Lynch’s socially conservative record. Keating owns a summer home in the Cape Cod area.
“I hope that the residents of my current district — from Quincy to Provincetown and the islands — know that their well-being is my primary concern and nothing changes that,” Keating said in a statement announcing his decision, which he said he reached after a discussion with his family. “I look forward to continuing to represent the people I’m currently serving as well as the new communities that will be a part of this district in the future.”
Democratic Rep. John Tierney, a veteran member who currently occupies a solidly Democratic, North Shore-area seat, would run for reelection in a new district that encompasses several new areas, including Wilmington and Bedford, home to a swath of independent voters. Tierney survived an unexpectedly competitive race in 2010 against Republican Bill Hudak, who highlighted a scandal involving Tierney’s wife, Patrice, who in October 2010, pleaded guilty to charges that she helped her brother, a federal fugitive, file false tax returns.
For much of the delegation, however, the draft plan is incumbent-friendly. It would create safe districts for several members of the delegation, including Reps. Niki Tsongas, Michael Capuano and Jim McGovern, all of whom would run for reelection in heavily Democratic areas. Two senior Democrats, Reps. Barney Frank and Ed Markey, are also drawn into safe Democratic areas.
“It’s going to be a good incumbent-protection map,” said Scott Ferson, a Democratic consultant who works for Lynch.
The map is expected to be completed as soon as next week. Democrats control all levers of redistricting in the state, and party insiders say it is unlikely there will be dramatic changes when the final map is drawn.
"Pittsfield native Andrea Nuciforo Jr. hopeful about primary run against Congressman Richard Neal"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, December 10, 2011
This photo shows Andrea Nuciforo Jr., a Pittsfield Democrat, standing outside the statehouse in Boston. Nuciforo served in the State Senate for ten years and now plans to take on Congressman Richard Neal. (Photo courtesy of Nuciforo's Flickr account)
SPRINGFIELD - Beating a longtime U.S. Congressman who maintains a presence and popularity in his district is not an easy feat.
Andrea Nuciforo Jr. said he knows that better than most, and that is why he plans on working extra hard in his primary run to unseat Richard Neal and eventually replace him as the Democratic Congressman from Western Massachusetts.
Nuciforo, a Pittsfield native and resident, graduated from UMass-Amherst in 1986 and later graduated from law school at Boston University. When he finished law school, he was hired as a law clerk in Springfield.
Since his stint in Springfield, Nuciforo has worked as a litigator in Boston and he served as a state senator from 1997 to 2007. Since then, he has served as the registrar of Deeds in Pittsfield.
When asked why he decided not to run again, he said he had accomplished his local goals of the time. Since then, however, he said he has found more reasons to run as he reflected on the state of the world today.
"You have unemployment holding around nine percent over the past few years and economic growth has been around zero. And wages are down while the cost of everything has went up," Nuciforo said. "In this economic circumstance, I think voters, particularly Democratic voters, I think that people are looking for alternatives to what is happening in Washington."
When asked how he plans to deliver his message to the voters since Neal's war chest tallies in the millions with his in the thousands, Nuciforo said he will use all of the tools of the modern world to make a difference.
"We are never going to have more money than a 20-plus year member of Congress, but we will have enough," he said. "I guarantee you won't see me wasting time between now and September. You will see us work. This is going to be simply the best online and social media campaign that anybody has seen in Western Massachusetts."
Neal said previously that he is looking forward to a primary contest.
"I'm going to run as Rich Neal," said Neal, elected in 1988 and currently the sixth-ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee and the No. 3 most senior member of the state's U.S. House delegation in a previous interview. "I'm not going to reinvent myself."
As Nuciforo focuses his campaign over the next few weeks, he will travel throughout the district to meet the voters who will directly decide his political future.
To see a list of Nuciforo's scheduled appearances in Holyoke, Easthampton and Pittsfield, visit his campaign website.
"Congressman Neal supports Pittsfield in speech"
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, December 16, 2011
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal took to the floor of the House of Representatives on Thursday to make his first public foray into Berkshire County politics -- less than a year before he'll be leaning on a new crop of voters to send him back to Congress.
The Springfield Democrat gave a speech focusing on Pittsfield, and in particular The Colonial Theatre.
Advocating for the extension of a tax credit program utilized by The Colonial, Neal said the theater's renovation wouldn't have happened without the program.
Springfield will be absorbed into the state's 1st Congressional District, which includes Berkshire County, in the 2012 election. The redistricting is the result of shifting national population figures that led to Massachusetts losing one of its seats in the House of Representatives.
In a telephone interview from Washington, Neal said his rationale for discussing The Colonial was not so much political, but a means to highlight his "legislative skills."
"The Colonial Theatre represents the perfect example of using private investment for a public/private purpose," said Neal.
Neal was discussing the New Markets Tax Credit, which he described as one of his pet projects. The program was established by Congress in 2000 with the intention of attracting capital investment into operating business or real estate projects in low-income communities.
Neal, who toured the theater last month, discussed in his speech how Pittsfield has struggled with poverty, unemployment and urban blight, and how periodic attempts to revitalize the theater fell through due to lack of money and sustained public support. The tax credit covered $16.7 million of the $21 million cost of renovating the theater, and Neal said it could be argued that The Colonial never would have re-opened without the tax credit.
Kate Maguire, artistic director and CEO of the Berkshire Theatre Group, said she's pleased to hear Neal talked about The Colonial. She said 10,000 people will go through the theater's doors this month, which shows the "impact we have not only to the audience that arrives in the theater but as they walk out and visit our area."
Neal told The Eagle how the tax credit aided in the redevelopment of the Beacon Cinema as well. He also noted how other programs he has championed have had benefits that "go beyond congressional district lines," including his ardent supporter of Medicare -- a key component in the finances of Berkshire Medical Center.
"There are a lot of things that I've participated with in the Congress that have had enormous benefit to communities across the commonwealth," said Neal.
Neal, who has announced his intentions to run for Congress, believes he has high name recognition locally because of the Springfield media market. But he does face the challenge of introducing himself to voters in an area that has been represented by outgoing U.S. Rep. John W. Olver for two decades. He could also face a primary fight against Pittsfield Democrat Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who has announced his intention to run for the seat.
Neal said it's "too early for politics," but noted he will be spending a week in the Berkshires in January to further familiarize himself with the area.
"Neal defends senior services in city tour"
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, December 29, 2011
PITTSFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal touted the need to defend social safety-net programs for seniors on Wednesday as he began his introduction to a city that will be crucial to his re-election.
Neal, a Springfield Democrat, started his Pittsfield visit at Berkshire Elder Services on Wendell Avenue, speaking with local medical professionals and advocates for Social Security and Medicare.
"[These advocates] want to make sure that people continue to receive the services that they vitally need," Neal said. "Making sure that they receive those services should be a full-frontal effort on the part of all of us to continue their integrity."
Neal said changes can be made to Medicare to bring down costs, however, including asking wealthy seniors to pay higher co-pays or increasing efforts to root out the more than $50 billion each year that is siphoned off from the program through fraud.
He also called the argument that Social Security is going broke "specious," and said Medicare and Medicaid would be in much better shape if unemployment was below 5 percent (the national rate is 8.6 percent).
Next fall, Springfield will be absorbed into Massachusetts' 1st Congressional District because of national population shifts accounted for in the 2010 U.S. census. John Olver, the current representative for the district, has announced he will retire when his term expires in January 2013.
Berkshire County belongs to the 1st District.
Neal, who currently represents the 2nd District, already has announced his intention to seek another term, but he will face a primary fight with Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. -- Register of Deeds in the Berkshire Middle District -- before the November 2012 general election.
Neal said many issues facing Berkshire County are similar to those being faced nationally. He also noted the common interests between the county and areas he represents in the Pioneer Valley.
"We have a very similar outlook," Neal said. "We have all felt a degree of alienation from the state capital."
Neal also visited Berkshire Medical Center, General Dynamics and the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction during his time in Pittsfield on Wednesday. He said there were "feel-good" stories at each stop, as he praised the efforts of each organization. He also noted the challenges facing officials at the jail and at BMC, from drug- and alcohol-related crime issues to health-care costs for Medicare-dependent institutions.
Members of the Berkshire delegation in attendance at the Elder Services discussion said it's too soon to endorse Neal for 2012, but they applauded his willingness to reach out to the county.
"It's very important to get to know your district, and Congressman Neal has done a great job of getting out here to Berkshire County," said state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield.
Others said there will be challenges before the election, but voters likely will be pleased with what they see.
"What he'll find and what many people here in the Berkshires will find is that a lot of what Richie Neal has been fighting for in the last 20 years is what matters to this region," said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield. "He's been on the right side of a lot of issues."
Neal is expected to return to the county next week for another tour of the area.
"GE a big donor to Rep. Neal's campaign"
By Trevor Jones, Berkshire Eagle Staff, December 29, 2011
PITTSFIELD -- General Electric Co. has been one of the largest contributors to U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal’s political career, but the Springfield Democrat says those funds won’t sway his view on the pending PCB cleanup of the Housatonic River.
Neal’s campaign has received $67,500 from GE since the Springfield Democrat was first elected to Congress in 1988, with more than half of those funds coming between 2009 and 2010, according to Federal Election Commission data collected by OpenSecrets.org.
Neal said he hasn’t formed an opinion on what level of cleanup should be conducted, but he stood by his record of support for environmental protection.
He pointed to his voter rating with the League of Conservation Voters, which has been above 90 percent for all but one of his seven terms. The environmental advocacy group gave him a rating of 96 percent for the 2009-2010 legislative session.
"I’d let that stand anywhere," Neal said Wednesday during a tour of Pittsfield, which will be a key to his re-election bid next fall.
Neal currently represents Massachusetts’ 2nd Congressional District, but his home base of Springfield will be absorbed into the 1st District for the November 2012 election because of national populations shifts accounted for in the 2010 U.S. Census.
John Olver, the current 1st District representative, has said he will retire at the end of his term in January 2013.
Neal received $34,500 in individual and political action committee contributions from GE in the 2010 election cycle alone -- his third-largest donor that year. Only four other national campaign committees received more funds from GE during that time.
GE also has been one of Neal’s largest early contributors in the 2012 election cycle, having given $5,000 to his campaign.
PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, have been transported south in the Housatonic from GE’s former Pittsfield plant. The probable cancer-causing chemical was used by GE in the production of transformers before most uses were banned by the federal government in 1977.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is expected to release its proposal for remediation south of Fred Garner Park in early 2012.
Neal said he will have to look further into the Housatonic contamination, but he also said he supports the company that became an anathema to many locals after its employment declined here, eventually hitting bottom in 2007, when GE Plastics was sold to Sabic Innovative Plastics.
"I certainly think getting an update from EPA is very important," Neal said. "We’re going to try to secure as much information [as possible] and become educated on the topic as quickly as we can, while at the same time realizing GE is a pretty big employer nationwide and we can’t dismiss the role that they play."
A representative for Neal later said the congressman will encourage the EPA to work with Massachusetts and Connecticut to develop a "comprehensive plan" for the cleanup.
December 29, 2011
Re: Berkshire Eagle's double standard
Andrea Nuciforo has political connections to Boston area big banks and insurance companies. Richard Neal has political connections to GE. The Berkshire Eagle only reported on Congressman Neal's campaign account donations from GE, while omiting news coverage of all of the money Nuciforo raised from Boston area financial corporations he also served as a private corporate Attorney for nearly 8 years. Please visit my Blog page to review Nuciforo's political corruption with the Boston area insurance lobby.
I hope The Berkshire Eagle will publish a news article explaining the real reason why Andrea Nuciforo is running for U.S. Congress, which is to do the bidding of Boston's financial lobbyists, big banks, and insurance companies. Nuciforo will raise special interest money from Boston area financial corporate lobbyists as a Congressman from the other end of the state. This public record is all fact. I documented it for many years now. I believe Nuciforo is corrupt!
- Jonathan A. Melle
Nuciforo's (Luciforo's) top five donors
These are the top five companies that had employees contributing to state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.'s campaign in 2005:
1. Commerce Insurance Co. — $9,000
2. Liberty Mutual — $6,800
3. Nation One Mortgage — $5,350
4. Arbella Insurance Group — $2,400
5. Bulkley, Richardson and Gelinas LLP — $1,775
Nuciforo has focused his private law practice on insurance issues during the time he chaired the committee. He is listed as "of counsel" to Berman & Dowell, a Boston law firm that cites insurance defense as one of its three practice groups. He joined the firm the year he became committee chairman. Nuciforo's practice area is listed "insurance coverage" and "insurance defense , " according to the firm's website. That legal work entails defense work for insurance companies against claimants.
Berman & Dowell
210 Commercial Street,
Boston, Massachusetts 02109-1305
Joseph S. Berman
Elizabeth S. Bostwick
John S. Day
Rodney S. Dowell
ANDREA F. NUCIFORO, JR.
Of Counsel, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Practice Areas: Professional Liability Defense; Commercial Litigation; Banking Law; Insurance Coverage; Insurance Defense.
Lawyer for Berman & Dowell (a Law Practice industry) from January 1999 — September 2006 (7 years 9 months).
"Neal on the scene"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, December 29, 2011
Pittsfield and Berkshire voters concerned about the redistricting that will move Springfield into the 1st Congressional District in 2013 can be encouraged by the interest 2nd Congressional District congressman Richard Neal of Springfield has shown in the region. If this activity is motivated at all by anticipation of a Democratic primary fight next fall with Pittsfield’s Andrea Nuciforo Jr. the value of competition is being demonstrated.
Representative Neal put in a plug for the Colonial Theatre on the floor of Congress recently, citing it as an example of the value of the new markets tax credit that was instrumental in funding the renovation of the historic Pittsfield building. The congressman also spoke of the importance of public/private partnerships, which have been at the heart of Pittsfield’s downtown revival. Mr. Neal visited Pittsfield Wednesday, and in a meeting with seniors, defended Social Security against overwrought campaign season attacks, asserting reasonably that the program is financially sound and requires only adjustments to assure it stays sound in the decades ahead.
Mr. Neal’s popularity with General Electric is intriguing, as the corporation has been a donor to his campaign since 1998 and in 2010 only four other campaign committees nationwide received more funds from GE than did Mr. Neal’s, according to data collected by Open Secrets.org. Mr. Neal is correct that GE played a major role in the Berkshire economy but the main issue involving GE today, one the congressman acknowledged he is in the process of educating himself on, is the cleanup of pollution left by GE in the Housatonic River as it winds south from Pittsfield to Connecticut.
Mr. Nuciforo, who announced his bid for election well before the census cost Massachusetts a House seat, is well known in the county and will have to establish name recognition in the year ahead on Mr. Neal’s turf, just as the congressman will have to do in the Berkshires. The redistricting may also bring forth more viable Republican candidates than have been seen in recent years. Neither the 1st nor 2nd districts have been known for competitive races, which may change to the betterment of voters in the year ahead.
Former state senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr., who is running for the First Congressional District, talks to Gail and Phil Sellers during a meet and greet at Desperado’s Tuesday night (January 3, 2012). (Jennifer Huberdeau/North Adams Transcript)
"Nuciforo holds campaign event"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, January 4, 2012
NORTH ADAMS -- Although former state Senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. won’t officially announce his campaign for Massachusetts’ new 1st Congressional District for several weeks, he was in the city Tuesday night to drum up support for his campaign.
"We’re living in a time when Washington is more and more detached from the average American -- I intend to go to Washington and reverse that trend," he said Tuesday to a group of about 25 supporters. "Take a look at how the ordinary family is faring in this economy. The unemployment rate has held steady, between 8 percent to 9 percent, for the last three years. Wages are down and families are working harder than ever, but they’re still struggling to pay the mortgage or the rent, put food on the table and save for retirement."
Nuciforo, who spent 10 years in the state Legislature and currently serves as Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds, would have to unseat U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, in September’s primary election to make it onto November’s ballot.
Neal, who has served the state’s 2nd Congressional District since first being elected in 1988, will represent the 1st Congressional District when new Congressional districting maps go into effect. The district will combine portions of Neal’s current district with a majority of those now represented by U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst. Olver announced at the end of October that he would not seek re-election.
"We have the bones of a campaign," Nuciforo said, asking the small crowd to join his campaign and help him gain momentum in the months leading up to the primary.
He said his campaign has already raised $250,000 since being launched in late 2009.
"We filed early, but this is a huge undertaking that take preparation and time," he said. "The district has been redrawn to include 86 cities and towns. It’s big and complex with 727,000 residents in western and central Massachusetts."
Nuciforo was first elected to the state Senate in 1996, beating Republican challenger Paul Babeu, now sheriff of Pinal County in Arizona. Babeu, who is an elected official, has formed his own exploratory Congressional committee.
"I left in 2007 because, after 10 years, I felt I had accomplished what I had set out to do in the Senate," Nuciforo said. "I’ve also never believed that people should serve indefinitely in public office. Change is good -- it’s good for the political institution and it’s good for the voters."
Over the next few weeks, he’ll be visiting the 86 cities and towns in the redesigned district -- 48 of which fell within his state senate district -- and plans to launch an aggressive online and social media campaign to reach voters.
Nuciforo resides in Pittsfield with his wife, Elena, who is earning her doctorate in cultural communications at UMass-Amherst, and their 11-month-old son, Eric. For more information on his campaign, visit www.nuciforo.com.
Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. is running against Richard Neal for the U.S. House of Representatives.
"Nuciforo Preps For Congressional Race"
By Joe Durwin, Special to iBerkshires, January 05, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — This is the year that Western Massachusetts turns the status quo on its head, U.S. House hopeful Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. told a captivated audience at Zucchinis restaurant Wednesday night during one of his early campaign fundraisers.
"This is the going to be the year that voters in Western Massachusetts, and voters across the country, take typical Washington status quo and turn it on its head. It's going to be an upside down year," Nuciforo said.
Nuciforo has been visiting and engaging with the some 86 cities and towns that will make up the newly redrawn 1st Massachusetts Congressional District.
"This is a great opportunity for us," said the Democratic candidate, who declared his intention to run back in 2009, long before the redrawing of the districts was passed by the state Legislature. "This district is brand new. It includes all of Berkshire County and it takes us all the way through Westfield, Holyoke, Easthampton, Springfield, all the way to that southern tip of Worcester County. So we've got a lot of work ahead of us."
Nuciforo emphasized economic distress and a change in Washington politics as themes in the 2012 election.
"This is going to be a watershed moment in American politics because people in this country have felt more and more detached from the people who are supposed to be representing them. That's what this election's going to be all about," he said.
Nuciforo told his supporters that the campaign is already going well, described fundraising efforts as "quite successful," and referred to "sleeper cells" of volunteers located throughout the district.
As to how he looked at the challenges of running against current U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, whose native Springfield constituency will join the 1st Massachusetts District, the former state senator told iBerkshires he has reason to be optimistic.
"The district is new. It's 86 cities and towns in Western Massachusetts and it is new to all the candidates. We're taking the time to meet with the people who will decide the election. These, of course, are the voters," said Nuciforo, who will face off against Neal in the Democratic primary on Sept. 6. No Republican candidate has yet announced.
When asked if he thought his message might resonate with those sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement, which has seen offshoots throughout the county, Nuciforo said, "American politics has been overrun by corporate money and special interests. Many of our elected officials, even here in Western Massachusetts, are getting the lion's share of their financial support from Wall Street banks, corporations, and affiliated PACs. The Occupy movement reflects the American people's disappointment with that system."
He added, "my views are very compatible with those that are unhappy with that corporate domination."
Meanwhile, Neal was making the local headlines with his two-day visit to the Berkshires that included meeting with local politicians, educational leaders and news editors. When he visited with representatives from Berkshire Community College on Wednesday morning, the 12-term congressman said he was unaware that Nuciforo was holding an event the same day.
"I'm not really thinking about politics right now," Neal told iBerkshires.
Nuciforo is expected to formally enter the race in February, according to campaign political director Joe Engwer.
"Deep roots in Social Security"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, January 6, 2012
For U.S. Representative Richard Neal, the debate about the viability of Social Security is personal. The Springfield Democrat, who if re-elected this November will represent Berkshire County in Congress, "grew up on Social Security" and as a congressman has been one of the most aggressive advocates of a program that has taken an ideological pounding for decades but keeps paying off to retirees.
Mr. Neal spent Wednesday and Thursday touring the Berkshires, which will become part of a roughly combined 1st and 2nd Congressional District in 2013 because of a redistricting that cost Massachusetts a congressional seat. Current 1st District Congressman John Olver is retiring and Mr. Neal, who currently represents the 2nd District, will at least have one challenger in Pittsfield Democrat Andrea Nuciforo, a former state senator.
The Worcester native’s parents died young, and he grew up with a grandmother and an aunt who depended upon Social Security checks. A member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which includes Social Security in its purview, Mr. Neal was the House’s point man in opposition to President George W. Bush’s attempts to privatize Social Security after he was re-elected to a second term in 2004.
"If Bush had privatized Social Security it would have been another Enron," said Mr. Neal at an Eagle editorial board meeting in which he discussed the federal government’s role in Pittsfield’s downtown revival and the importance of Berkshire Community College to attracting business, among other issues. "Social Security is the greatest anti-poverty program in the history of the world."
The congressman bristles at claims that Social Security is a Ponzi scheme, pointing out the program has paid off for decades and is fully funded through 2035. After that, it is projected to pay 70 cents on the dollar for 20 years, which is why reform measures are needed so it will pay fully as it has and will for another 24 years. There is no crisis, however, and no rip-off.
There are many reasons why Rick Perry is struggling as a Republican presidential candidate but his attack on Social Security as a Ponzi scheme is prominent among them. Opposition to the program is ideological. In the real world, Americans value a program, that while requiring adjustments, keeps working, to the dismay of its critics. "In our youth we all pulled the wagon so in our old age we can all sit in the wagon," is the analogy Mr. Neal drew, and it is one that should long apply.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, speaks with John Krol on Thursday during a Good Morning Pittsfield segment on WTAR. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"Neal at home in the city"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, January 6, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal wrapped up a two-day tour of the Berkshires on Thursday by saying he's familiar with the issues that county residents are facing and will establish an office in Pittsfield if he is elected this fall.
"It's new geography," the veteran Springfield Democrat said during a meeting with The Eagle's editorial board. "But it's not new issues."
Berkshire County is being redistricted into Neal's legislative area, the state's 2nd Congressional District, because of shifts in population. Elections based on the boundaries of the new districts will take place for the first time this fall and representation will begin anew in 2013.
Neal visited Pittsfield and Great Barrington on Thursday after touring North County on Wednesday.
Neal, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 1988, will likely be challenged in the state Democratic primary by former Pittsfield state senator Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who is currently the register of the Middle Berkshire Registry of Deeds.
If he is re-elected in the fall, Neal said he will maintain a visible presence in the Berkshires.
"I will be here all the time to represent you vigorously," said Neal, who turns 63 on Feb. 14. "I've represented Milford and Bellingham, and they're a lot farther away [from Springfield] than Berkshire County. Pittsfield and the Southern Berkshires are an easy jaunt for me."
A former mayor of Springfield, Neal is a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for taxes, trade, tariffs, Social Security, Medicare and part of Medicaid. He is also the ranking member of the subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.
During his tenure in the house, Neal said he has worked on urban issues with U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, the retiring Amherst Democrat who has represented the Berkshires since June 1991, and on education matters with Olver's predecessor, the late Pittsfield Republican Silvio O. Conte, whom he referred to as a "legislative titan."
"We served together for three years," Neal said of Conte, who died in February 1991. "I know that's still a household name here across the Berkshires."
Neal has been a lead sponsor of legislation to prevent American companies from moving offshore to avoid paying U.S. taxes, fought with President George W. Bush over Social Security reform, and voted against the Bush tax cuts.
Despite the national profile, Neal said his "DNA remains in local government" and that he has tried very hard to "master arcane details."
Economically, Neal said he is familiar with the role Guardian Berkshire Life plays in the Berkshires and the role Medicare plays at Berkshire Medical Center, for examples.
"You're not going to have to teach me anything about these issues," Neal said. "I sit on a prominent committee that oversees them."
Referring to the new federal combat ship contract that has led to job growth at General Dynamics Pittsfield plant since the end of 2010, Neal believes the local economy has "enormous potential."
"I think nurturing that opportunity is very important," Neal said.
He said Berkshire Community College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, in conjunction with local public school systems, should be utilized to provide job skills for the local work force.
Acknowledging that the Berkshires are seen by many as a place to visit, Neal said he is interested in the "economy of the arts" and what it means. But he said it would be a "mistake" for the Berkshires to be seen as just a "tourist destination."
"You want it to be included and integrated," he said, referring to a thriving local economy.
"You've got some strengths here," he said. "Some real strengths."
Neal said he is "very impressed" with the revitalization of downtown North Street in Pittsfield, noting that the funding for some of those improvements came from a "federal earmark." He said he is not opposed to using federal funding to revitalize cities and towns, and he is proponent of New Market Tax Credits, which were used in the renovation of the Colonial Theatre.
"I have not been apologetic about using the federal government to retool parts of Springfield and Southbridge," he said.
"Nuciforo not running scared in House race"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, January 16, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. has been campaigning to represent the Berkshires in Congress for two years now, but until December, he had no idea who he was running against.
The passage of the state's redistricting plan changed that, pitting him against an incumbent based in population-dense Springfield and sending his campaign into overdrive.
Now, just as his opponent, Richard Neal, D-Springfield, has been making forays into the Berkshires as of late, Nuciforo is in the midst of a grueling campaign to introduce himself to voters in the Springfield-Holyoke area and overcome the odds political observers say are stacked against him.
On a recent day, Nuciforo spent the morning in Holyoke, then
returned to Pittsfield for a meeting before hopping back on the MassPike for Easthampton, where he met with members of the local Democratic party.
"We have a very rigorous schedule that takes me into cities and towns throughout the district, and that includes, of course, those parts of the district [where people are less familiar with me]," said the former state senator and current Register of Deeds in the Berkshire Middle District.
Redrawn to reflect the loss of one of the state's 10 congressional seats in the House due to population shifts measured by the 2010 census, the 1st Massachusetts District encompasses Berkshire County and now heads East, stretching into Worcester County along the state's southern border.
The marriage of the district -- formerly devoted to the small cities and towns in the western half of the state -- with the Springfield area was bemoaned by local politicians worried about the Berkshires losing clout in Washington. The plan was called a "worst-case scenario" for Nuciforo and was discouraging enough that state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, abandoned preliminary plans to launch his own bid for the seat.
But Nuciforo says that based on his campaign's research, a primary win against Neal isn't out of reach.
The massive population advantage Neal would seem to have in Springfield aside, Nuciforo says last year's primary turnout in Pittsfield, 7,639, compares favorably to the 8,820 cast in the Springfield primary.
Nuciforo says his overtures into Neal's current territory have been received well by voters there. He says he appeals to voters who are ready for change, and hopefully a little progress, in Congress.
"People are frustrated with what's happening in Washington these days," said Nuciforo. "People are, I think for good reason, demanding more of their elected officials. It's not enough to show up at the ribbon cutting. People want to hear specific policy solutions to the fundamental challenges facing this country. [And] we've got real solutions."
To reach Ned Oliver: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6240. On Twitter: @BE_NedOliver
By the numbers...
Campaign finance records show Neal has almost $2.3 million on hand in his campaign coffers, a full 2 million more than Nuciforo:
Raised for 2012: $404,699
Spent for 2012: $294,543
Cash on hand: $2,285,998
Raised for 2012: $101,076
Spent for 2012: $46,691
Cash on hand: $155,256
Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Opensecrets.org
Bill Shein, a writer and activist in Berkshire County, is running against Democratic Rep. Richard Neal and Congressional hopeful Andrea Nuciforo Jr. to represent the newly-drawn First District in Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of BillShein.com)
"Writer joins U.S. House race"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, January 17, 2012
GREAT BARRINGTON -- Local humorist Bill Shein says there's nothing funny about his plans to run for Congress.
"This is pretty serious stuff," said the 44-year-old Alford resident. "I obviously believe humor has a place in talking about these issues, but we've got a lot of big problems with how our politics work, and unless we fix them, we're going to continue to see a whole lot of struggles and fights."
Shein, an occasional columnist for The Eagle and a local organizer of the Occupy movement, announced his run Monday. The Democrat said he'll champion "political reform and policies for the 99 percent."
Shein will face two political veterans in the upcoming primary fight: Incumbent Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and former state Senator from the Berkshires Andrea Nuciforo.
He acknowledges he isn't as well-known in the 1st Massachusetts District as his two opponents. But Shein, deeply dissatisfied with the role of corporate money in American politics, says it will be easy for him to distinguish himself from Neal and Nuciforo.
Shein says his campaign will be defined, at least in part, by the way he finances it. Shein said he's only accepting donations from small, independent contributors -- not corporations or political action committees. And he won't accept amounts larger than $99.
"I think we need transformative political change, and that includes how we fund our elections," said Shein. "When you fund politics with status-quo money, you get status-quo results."
Shein said he's just begun soliciting donations, but imagines his campaign will be a fairly low-budget effort. By contrast, as of the last reporting period, Neal had $2.2 million in campaign cash, while Nuciforo had $155,000.
Shein says he doesn't expect the lack of money to keep him from sharing his platform with voters. Instead, he said he'll focus on social media and other electronic avenues.
"No doubt it's a difficult task to do what I'm doing, but we now have ways to reach voters that we didn't have just a few years ago -- social media, online video -- there are ways to get a message out to a lot of folks without having to buy TV ads," said Shein.
In a nod to the kind of direct communication he said will be key to his campaign, Shein announced his planned run on Facebook.
Shein said he'll also engage in more traditional campaign tactics, such as recruiting volunteers to make phone calls and door-to-door canvassing.
The candidate says his campaign rhetoric will be focused on serious issues, like addressing climate change and the economy. And Shein pledged never to fall back on the platitudes and empty promises he says have become the hallmark of the modern campaign.
"You'll never hear me say things like, ‘Let's get America moving again,' " he said.
To reach Ned Oliver: firstname.lastname@example.org, or (413) 496-6240. On Twitter: @BE_NedOliver
At a glance ...
Name: Bill Shein
Party affiliation: Democrat
Employment: Writer and freelance information technology and Internet consultant
"Berkshire County writer Bill Shein announces bid for Rep. Richard Neal's seat in Congress"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, January 18, 2012
GREAT BARRINGTON – Highlighting his lack of experience as a politician, Bill Shein, a Berkshire County writer and activist, has jumped in the race to become the representative of the newly drawn 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts.
Taking on former State Sen. Andrea Nuciforo Jr. and incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, Shein, also running as a Democrat, hopes that his "outsider status" will make the difference in an era where public satisfaction with elected officials is at an all-time low.
"For decades, American democracy has been undermined by money from political action committees, corporate insiders, Washington lobbyists, and super-rich donors that fuels the campaign of virtually every member of Congress," Shein said in a statement. "Big money has led to bad public policy. It's the reason for income and wealth inequality not seen since the Gilded Age of robber barons and oil tycoons, with a narrow elite amassing huge fortunes while millions of American families lose jobs, homes, retirement savings, and the ability to afford college."
Shein, a humorist who has been writing political satire since 2004, said he will only accept financial donations of $99 or less from individuals, a strategy which he says sets him apart from his rivals.
"It’s why I’ll be an outspoken leader in the fight for a constitutional amendment that makes clear that corporations aren’t people and money isn’t speech," Shein said. "And it’s why I promise to never cash in on my public service by becoming a paid lobbyist or 'strategic advisor' for corporate interests – or any interests. Until all lobbying by former members of Congress is banned, we must demand that every candidate make the same vow. The gold-plated revolving door must be stopped."
Shein, taking a swipe at Nuciforo's recent call to ban political action committees, said he was surprised and pleased with the announcement by the Register of Deeds in Pittsfield.
"He’s come a long way. In 2003, as a state senator, Andy helped to repeal one of the few public financing laws in the country, the voter-approved Clean Elections law in Massachusetts. During his time in the state senate, he also raised quite a lot of money from PACs, corporate insiders and especially lobbyists. And he's had very little to say on these issues of big money since announcing his 2012 campaign for Congress two-and-a-half-years ago, in July, 2009. So I'm thrilled that he’s finally on board with those of us who have long advocated getting this money and influence out of our democracy. The more voices advocating for these necessary changes, the better."
Shein, who participated in the Occupy the Berkshires protest, said he would be a champion for the "99 percent" if elected.
Shein said he will be in Springfield on Friday as protesters descend on the U.S. District Courthouse as part of the "Occupy the Courts" movement.
The Congressional hopeful said that he will support economic policies that promote local economies while taking the healthcare burden off of families.
"We need to keep our people, talent and resources right here in our neighborhoods, and not allow global corporations to drain wealth away from our communities," Shein said. "The old model has pushed American workers to the breaking point."
On health care, Shein said he wants to see "Enhanced Medicare for All," a proposed national program he said would "give entrepreneurs, workers, and young people the freedom to pursue their ideas and dreams without fear that illness will threaten their family’s economic security."
Shein, 44, is a 1990 graduate of Tufts University, where he majored in American history. His column in the Berkshire Eagle newspaper called "Reason Gone Mad," was awarded the National Press Club Award for Humor in 2005, 2008 and 2009.
He is currently working on a book, “Democracil: The Prescription for America,” which will be available to download for free this spring.
Shein has pledged to travel to every city and town in the newly crafted district during the campaign to explain his positions and to meet the voters. He said that a formal campaign kick-off party will soon be announced and followed by house parties across the district.
For more information on Shein's campaign, visit his website (www.billshein.com), his Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BillShein), or his Twitter profile (twitter.com/#!/BillShein).
"Rep. rivals spar over election cash"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, 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.
Andrea Nuciforo Jr., Register of Deeds in Pittsfield, is challenging U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, for the Democratic nomination in Massachusetts 1st Congressional district. (File photo)
"House candidate Andrea Nuciforo calls for prohibition of Super PACs"
By The Republican Newsroom, January 17, 2012
PITTSFIELD – Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who is challenging U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, for the Democratic nomination in Massachusetts’ 1st Congressional district, on Tuesday urged passage of legislation that would prohibit so-called Super PACs from influencing federal elections.
“Congress and politics is awash in corporate and special interest money. That money is drowning out the voices of everyday citizens,” Nuciforo said in a statement released by his campaign. “In my first 90 days in Washington, I will file a bill proposing a series of progressive reforms, thereby limiting the influence of special interests and corporate money.”
In the statement, Nuciforo, the Register of Deeds in Pittsfield, said he wants to repeal, via an amendment to the Constitution, the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision in Citizens United v. FEC and prohibit corporations from spending unlimited amounts of money to elect or defeat candidates for federal office.
Nuciforo also proposes, according to his statement:
• Adopting the provisions of the Fair Elections Now Act, currently pending in Congress, which would call for a system of public financing for candidates for the Congress.
• Adopting the provisions of the DISCLOSE Act, currently pending before Congress, that would require outside groups such as Citizens United, as well as other 527s and independent expenditure groups, to reveal their donors.
January 22, 2012
Andrea Nuciforo wants to be elected to U.S. Congress in 2012. He says he will be a fighter for the middle class like Elizabeth Warren's campaign for U.S. Senate. He recently came out for proposed reforms to the federal campaign finance system. He criticized Richard Neal for not fixing how special interest money effects the political process. Nuciforo sounds too good to be true. He will be an idealist against power. The real Nuciforo is none of these "wonderful" things. As a state Senator for one decade, Nuciforo was a top-down, power and money, corrupt politician. Nuciforo is part of the Good Old Boy network and is strongly allied with the alleged sexual deviant against young males named Carmen Massimiano. Nuciforo says he is a "Democrat", but he would be a "Republican" if that is where the power-base is in Massachusetts. Nuciforo served as a corporate Attorney for a Boston Law firm for nearly 8 years, mostly while he was a state Senator. As a corporate Attorney for "Berman & Dowell", Nuciforo represented wealthy insurance companies against poor claimants. Nuciforo chaired state Senate financial committees while he was representing them as a corporate Attorney. That is a conflict of interest. I apprised the Massachusetts "Ethics" Commission and the news media about Nuciforo's double-dipping, but I was mostly ignored, except when The Boston Globe ran a story about Nuciforo trying to have Governor Deval Patrick nominate him to be the state's Insurace Commissioner. The Globe's news article was published in early-2007 (5 years ago this January of 2012). Nuciforo raised over 6 figures in campaign cash from Boston area big banks and insurance companies, which means that a majority of his fundraising came from outside of his Berkshire County area legislative district. Nuciforo was not representing the middle class. He wasn't even representing the citizens in his legislative district. In fact, Nuciforo was representing wealthy financial institutions in politics and his corporate law practice. As for campaign finance reform, Nuciforo led the effort to kill "Clean Elections" in 2002 through mid-2003. Nuciforo was raking in the money hand-over-fist, double-dipping, committing conflict of interest violations, and being corrupt. He had no interest in clean elections in Massachusetts. Nuciforo wanted to have a political plum sinecure while he plotted his run for U.S. Congress. To do so, Nuciforo abused his power and strong-armed 2 women candidates named Sara Hathaway and Sharon Henault out of the 2006 state government election for Pittsfield Registry of Deeds to anoint himself as the sole heir to this position. Nuciforo is aligning himself with Elizabeth Warren's campaign, but he chose to strong-arm 2 other women out of an election for his own benefit. Nuciforo's real public record shows that he is not a grassroots candidate who wants to fight for the middle class. Nuciforo is a corporate Attorney and corrupt politician who represents wealthy financial institutions, especially Boston area insurance companies. If Nuciforo is elected to U.S. Congress someday, he will do what he did as a state Senator and network with big banks and insurance companies to do their bidding on Capitol Hill in return for many thousand of dollars in special interest money and PAC lobbyist dollars. Nuciforo would do what he did to the 2 women candidates he strong-armed out of the 2006 election when it came time for him to face re-election for U.S. Congress, which is to use his money and power to have non-competitive campaigns. That is what Nuciforo did, and that is what Nuciforo will do if he is given the chance. That is why We the People must speak out and organize against politicians like Nuciforo. I hope that Congressman Richard Neal reads my essays and blogs against Andrea Francesco Nuciforo Junior. I hope that Bill Shein and Richard Neal will continue to stand up to Luciforo when Nuciforo he hypocritically speaks out on issues.
- Jonathan Melle
"U.S. House candidate Bill Shein talks campaign finance, STOCK Act & job creation"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, February 4, 2012
Bill Shein, the self-proclaimed atypical Democratic candidate for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts, released statements this week highlighting his views on campaign finance, insider trading in Congress and job creation.
Shein, a political humorist and activist who recently announced his intention to take on Rep. Richard Neal and challenger Andrea Nuciforo Jr., took aim at Neal's fundraising numbers this week, following the release of data by the Federal Election Commission.
The data shows that Neal brought in a total of $705,419 in 2011, including $535,450 from political action committees, bringing his war chest to $2.4 million.
Shein, who is only accepting political donations of less than $100 from individuals, said that Neal's numbers depict the "status quo" in American politics.
"That money isn't always reflected in a voting record, which is just a record of what comes up for a vote," Shein said in a statement. "No, that money means legislation that’s never introduced or co-sponsored, speeches that aren’t given, urgent political reform that’s simply not championed. As I've said, it's the silent killer of real change."
Shein said he feels that the system is the problem, and he is touting change as the central part of his election platform.
"Our legislators shouldn’t be forced to spend so much time raising millions of dollars from people and institutions that, at the end of the day, don’t want things to really change," Shein said in a statement. "Today’s scheme of privately-funded elections forces decent people to participate in a blatantly corrupt and broken system. The goal of getting big money out of politics is simple: public policy ideas – whether right or left, from Republicans or Democrats, loony or sane – should sink or swim on the merits and the support of the people, not on how much money or lobbyist power is behind them."
Also on the topic of politician behavior, Shein said the STOCK Act banning insider trading in Congress is a great first step, but needs to go further to be truly effective. Neal signed on as a co-sponsor to the House version of the bill this week.
"The version passed by the Senate adds a few worthwhile additions, including requiring members of Congress to include mortgages in their financial disclosure reports and adding some Executive Branch employees to the act’s disclosure requirements, too," Shein said in a statement. "I favor requiring all members of Congress to, at minimum, transfer their securities holdings to a blind trust."
And on the topic of job creation, Shein says the monthly reports are big on numbers but leave out the context that defines whether a job is worthwhile or not.
"A monthly jobs number alone does not accurately measure what has been happening to working families – not just for years, but for decades," Shein said on his campaign website. "To build an economy that truly works for all of us, we need to invest in new and creative ways to keep jobs and wealth in our communities, with institutions and enterprises that are locally based. The long-term hollowing out of our economy by public policy that favors Wall Street and large corporations over Main Street and local business must be highlighted at every opportunity."
Andrea Nuciforo Jr., left, seen at an Easthampton Democratic Town Committee meeting, is challenging U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, right, seen campaigning at the Holyoke Elks Lodge, for the Democratic nomination for the new Massachusetts 1st Congressional District. The Republican | Michael Beswick (Nuciforo) and Michael Gordon (Neal)
"Incumbent Richard Neal, challenger Andrea Nuciforo campaign across new Massachusetts 1st Congressional District"
By Stephanie Barry, The Republican, February 05, 2012
With 30 campaign stops on one day and another 10 on another, Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal has been on a whirlwind tour to raise his profile in the new 1st Congressional District after it was remapped along with others throughout the state in November.
In addition to facing a campaign territory that has doubled in size to 82 communities, the entrenched lawmaker from Springfield is undoubtedly motivated by his first solid challenger from the left, former state senator and now Berkshire Middle District register of deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., of Pittsfield.
Both have been cris-crossing the district at coffee hours, chambers of commerce gatherings and Democratic committee meetings – with Neal’s goal to retain loyalists and capture new votes, and Nuciforo’s to sway loyalists as well as new voters in new territories.
The new 1st Congressional District encompasses all of Hampden and Berkshire counties, running from the New York border east to Bernardston along the Vermont border and southeast to include the Hampshire County communities of Easthampton and South Hadley, and farther south to include parts of southern Worcester County.
But, Neal hardly seemed a newcomer at a Jan. 14 meeting at a Ward 7 Democratic City Committee meeting in Holyoke, which was among the new communities folded into the 1st Congressional District.
The event featured influential fund-raiser types from that city as well as regional political heavies including longtime Hampden County sheriff Michael J. Ashe, who along with all the speakers, had warm words for Neal.
January 7, 2012 - Holyoke - Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon - Congressman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., left, and Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse at the Holyoke Elks Lodge. Neal began his outreach in Holyoke to constituents of the reformed congressional district and voters he hopes to represent after the November election.
“What a fit!” Ashe gushed, referring to the city prospectively falling under Neal’s wing should he win the November election. “It almost feels as though the stars are aligned, if you will,” the sheriff said.
Neal greeted the crowd with his intimate knowledge of top federal funding recipients in the city, including Holyoke Community College and the state-run Soldiers Home, and thanked the crowd for their unyielding loyalty.
“I intend to represent you vigorously over the next four years,” he said, drawing a round of applause.
Neal, however, was a bit coy about his ramped-up presence throughout the new district.
“It’s way too early for campaigning. I’ve just been visiting with new people,” Neal said, adding that the territory may be new, but the issues on the minds of voters are the same everywhere. “So, it’s not new to me.”
To Neal’s advantage, more than 63 percent of the 1st Congressional District’s voters are in Hampden County, with 18 percent in Berkshire County and the balance in Franklin, Hampshire and Worcester counties.
It is the first time in recent memory that one congressional district has encompassed all of Hampden County.
While the overhaul of district lines has prompted some incumbents to go scrambling to shake hands with unfamiliar prospective voters, political observers say it is less necessary for Neal, the darling of the political establishment in Greater Springfield based on his tenure on that City Council, as mayor and a popular 12th-term U.S. representative
Although less well-known, political observers say Nuciforo is no slouch. And, as a pro-choice candidate to Neal’s pro-life stance, he could appeal to more liberal Democrats in the Sept. 6 primary election, although heavily liberal Northampton and Amherst were cut out of the district in the remapping.
The 47-year-old Nuciforo bills himself as a progressive candidate, focusing on combating persistent unemployment and as offering voters a fresh alternative.
Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. speaks at an Easthampton Democratic Town Committee meeting. (The Republican | Michael Beswick)
“It’s not a good time for incumbents,” Nuciforo said during a stop at a Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce mixer at Tucker’s restaurant in Southwick, adding that he is mindful of Neal’s popularity in Greater Springfield and the challenge before him.
Nuciforo said he is not unaccustomed to attending events as the new kid in class, as it were, but has his share of political, professional and personal contacts. As if on cue, he stuck his hand out to a passerby.
“Hi, I’m Andy Nuciforo,” he told the woman.
“Of course, you are. I remember your father,” said Sandy Sorel, a local communications consultant and businesswoman, triggering a quick, easy chat about things in common and Nuciforo’s political intentions.
Nuciforo’s father also served in the state Senate from 1964 to 1973. The younger Nuciforo served from 1997 to 2007.
State Sen. Stephen M. Brewer, D-Barre, says Nuciforo is bright and was a passionate public servant and good debater while the two worked together in the state Legislature. But Brewer, a longtime Neal supporter, said Nuciforo may be no match for the incumbent.
“That is an arena that supports longevity. Richie has risen up in the power structure (on Capitol Hill) and is very grounded in the district, Brewer said. “Every cowboy can get thrown off his horse, but Richie’s a very, very solid legislator.”
Neal beat Republican challenger Thomas Wesley in 2010 by 12 percentage points, the incumbent’s most significant challenge in a relatively charmed political life.
Brewer added that some Democrats are miffed that Nuciforo announced his intentions to run against either Neal or U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, who last year announced his intentions to retire and smoothed the way for a less contentious redistricting.
This map released earlier this month shows a map by the Legislature's Redistricting Committee that redraws the the state's Congressional districts. Under this plan, Western Massachusetts will lose one of its districts. (Associated Press photo)
“For a Democrat to take on a good, loyal, effective Democratic incumbent ... that troubled some people,” Brewer said. “Massachusetts has lost a lot of powerful people in Congress over the years, and a freshman congressman can’t get a whole lot done.”
Nuciforo responded that intra-party challenges are just part of the American way.
“Given the disastrous results coming out of Washington these days, it is important that voters have a clear choice between two candidates. Incumbents and insiders will always want to choose the Democratic nominee. But I think that voters should make that choice,” he said.
Despite a campaign schedule that’s been humming seven days a week, according to Nuciforo, he is not scheduled to formally announce his candidacy until this Wednesday.
Meanwhile, every campaign stop will be groundbreaking for Bill Shein, a Berkshire County writer and activist who has never held office but announced his Democratic candidacy on Jan. 19 and pledged to visit every town and city in the district.
January 7, 2012 - Holyoke - Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon - Congressman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., second from left, greets Susan Feyre of Holyoke as he begins his outreach in Holyoke to constituents of the reformed congressional district and voters he hopes to represent after the November election. Democrats now represented in the first district by Congressman John Olver, D-Mass., gathered at the Holyoke Elks Lodge. Behind Neal from left: Ward 6 City Councilor Todd McGee, Terry Murphy and Jean Tillman, all of Holyoke.
January 7, 2012 - Holyoke - Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon - Congressman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., center, begins his outreach in Holyoke to constituents of the reformed congressional district and voters he hopes to represent after the November election. Democrats now represented in the first district by Congressman John Olver, D-Mass., gathered at the Holyoke Elks Lodge. Howie Greaney, left, and Ellen Greaney, seated, greet Neal. Behind Neal from left: Larry Lajoie, chair of the Holyoke Ward 7 Democratic Committee and State Rep. Michael F. Kane, D-Holyoke, Hampden Sheriff Michael J. Ashe and Larry Lajoie, chair of the Holyoke Ward 7 Democratic Committee.
January 7, 2012 - Holyoke - Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon - Congressman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass. begins his outreach in Holyoke to constituents of the reformed congressional district and voters he hopes to represent after the November election. Democrats now represented in the first district by Congressman John Olver, D-Mass., gathered at the Holyoke Elks Lodge. Behind Neal from left: Holyoke Mayor Alex B. Morse, State Rep. Michael F. Kane, D-Holyoke, Hampden Sheriff Michael J. Ashe and Larry Lajoie, chair of the Holyoke Ward 7 Democratic Committee.
January 7, 2012 - Holyoke - Staff photo by Michael S. Gordon - Congressman Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., left, shares a lighter moment with former Holyoke Mayor Michael J. Sullivan and his daughter, Kate Craven. Neal began his outreach in Holyoke Saturday to constituents of the reformed congressional district and voters he hopes to represent after the November election.
"Neal has big edge in funding"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, February 7, 2012
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal has $2.4 million on hand going into the 1st Massachusetts Congressional race, nearly all of it donated by special interest groups, according to recently released campaign finance data.
That’s almost 18 times more than Neal’s nearest opponent, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., has in the bank ahead of this September’s Democratic primary.
But Nuciforo, who had $136,000 of cash on hand as of Dec. 31, said he isn’t worried about the massive disparity; instead, he’s going to focus on new, cheaper avenues to reach potential voters.
"This is simply going to be the best social media campaign Western Massachusetts has ever seen," said Nuciforo. "It’s going to be the great equalizer in this race -- we’re going to communicate directly with voters."
Despite Nuciforo’s optimism, the year-end campaign finance report he filed with the Federal Election Commission paints a bleaker picture of his fundraising efforts. His campaign has raised less than $27,000 since state lawmakers unveiled the redrawn 1st Massachusetts district that thrust Nuciforo into a race with Neal, a Springfield-based Democrat who has served in the House since 1988.
Political observers have described the match-up as a "worst-case scenario" for Nuciforo, the Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds and former state senator from Pittsfield.
Nuciforo brushed off suggestions that the early figures might not bode well for his political future. "We’ve been focusing on lots of things, lots of new things, including actually talking to voters," he said, adding that his campaign is on track to meet its fundraising goal, which he declined to disclose.
Meanwhile, Nuciforo and fellow candidate Bill Shein, an Alford-based writer and activist affiliated with the Occupy movement, criticized Neal’s reliance on large donations and political action committees.
Shein pointed out that of the $700,000 raised by Neal in 2011, only a quarter of 1 percent, or $1,910, came from donors who donated $200 or less.
"You can’t really stand up to powerful, moneyed interests when you fund your campaign almost exclusively with their money," said Shein in a statement. By contrast, Shein said he is only accepting donations of $99 or less.
Although he entered the race after the most recent finance reporting period ended, Shein told The Eagle he’s raised about $10,000 since he announced his candidacy on Jan. 16. Shein, like Nuciforo, said he plans to focus on reaching out to voters through a grass-roots, social media-heavy campaign.
Shein criticized the focus on fundraising as an essential part of the political process. Like Nuciforo, he said he’s been busy talking to voters, not fundraising.
"I’m not trying to raise a whole bunch of money -- our elections are rapidly approaching a time when it’s ‘my millionaires versus your millionaires,’ " he said. "I want to spend my time talking to people, and not because I’m about to ask them to write me a big check."
Asked about Neal’s fundraising activities, a spokesman was unapologetic.
"There will be plenty of time for campaigning, but there are more important issues facing the region at the moment," said William Tranghese, Neal’s press secretary. "Congressman Neal welcomes the support of individuals and PACs, but he votes in the best interest of the people he represents."
A 2011 Associated Press review found that Neal raised a higher percentage of funds from the action committees than any other member of the Massachusetts House delegation. He raised $535,450 from PACs during the current election cycle, according to analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics.
That group found that Neal’s largest supporters were in the insurance and health fields, which donated more than $124,000 to his campaign.
"Congressional hopeful visits Easthampton, Holyoke today"
By Ben Storrow - Daily Hampshire Gazette - 02/08/2012
EASTHAMPTON - Andrea Nuciforo Jr. will officially launch his campaign for Congress today with a bus tour to five cities across the newly created 1st Congressional District.
The candidate will begin his day with a press conference in Holyoke before travel to Southbridge, Easthampton and Charlemont and concluding with an evening event in Pittsfield. The Easthampton event is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Sunrise Manor at 17 Paradise Drive.
The announcement confirms Nuciforo's long-standing intention to launch a congressional bid. A Pittsfield Democrat who represented Berkshire County in the state Senate for 11 years, Nuciforo announced his intention to run for Congress in 2009.
Nuciforo's Berkshire County base was located in a different district then, one represented by Amherst Congressman John Olver, who announced his intention to retire from Congress in 2012. Instead, the newly drawn district lines pit Nuciforo against 11-term U.S. Rep Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat and senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
"He's got a pretty steep hill to climb," said Timothy Vercellotti, director of Western New England University's polling institute.
In Neal, Nuciforo faces an established and well financed opponent, Vercellotti said. According to the Federal Elections Commission, Nuciforo raised $27,000 from October to December, ending the year with $136,607 in the bank. Neal raised $294,400 in the fourth quarter and ended the year with nearly $2.5 million in his campaign account, according to the FEC.
Nuciforo dismissed doubts he will mount an serious challenge to Neal.
"We're going to have the resources to be competitive," he said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
"The results coming out of Washington over the last 20 years have been less than satisfactory to most Americans," he said. "Certainly you can't change the games unless you change the players."
Vercellotti said Nuciforo's best hope is to play on voter disapproval with Congress. "My sense is there still is a residual frustration with incumbents," he said.
Nuciforo will also benefit from the recently created district, where Neal will be new to many voters, Vercellotti said.
Nuciforo's attempt to play to disaffected and new voters may be complicated by the candidacy of Alford writer Bill Schein, who has also announced a congressional bid in recent weeks, Vercellotti said.
The new 1st Congressional District, which will effectively come into being in 2013, includes all of Berkshire and Hampden counties, the southwestern portion of Worcester County, and the western halves of Franklin and Hampshire counties.
"Mass. Democrat launches campaign for US House"
By Associated Press - bostonherald.com - Local Politics - February 8, 2012
HOLYOKE — Former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo is officially launching his campaign in the reshaped 1st Massachusetts congressional district.
The Pittsfield Democrat plans a bus tour on Wednesday, beginning in Holyoke and ending in Pittsfield.
Nuciforo is expected to face an uphill fight as he tries to unseat 12-term Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.
Nuciforo lives in a district currently represented by retiring U.S. Rep. John Olver. The reshaped district includes portions of Neal’s current district but all of the Berkshires as well.
Federal Election Commission records show Neal had nearly $2.5 million in his campaign account at the end of 2011, while Nuciforo had about $137,000.
Nuciforo says he’s running because the country is headed in the wrong direction and politicians from both parties are to blame.
Holyoke- 2/8/12, - Staff Photo by John Suchocki - Family portrait with wife Elena, 1-year-old son Eric and former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr., who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the 1st Congressional district in Massachusetts.
Holyoke- 2/8/12, - Staff Photo by John Suchocki - Robert Bard of Dalton (left) and Christine Alger of Holyoke (right) make their points to the interested candidate Andrea Nuciforo Jr. and his not so interested son Eric Nuciforo, age 1, as the former state senator kicked off his campaign for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts.
Holyoke- 2/8/12, - Staff Photo by John Suchocki - Shown speaking with supporters from Pittsfield, former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. of kicked off his campaign in Holyoke Wednesday morning, as he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives newly formed 1st Congressional District.
Holyoke- 2/8/12, - Staff Photo by John Suchocki - Former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield kicked off his campaign in Holyoke Wednesday morning, as he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives newly formed 1st Congressional District.
Holyoke- 2/8/12, - Staff Photo by John Suchocki - Former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield kicked off his campaign in Holyoke Wednesday morning, as he is seeking the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives newly formed 1st Congressional District.
Holyoke- 2/8/12, - Staff Photo by John Suchocki - Former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield was at Square One in Holyoke as he kicked off his campaign for the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives newly formed 1st Congressional District.
Holyoke- 2/8/12, - Staff Photo by John Suchocki - During his campaign stop former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield was at Square One in Holyoke. Nuciforo is seeking the Democratic nomination for the US House of Representatives newly formed 1st Congressional District.
"U.S. Congressional hopeful Andrea Nuciforo kicks off campaign in Holyoke"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, February 08, 2012
HOLYOKE - Surrounded by friends, family and supporters, Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo Jr. officially kicked off his campaign Wednesday, as he seeks to become the U.S. Representative of the newly drawn 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts.
Nuciforo, a Democrat who served in the Massachusetts State Senate for nearly a decade, is facing in-party competition from incumbent Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and activist Bill Shein of Alford. The Pittsfield native said what sets him apart from the other candidates will be evident on the campaign trail.
"There are 86 cities and towns in this new district and as I travel through each of them and talk to the people, those conversations will help shape my agenda when I get to Washington," Nuciforo said during a press conference at Holyoke's Mill 1 hall in the Open Square complex. "The status quo in Washington is so committed to winning political games that they are incapable of coming together to address even the most basic challenges facing our country.
"The insiders in Washington have been unable to solve the pressing problems that face the American people," he said. "Whether it's jobs, the cost of college and healthcare, or how to protect consumers from the tactics of mortgage companies, credit card companies and other Wall Street forces, many people in Washington have just not come through."
Billing himself as an outsider to national politics, Nuciforo said his decade of experience as a state senator, where he served as chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services and the Joint Committee on Banks & Banking, will differentiate him from many others serving in Congress.
"What I learned is that consumers need an advocate when going up against banks and mortgage lenders because they are at a profound disadvantage," Nuciforo said. "There has been a systematic deregulation that led to the collapse of the financial markets and along the way, no one understood the effect that would have on ordinary families. I understand that and I want to go to Washington to help fix it."
Nuciforo, who vowed to work against any attempts to defund or privatize social security, Medicare, Medicaid of the office of Veterans Affairs, said that the politicians in Congress sat idly by while the financial collapse claimed victims across the board. Nuciforo said that if elected, he would work to change the culture of "complacency" in the nation's capital.
"In 2008, forces in Washington and on Wall Street drove the economy into a ditch. Millions of Americans lost their jobs and many lost health insurance. Americans watched as their retirement accounts shrunk and home values plunged. Our nation lost 20 percent of its net worth in the course of one year. Jobs in high-tech and manufacturing either went out of business or went overseas," Nuciforo said. "These things didn't need to happen. They resulted from the specific policy choices that were made in Washington over the last 20 years. We need to understand what caused this economic collapse- the culture of deregulation on Wall Street, the influence of big money in politics, the culture of looking the other way- and take specific steps to reverse these trends."
Nuciforo spent the remainder of the day Wednesday on a bus tour that stopped in Southbridge, Easthampton, Charlemont and ended in his hometown of Pittsfield, a path that includes towns new to the district that Neal has also visited recently.
According to Federal Election Commission data, of Dec. 31, Nuciforo had $136,607 to spend on his campaign, considerably less than Neal, who reported a $2.45 million war chest. But when asked if he had enough money to finance a campaign against Neal, Nuciforo said he wasn't worried.
"Money always plays an important part in politics, sadly," he said, "but we will have what we need to get out and reach the people."
"Congressional candidate Andrea Nuciforo posts year-end campaign finance data"
By Greg Saulmon, The Republican, February 08, 2012
The Pittsfield democrat challenging U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal in the newly drawn Massachusetts first congressional district began the election year with a cash-on-hand total representing just a fraction of the incumbent's war chest, recently released data from the Federal Election Commission show.
Andrea Nuciforo had $136,607 on hand as of Dec. 31, 2011, a figure amounting to 5.6% of Neal's reported $2.45 million.
A review of Federal Election Comission data shows that, in the fourth quarter of 2011, Nuciforo's campaign recorded:
•$20,475 in itemized individual contributions
•$45,194 in operating expenses
•$5 in a single loan from the candidate to his campaign committee
•$37 in "other receipts," a category that includes bank interest.
Nuciforo, a former state senator who served from 1997-2007, originally announced his plans for the 2012 race in 2009. At that time, congressman John W. Olver of Amherst held the Massachusetts district 1 seat. Following the 2011 redistricting process, though, Nuciforo found himself instead in a match-up with congressman Neal. Great Barrington writer and activist Bill Shein has also thrown his hat into the ring for the contest; his first campaign finance report, which has yet to be filed, will cover the first quarter of 2012.
Nuciforo officially kicked off his campaign today in Holyoke.
As Nuciforo ramped up his 2012 bid during the 2009-2010 election cycle, his fundraising efforts left him with $100,871 at the beginning of 2011. His campaign went on to record $128,328 in receipts and $92,592 in expenditures in 2011.
The majority of the Nuciforo campaigns receipts in 2011 came from individual contributions, supplemented by $30,005 in loans from the candidate. About three-quarters of Nuciforo's individual contributions fell into the "itemized" category, meaning that the contributor has given $200 or more during this cycle.
PACs have played a small role in Nuciforo's fundraising efforts -- FEC records show only $500 raised in the category of "Non-Party (e.g. PACs) or Other Committees", and that money came in during the 2009-2010 election cycle.
Andrea F. Nuciforo announces he is running for the 1st Congressional District on Wednesday at the former Mazzeo’s Ristorante in Pittsfield. ‘We need a fresh set of eyes to look at these problems differently,’ Nuciforo told a crowd after a bus tour of the district. (Caroline Bonnivier Snyder / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"Nuciforo officially kicks off campaign for Congress"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, February 9, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- In what he described as the formal kickoff of his campaign for Congress, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. told voters across Western Massachusetts on Wednesday that they have a clear choice in the coming Democratic Primary.
"We can stick with the same old methods that got us where we are today or we can stand up and fight to restore the American middle class again," Nuciforo said.
The candidate drove a bus full of supporters through five 1st Congressional District cities and towns in preparation for his primary challenge to incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield.
Nuciforo was spreading an unambiguous message: Washington insiders like Neal need to go.
"We need a fresh set of eyes to look at these problems differently," said Nuciforo to a crowd of about 50 at the bus tour's terminus, the former Mazzeo's Ristorante on Winter Street in Pittsfield. "We can't trust the same people who got us into this mess to somehow get us out of it. We need a clean break from the past."
Although he first announced he would make a run for Congress more than two years ago, Nuciforo described the cross-district tour as the "official start" of his campaign.
"We have new districts, we have folks who have declared themselves as candidates in this newly drawn district -- I thought this was the right approach and the right time for us to go out and formally introduce ourselves to voters and let them know we're on the ballot," Nuciforo said.
The Democratic Primary is scheduled for Sept. 6. Nuciforo faces a tough fight against Neal, a well-funded and well-liked representative who has served in the U.S. House since 1988.
As part of a redistricting agreement approved by the state Legislature last fall, Berkshire County and Neal's territory will be merged into the 1st District beginning in 2013.
Wednesday wasn't the first time Nuciforo has taken aim at Neal, who has rejected Nuciforo's efforts to frame him as an insider weighed down by corporate interests. Neal says he welcomes support from all comers but always votes in the best interest of those he represents.
Also running in the Democratic primary is Bill Shein, an Alford-based writer and an activist affiliated with the Occupy movement. Shein has said he is rejecting money from corporations and is only accepting campaign donations totaling $99 or less.
Nomination papers for the race first became available Monday. To make the ballot, candidates needed to collect 2,000 signatures.
At Mazzeo's, Nuciforo's campaign aids began the process of collecting signatures from supporters in attendance.
Harvey Hunjan, a Pittsfield resident who woke up at 7:30 a.m. to join Nuciforo on his bus tour, said he believed in the candidate's platform.
"It's important -- he's a young man and he's got young ideas and he's looking forward to a better life in the United States," Hunjan said.
To reach Ned Oliver: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6240. On Twitter: @BE_NedOliver
Touring the 1st District
Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. brought a bus load of supporters to the following 1st District cities and towns to formally kick off his campaign:
"Nuciforo Bus Tour Kicks Off Campaign"
By Joe Durwin - iBerkshires.com - February 09, 2012
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Former state senator and U.S. House hopeful Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. at long last "formally" declared his candidacy for the 1st Massachusetts District in a five-stop, nearly 12-hour tour that began in Holyoke on Wednesday morning.
The candidate's excursion ended in his hometown of Pittsfield with the bus rolling up to Mazzeo's North just before 6:30, where a crowd of about a 100 people gathered to hear what he had to say.
In his address there, Nuciforo appealled to supporters as the candidate of "middle and working class people," in a speech centered around popular national themes of economic strife and general disatisfactions with Congress.
"The economy has been rigged against ordinary people ... Washington politicians of both parties have allowed a few individuals and corporations to increase their wealth and political power at the expense of everyone else."
"We need a break from the past, and a new set of eyes to look at things differently."
Nuciforo, currently Middle Berkshire register of deeds, listed key elderly issues as one of his top priorities, and pledged support to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Veterans Administration.
"I will fight any effort to defund or privatize or blow up or compromise any of these important programs," said the aspiring congressman, who has drawn fire in the past for the level of funding received from insurance companies and a perceived pro-insurance stance in past legislative issues.
Secondly he called for a closer examination of the 2008 economic collapse.
"We need accountability for those, both in Washington and on Wall Street, that drove this economy into a ditch in 2008. We need to understand what happened: the deregulation of the financial market, the big influence of big money on Washington. We need to understand precisely what happened and who made that happen."
Corporate money and anti-incumbent sentiments have been a major theme for both of the Berkshire-based Democratic contenders for the redrawn 1st Massachusetts District, in a race that will pit them against 10-term U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield, whose popular base and funding currently far exceeds that of the other candidates.
Bill Shein, who announced in mid-January he will also seek the congressional seat, questioned the former state senator's credibility as the best voice for these issues.
"We're not going to make real progress on jobs, economic fairness, or any other pressing issue by replacing one typical politician with another typical politician," he said.
Shein said in a statement that he has been consistently advocating for years the kind of political change that Nuciforo has invoked in his opening campaign speeches.
"As a candidate for Congress I continue to say precisely the same things and promote the same ideas I always have. I didn't craft a new message or political persona to fit the public mood. Because that’s old way of politics, and we need a new way."
Several proponents of Richard Neal in attendance at Wednesday's Nuciforo campaign rally expressed similar sentiments to iBerkshires, saying that while they thought that both of the Berkshire challengers have raised points they agree with, Neal offers the kind of experience in national and international matters and political ability that will be needed if real legislative change is to move forward.
Neal supporters pointed to various organizations' rating systems to suggest that Neal is among the more "progressive" of the current crop of incumbent legislators. Various groups and scaling systems have rated Neal as anywhere from 47 percent to 95 percent.
The Democratic nominee will be decided in a Sept. 6 party primary held on the unusual day of Thursday.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal, left, gets a tour of the Gordon Mansfield Community Housing units Friday from resident and board member George Salvia during Neal’s visit to Soldier On in Pittsfield. (Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"Neal visits Berkshires, says he can help economy"
By Amanda Korman, Berkshire Eagle Staff, February 11, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Visiting various Pittsfield entities on Friday, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal indicated that he was pivotally situated to help Berkshire County advance its arts, manufacturing, human and financial services sectors.
Refusing to call his trip to Pittsfield a campaign stop for the new 1st Congressional District, the Springfield Democrat nonetheless touted his position on an influential congressional committee as a means to advance the local economy.
Neal’s nearest opponent for the seat created by redistricting, Middle Berkshire District Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., has taken swipes at the 12-term congressman for being a Washington insider.
But on Friday Neal shrugged off the jibe.
"It’s beyond me why anybody would want to give up a Ways and Means Committee [seat]," said Neal, referring to the powerful congressional panel he sits on that has wide jurisdiction over taxes, trade, Social Security and Medicare. Neal is widely considered a contender for committee chair.
The Berkshires has long been accustomed to having its representative hold important congressional positions, Neal added. U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, who currently represents the county and is not running for re-election, sits on the prominent Committee on Appropriations, as did his predecessor, the late Pittsfield Republican, Silvio O. Conte.
This fall, Nuciforo and writer Bill Shein of Alford are both challenging Neal for the seat in the newly reconfigured district, which will go into effect in 2013. Neal has raised about $2.4 million for the race, while Nuciforo has tallied only about $136,000. Shein, an organizer for the Occupy Berkshires movement, has promised to run a campaign based on only on donations under $100.
On Friday, Neal toured two city manufacturers, Interprint and Pittsfield Plastics, before visiting the Berkshire Life Insurance Co., the Barrington Stage Company, the Soldier On veterans home and Nuclea Biotechnologies.
"I have influence on just about all of them," he said.
Neal calls his recent trips to the Berkshires a "listening tour." At Soldier On, he walked through the condominium complex of formerly homeless veterans on West Housatonic Street, and heard from some of the residents, each of whom has his own story of struggle and recovery. Many of the vets went from sleeping under a bridge to owning their own units, officials said.
Addressing the issue of veterans broadly, Neal spoke to Soldier On leaders about the burgeoning demand on services as soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan return home.
"With a million new veterans coming back, veterans services are going to be stretched for years to come," he said.
The incumbent already has some friends among veterans. Soldier On resident Edward Watkins, who knows Neal from his days living in Springfield, said that after he had a heart attack, the congressman once helped him straighten out an issue he had with his Social Security.
"He’s willing to go out on a limb and help everybody out," Watkins said, adding that Neal was also "pleasant to talk to."
Outgoing Rep. John Olver, left, endorses Rep. Richard Neal at Zucchini’s restaurant in Pittsfield on Monday. Olver pointed to Neal’s clout as a well-placed veteran in Congress in explaining his decision. Neal has been in Congress since 1988. ( Stephanie Zollshan / Berkshire Eagle Staff)
"Olver endorses Neal"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, February 14, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Touting U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s clout in Washington, outgoing 1st Congressional District Rep. John Olver on Monday officially endorsed the well-placed veteran congressman in the upcoming Democratic primary.
"This is a guy that has enormous influence to help this area out," said Olver, who has represented the Berkshires since former Rep. Silvio O. Conte died in 1991.
He added: "One of the most important things I can do is make certain that there’s a smooth transition ... so that my district continues to be served by somebody who is prominent in Congress."
Olver’s backing of Neal doesn’t come as a surprise. Olver has long been a supporter of the Springfield Democrat, who has served in the House since 1988 and has served on the powerful Ways and Means Committee for two decades.
Olver said that committee assignment will allow Neal to continue pursuing the kinds of economic development projects Olver has championed across his district.
"He, as I have done during my years serving these areas, is going to be in a position to help with moneys ... for economic development, for infrastructure, for water and sewer issues, for transportation and for energy kinds of issues ... all of those center in the ways and means committee," said Olver.
In the Sept. 6 primary, Neal faces former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and Alford-based writer Bill Shein.
As part of a redistricting agreement approved by the state Legislature last fall, Berkshire County and Neal’s Springfield-centric territory will be merged into the 1st District beginning with the current election cycle.
Both Shein and Nuciforo said in separate statements that they disagreed with Olver’s assertion that the district is best left in the hands of an experienced incumbent.
Nuciforo wished Olver a "wonderful and healthy retirement," but dismissed any notion that the announcement was significant.
"This is a new district and the only [choices] that matter are the ones made in September," said Nuciforo’s spokesman.
Meanwhile, Shein challenged Neal’s liberal credentials.
"I strongly but politely disagree with Congressman John Olver ... when he suggests that Richard Neal is a good fit for the new 1st District," said Shein.
Shein said Neal doesn’t share the passion for progressive causes with Olver, who has consistently been ranked among the most liberal members of Congress. Neal, on the other hand, maintains a generally liberal voting record, but not always to the extent of his colleagues on the Massachusetts delegation.
Neal rejected efforts to frame him as somehow "less liberal" than Olver.
"On the traditional issues that unite us as a party, there wouldn’t even be air between the two of us on those issues," said Neal.
"He’s a little more conservative on some social issues ... the differences are quite small," said Olver. "On the economic issues -- how to get government going, how to get jobs back -- there’s no difference."
"Congressman Richard Neal, challenger Andrea Nuciforo spar over PAC money, job performance"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, February 14, 2012
One day after receiving a nod of support from retiring U.S. Rep John Olver, D-Amherst, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, was targeted by Pittsfield register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo Jr. over where his campaign money comes from.
Nuciforo, along with Neal and Berkshire County political satirist / activist Bill Shein, are working to earn the Democratic nomination to run for the newly-drawn First Congressional District in Massachusetts, which includes all of Berkshire County, most of Hampden County and parts of Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties.
Olver, who has represented the current first district since 1991, announced last fall that he would not seek reelection, setting the stage for this election cycle where there are three Democrats vying for the position but a Republican challenger is yet to step forward.
In a statement, Nuciforo, who served as a state senator for a decade, characterized Neal as a friend to Wall Street, citing political contributions he's received over the years from big banks, insurance companies and lobbyists.
Data from the Federal Election Commission states that Neal, who ended 2011 with a total of $2.4 million cash-on-hand, received $535,450 from "other committees," which includes political action committees or PACs as they are known.
A July 2011 article about campaign finance disclosures revealed that Neal's percentage of PAC contributions was higher than any of the other member of the Massachusetts House delegation.
In response to the article, William Tranghese, a spokesperson for Neal, told the AP that PAC contributions have no effect on how Neal votes in Congress, a statement which Shein and Nuciforo have contested.
FEC data shows that Nuciforo ended 2011 with $136,607 cash-on-hand, with only $500 of that coming from a category which includes PACs.
Nuciforo, however, has received a considerable amount of money from PACs and Wall Street businesses, but it was during his time in the state senate.
The nonpartisan National Institute on Money in State Politics reports that when Nuciforo was a state senator in 2004, the top contributors to his campaign were lawyers and lobbyists, commercial banks, real estate firms and insurance companies.
Shein, who is only accepting donations from individuals of less than $100, wasn't officially in the election in time for the FEC to compile a report on his campaign financing.
Nuciforo, who formally entered the race in 2009 before the new district was created, also took issue with Neal saying that the new district was easy to travel, indicating he would be visible throughout it in the coming months.
"This is a race about accountability, not visibility. I represented 48 of these cities and towns throughout my ten years in the Senate, so I understand the problems of job loss, economic downturn, and consumer protection are not addressed, and certainly not solved by just being visible," Nuciforo said. "The district lines were redrawn to reflect changes in our area's population, not for Congressman Neal's convenience... He simply cannot write-off the added responsibility of representing the residents of western Massachusetts."
Tranghese dismissed Nuciforo's statement as "political rhetoric," going on to say that the Congressman is busy working for his constituents every day.
"Congressman Neal is not focused on politics, he is concentrating on the doing the job the people of western Massachusetts elected him to do. He is helping to bring new jobs to the region, including the 200 he announced last week with officials at Smith & Wesson," Tranghese said. "He is working hard to prevent any proposed cuts at Westover and Barnes, expressing his concerns directly to the Secretary of the Air Force. And this week he will vote to extend the payroll tax cut, bringing much needed tax relief to thousands of families in the region."
"Democrats aim for seat in Congress"
By Alan Chartock, Special to The Berkshire Eagle, February 25, 2012
GREAT BARRINGTON, Massachusetts
The Democratic First Congressional District primary race is heating up. It's a "no brainer." Richie Neal, the popular, brilliant and powerful Congressman, will win.
Neal is an extraordinary man by any standards. There is a very good possibility that if the Democrats take back the House of Representatives in this presidential election year, Neal will become the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, one of the most powerful in the Congress.
So, when it comes time to bring home the bacon (or pork) for the district, Richie, as everyone calls him, will be in a great position. If you think he will ignore this part of the district, think again. Neal is a very bright politician. He knows that he has to earn the respect of his new constituents, just as he has done with the easterners in his district. He will come around to the degree that people will say, "Here comes Richie again."
I can tell you this about the man: He is a natural teacher. He can take complex subjects and make them accessible to all of us. In the likely event that Barack Obama wins re-election, Neal will be the one who revises our outrageous tax code into a fairer, simpler system that people will believe in and that will make those who earn the most pony up. He has received the glowing endorsement of retiring Congressman John W. Olver, who some consider the most liberal member of Congress. That should certainly put to rest the undercurrent of criticism that Neal isn't progressive enough.
Speaking of Olver, we expect he's fit to be tied with Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., who did his best to shove Olver aside. Just try to put yourself in Olver's place. How would you feel? This gets to character. Clearly, the popular Olver has major problems with Nuciforo and has made it quite plain that Neal has it head and shoulders over his opponent.
Hey, I know Nuciforo and have always liked him, but his insistence on staying in this race defies logic. For some strange reason, Nuciforo really believes he can win. His reasoning goes like this: while there are fewer residents in Berkshire County than in the Springfield area, the Berkshire people vote at a higher rate than the Springfield group. He assumes, of course, that he'll get all the Berkshire votes. Of course that's ludicrous, especially with Olver's backing of Neal.
Those of us who vote in Berkshire County don't vote on the basis of where someone lives. We are not clans. The rumblings I've heard among politically active folks indicate that they are going to support Neal. I saw the always perceptive Kate Maguire invite Neal to address the folks at the Colonial Theatre one night before a performance of "A Christmas Carol." Neal got quite an ovation, and the Colonial is in Pittsfield, not Springfield, if you follow my drift.
As if Nuciforo didn't have enough trouble, a progressive-type candidate named Bill Shein decided to enter the race. While Shein is not well known, I am pretty sure that whatever votes he does get will come out of Nuciforo's Berkshire County pot. I doubt Nuciforo is very happy about that. Shein has nothing to lose. Maybe he will build his name recognition for a future run for something. One has to wonder whether Nuciforo hasn't asked Shein to step out of the race. The little I know about Shein tells me he won't.
I end as I started. It's a no brainer. Richie Neal will win big, and frankly, he deserves to. He's earned his seat in Congress, and he is our best bet.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany.
Representative Richard E. Neal looks at some promotional posters for his campaign printed by Excelsior Printing Friday. From left are Neal, Excelsior Chairman David Crane and State Representative Gailanne Cariddi. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)
"Congressman/candidate visits, champions progressive ideals"
By Phil Demers, North Adams Transcript, March 10, 2012
NORTH ADAMS -- U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal paid a short-notice visit to Northern Berkshire Friday, where residents interacted with the Congressman and local officials shared plans for growth in the area.
Throughout the day, Neal hit upon issues both local and national, describing to listeners the tenets of a political ideology which, according to the Congressman, "makes sense" and is based on "what policies improve the quality of life for the highest number of people."
He championed Medicare and Medicaid, spoke of the need for continued investment in education and for tax policy reforms, and assured listeners that "the economy is slowly getting better, and confidence is growing."
He also touched upon topics specific to the area.
"Like many, I've been impressed by the beauty of the Berkshires, and I think it's a smart investment to use it as a vehicle for economic growth," Neal said. "The two are compatible, along with the important role of education at schools like MCLA and Berkshire Community College, and the zealous support of the local hospital system."
Neal's tour began in Adams, where he walked Park Street with Town Administrator Jonathan Butler. He later visited the Free Library, the Red Carpet, the Registry of Deeds and several local businesses.
"We took advantage of the opportunity to speak with the Congressman about the most important economic step for the future of Adams, the Glen Project," Butler said. Butler also told Neal that federal and state aid were "helpful if not critical" for the future life of such projects.
"It's clear that he can see the value of these projects out here, so he definitely gave the impression that he'd like to be as helpful as he can," Butler said. "He spoke with myself and a number of department heads, and seemed very sincere in his comments."
In North Adams, Neal enjoyed stops at North Adams Regional Hospital -- calling the facility a "real gem" and a "good employer" -- North Adams Council on Aging, Heritage State Park, and Excelsior Printing on Roberts Drive.
A room full of seniors at the Mary Spitzer Center appreciated Neal's strong defense of Medicare, and dismissal of the "wealthy groups who would like to privately invest the social security trust fund."
Neal toured the printing operation at Excelsior, and stayed for a subsequent meeting with local Democratic activists, including state Rep. Gailanne Carridi and several Excelsior employees. At the meeting, Neal said he would be steady in his support of tax reform, with hopes to continue distancing the national policy from a culture where "risk became socialized and gain became privatized."
Regarding renewable energy, Neal said he is encouraged by solar and wind projects proposed in both Adams and North Adams.
"We have to build infrastructure that will allow for a period of transition to get us weaned from foreign oil," Neal said. "I think most people understand that sending young men to the Middle East is not sound policy."
First Congressional District Rep. John Olver recently endorsed Neal in the upcoming Democratic primary, stating his desire for a "smooth transition" to a new representative capable of serving the area with comparable dedication. Neal's opponent in the election is Andrea Nucifero, a former state senator.
To reach Phil Demers, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
"Nuciforo faces rough road for Congress seat"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, March 11, 2012
Since he left the state Senate in 2007, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. has gone from quintessential Statehouse insider to the fringes of Berkshire County politics.
One of three Democratic contenders in the coming primary for U.S. representative in Massachusetts' 1st District, Nuciforo began his campaign nearly three years ago touting a long list of high-profile supporters. But since then, those backers have quietly defected, and his campaign has struggled to energize supporters and raise cash.
"My opinion is that he's burned every bridge out there and he's lost credibility with the groups he should have credibility with," said John Barrett III, who served as mayor of North Adams for 26 years. "He wasn't a polarizing figure until he got blinded by his ambition, and I think that's what a lot of people are seeing."
Nuciforo, now the Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds, denies the characterization, which he brushed off as "low-brow innuendo." Still, he said, such criticism comes as no surprise: He acknowledges he's long been at odds with what he described as a "small collection of detractors."
As a state senator, Nuciforo was well liked, but the path he's taken since his departure from the Statehouse has raised eyebrows. Now he's far behind his incumbent opponent, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, in fundraising. Meanwhile, Bill Shein -- a far-left political newcomer affiliated with the Occupy Movement -- has complicated Nuciforo's attempts to capitalize on any anti-incumbent sentiments in the U.S. House race.
Nuciforo entered the state Senate in 1997. Late in his 10-year tenure he chaired the committee on financial services, when it was in the process of overhauling the state's heavily regulated insurance industry. At the same time, some of his biggest backers were insurance industry insiders.
His top donors in his last full year as a senator were executives from Webster-based Commerce Insurance Co. Nuciforo also raised significant funds that year from employees of Liberty Mutual, Nation One Mortgage and Arbella Insurance group.
But observers say he alienated his big-business backers -- including local bankers -- when he solicited donations from them just months before he announced he didn't actually plan to run for state Senate again.
Nuciforo said his allegiances have always been to voters -- not donors -- but the move has made it difficult for him to raise money this time around.
"The banking community felt used," Barrett said. "You contribute because you hope he'll protect your interest, and then, boom, he's not there to protect your interest."
Nuciforo further strained relations with his local base when he announced his plans to run for register of deeds in 2006, essentially strong-arming out of the race two well-liked candidates: then-First Assistant Register [Sharon Henault] and former Pittsfield Mayor Sara Hathaway. The latter served as Nuciforo's chief of staff in the Senate.
Some were worried that Nuciforo just viewed the post as a stepping stone, and indeed, two weeks after he was sworn in, The Boston Globe reported that Nuciforo was seeking an appointment as Gov. Deval Patrick's commissioner of insurance.
The Globe reported that "Nuciforo's campaign to become insurance commissioner has confounded many of his former colleagues in the Statehouse and stirred the political world in Pittsfield."
Nuciforo said he wasn't "campaigning" for the job and instead was approached by the Patrick administration.
"This has been characterized in a million different ways ... If the governor's office was going to express interest in me, I was willing to talk," he said.
The appointment never came, but the appearance that he pursued it left a bad taste.
"I think if he were leaving the Senate to run for Congress, he might have a better image than he does now leaving what was basically an interim post," said Mary O'Brien, who preceded Nuciforo as the register of deeds and serves on the Democratic State Committee. "People talk. They thought he sort of pushed aside the two women contemplating a run. People form their opinions from experience."
Mary O'Brien said she supported Nuciforo when he ran for the Senate. Although she described him as a responsive representative, she's supporting Neal this time around.
"I thought [Nuciforo] did a good job representing the district," she said. "He's a bright, personable guy but then he left to run for the register of deeds post."
Perhaps Nuciforo's biggest political faux pas, however, came when he first announced plans to run for Congress in July of 2009. As he made the announcement, he implied that current 1st District Rep. John Olver intended to retire.
Olver had no such plans at the time. Moreover, according to a source close to Olver, when it came to private conversations with potential donors, Nuciforo did more than just imply that Olver wouldn't run.
"He was telling everybody that Olver's out," said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "Then those same people got calls from [Olver's camp] asking, ‘What are you doing helping Andy out?' They were caught completely off guard."
Asked about the incident by The Eagle, Olver called it "unfortunate" but declined to elaborate.
When it became clear that Olver had no plans to immediately step down, prominent local Democrats urged Nuciforo not to run, including in a 2010 letter to Nuciforo signed by Berkshire County Democratic leaders Sherwood Guernsey and Lee Harrison.
Nuciforo still didn't back down.
"I could not understand why Andy chose to run against John," O'Brien said. "I think he jumped the gun, and I see no reason to support him over an experienced incumbent [Neal]."
Last October, Olver ultimately did announce his retirement, after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. He publicly endorsed Neal last month at an event in Pittsfield.
(Neal represents Massachusetts' 2nd Congressional District. Because of redistricting, his area will merge with Olver's.)
The gathering, organized by Neal's office, drew a cadre of high-profile Berkshire County politicians, including state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, Sheriff Thomas Bowler, Pittsfield Mayor Daniel Bianchi, and several current members of the Pittsfield City Council.
The guest list was reminiscent of Nuciforo's first big congressional fundraiser in 2009, which included Downing, District Attorney David Capeless, then-Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen Massimiano, and then-Pittsfield Mayor James Ruberto.
It is unclear, however, if any of those named at the time by Nuciforo as guests were actually supporters. Some -- who declined to be named publicly -- have since said they weren't informed in advance that it was a fundraiser to launch Nuciforo's bid against Olver.
Those same people said that, had they known, they wouldn't have attended. Nuciforo declined to comment about the suggestion that he tricked people into attending his fundraiser.
In either case, those marquee names have been conspicuously absent from recent events staged by Nuciforo, and his campaign kick-off party in Pittsfield a month ago drew about 50 people, a shockingly low number, according to some observers.
Nuciforo said he's no longer focused on winning the support of the county's prominent Democrats for the September primary, although he plans to announce several important endorsements in the near future.
"We're running a campaign geared directly to voters," he said. "All candidates will have endorsements by the end of this election cycle, but the endorsement that's most important is the one from voters on Election Day."
Still, longtime local Democrats such as Ruberto say Nuciforo will have a difficult time proving to voters that he's a better candidate than Neal.
"Gee whiz, it is tough to do what he is trying to do," Ruberto said. "In the short term, Neal has all the horsepower to do what Berkshire County needs to get done -- that is to have a congressman who has the position and ranking to try to funnel as much money as can be funneled into the area to help spur our local economy."
By most accounts, Nuciforo is having a tough time.
Neal has almost 18 times more cash on hand than Nuciforo. That's $2.4 million, compared with Nuciforo's $136,000. And between last fall -- when congressional districts were redrawn nationwide to account for population shifts -- and Dec. 31, the end of the latest finance reporting period, Nuciforo had raised less than $27,000.
Nuciforo since has adopted a populist tone in his campaigning, repeatedly criticizing Neal for relying on donations from big businesses.
Neal, meanwhile, has rejected Nuciforo's efforts to frame him as an insider weighed down by corporate interests. He says he welcomes support from all comers but always votes in the best interest of those he represents.
Shein, who decided to enter the race late last year, has espoused rhetoric similar to Nuciforo's -- but to a greater extreme. If Nuciforo is anti-big money, Shein is super anti-big money. Capitalizing on the Occupy Movement, the political newcomer is only accepting donations of $99 or less and said he isn't taking any money from corporations.
With the baggage that comes from being a longtime politician, Nuciforo's anti-Washington, anti-corporate money rhetoric can come across as less than genuine with Shein in the race.
"If it were a two-person race -- Nuciforo and Neal -- Nuciforo's arguments about being an outsider would have more resonance," said Tim Vercellotti, an associate professor of political science at Western New England University and director of the Polling Institute there. "Shein pretty effectively says that both of these guys are part of the problem, both in terms of the money they accept for their campaign, and in terms being career politicians."
That's not to say Vercellotti doesn't see the logic behind Nuciforo's decision to enter the race. He says the retooled congressional district provides Nuciforo with the best opening he'll have for years.
"It's a new district, one in which Neal has to introduce himself to a lot of communities where Nuciforo is well known," Vercellotti said. "If you're going to take a shot, this is the time to do it."
To reach Ned Oliver: email@example.com, or (413) 496-6240. On Twitter: @BE_NedOliver
U.S. House race
What: Democratic Primary scheduled for Sept. 6 in the newly configured 1st Congressional District.
Who: Three have entered the race so far:
* Andrea Nuciforo: A former state senator from Pittsfield. He stepped down in 2007 to run for Middle Berkshire Regis ter of Deeds, a position he has held since. Nuciforo first announced plans to run for Congress in July 2009 and officially started his campaign last month.
* Richard Neal: A Springfield Democrat, he has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 1989. Under a redistricting plan passed by the state Legislature, his district will merge with the Berkshires after the November election. The former mayor of Springfield, Neal is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures.
* Bill Shein: An Alford-based writer and freelance IT consultant, Shein is a political newcomer affiliated with the local Occupy Movement. In the early ‘90s he worked for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and later left to write for Comedy Central's ‘InDecision ‘92' coverage of the presidential campaign. Since moving to the Berkshires, he's written columns for various media outlets, including The Eagle.
"Nuciforo says spending aboveboard"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, March 11, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Andrea Nuciforo began his campaign for Congress nearly three years ago, and since then, he has been an outspoken critic of the role of big business in politics.
Nuciforo, however, is no stranger to big money.
In the state Senate, his biggest supporters were insurance companies and banks, and when he left his Senate seat in 2007, he had $170,000 in his state campaign account -- a large amount by Berkshire County standards.
Complicating Nuciforo’s efforts to frame himself as a political outsider above the influence of major donors is the fact that he’s spent $52,000 from that state account since he first announced his plans to run for Congress in 2009.
But Nuciforo’s use of the funds may do more than present a case of apparent hyp ocrisy: Federal campaign fi nance regulations prohibit candidates from applying funds raised for state races to federal contests.
Nuciforo, who said in July 2009 that he planned to leave his post as Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds to run for Congress, insists that all of his campaign spending has been aboveboard.
He recently told The Eagle that the expenditures from his state account -- for political consultants, office space and phones, according to campaign reports he filed with the state -- were necessary in case un favorable conditions squashed his federal ambitions and he needed to make a last-ditch run to keep his current job as register of deeds.
The list of expenses he’s billed to his state account, however, goes far beyond what is typical of other registers of deeds in the region, including those who have been actively planning to run for re-election.
Nuciforo’s own accounting indicates he has spent $24,000 from his state account on political consultants since July 2009, an expense that began two months before Nuciforo an nounced his congressional plans.
Likewise, the month before that, Nuciforo began renting a campaign office using his state account. He also paid a monthly phone bill, connected to high-speed Internet and bought office supplies -- all ex penses that no other registers of deeds in the state accrued.
In perhaps the most overtly political move, Nuciforo’s most recent state report shows he spent $75 in January to attend the inaugural ball for the new mayor of Holyoke, a city far from the Middle Berkshire Register of Deed’s territory, but one crucial to a would-be congressman eager to build name recognition in an unfamiliar part of his district.
Nuciforo left the Statehouse five years ago with the $170,000 in his state campaign account, money he applied to his run for Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds.
By the time he had set his sights on a bid for Congress, the account had dwindled to just under $100,000 -- money that Federal Election Com mission guidelines prohibit him from transferring or applying toward his federal campaign account.
Political observers, though, say the cash stockpile still would be appealing, especially considering Nuciforo’s struggles in raising funds for his federal campaign and the prospect of a tough fight for the September primary against Rep. Richard Neal, a well-funded incumbent.
Nuciforo maintains that the expenditures he reported on his state account had nothing to do with his congressional ambitions.
Instead, he said he was using the funds to prepare for the possibility that the redistricting process might make his bid for Congress un-winnable. In that case, Nuciforo said he would need campaign infrastructure in place to make viable a run for re-election as register of deeds.
"There were some things that were not yet fully in focus. Those things are clear today," Nuciforo said recently. "We didn’t know who the candidates were, we didn’t know what the district lines were going to look like. We know that now."
Still, the remark stands in contrast to comments Nuciforo has made since he first an nounced in 2009 that he didn’t plan to run again for register of deeds. For example, just months before state lawmakers finalized Massachusetts’ re-drawn congressional districts, Nuciforo asserted that he intended to run for a U.S. House seat regardless of the process’ outcome.
Asked about the apparent in consistency, Nuciforo repeat ed: "We didn’t know how redistricting was going to play out. Now we know."
If the $52,000 in expenditures since 2009 had solely been made to prepare for a contingency run for register of deeds, it would make Nuci foro’s campaign the most well-funded for the deeds position in the state, and the most highly funded in Western Mass achusetts by five-fold.
In comparison, the Hamp den County Register of Deeds in Springfield -- Donald E. Ashe -- spent only $10,000 during the same nearly three-year period.
Although Ashe indicates he actually plans to run for re-election, he has spent no money on consultants, office space or phones. Instead, most of his expenses were used to cover the cost of running several fundraisers.
The contrast between Nuci foro and his counterparts in Berkshire County is even more stark: Southern Berkshire Register of Deeds Wanda M. Beckwith and Northern Berk shire Register Frances T. Brooks reported spending no money during the same period.
The FEC investigates potential campaign finance violations only if a complaint is submitted. To date, no one has filed one against Nuciforo.
"Race for new 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts heating up"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, March 14, 2012
The race for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts is starting to heat up as the Democratic candidates work to define their competition well ahead of September's primary election.
For the first time in several years, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, is facing competition from within his party to land the Democratic nomination to run for Congress.
Neal currently represents the 2nd Congressional District, parts of which were incorporated into the new 1st district, which includes all of Berkshire County, most of Hampden County and parts of Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties.
Democratic Rep. John Olver, of Amherst, who is retiring at the end of his term representing the current First Congressional District, recently endorsed Neal for the job.
The battle to represent the new 1st District has brought Andrea Nuciforo Jr., a former state senator and the current Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds, and Bill Shein, a political satirist and activist, into the ring as they attempt to remove Neal from the House of Representatives, where he has served since 1989.
Nuciforo claimed this week that Neal used his influence in the Democratic Party to attack him through the statements of others, a claim which Neal's camp denied.
Citing a recent Berkshire Eagle article in which a former North Adams mayor spoke of Nuciforo's personality in what he said was an unflattering light, Nuciforo said Neal is playing dirty politics.
"He is using surrogates to distort my record and attack me personally," Nuciforo said. "This is the type of negative campaigning that is standard for Washington insiders, but not in Massachusetts."
Nuciforo said he believes Neal is trying to discredit and eliminate him ahead of the Democratic primary, because he fears losing his job.
"I see why he wants to stay away from the real issues facing the voters," Nuciforo said. "He's raised millions from Wall Street over the course of his career and he's consistently chosen the interests of corporations over the citizens. "
Neal's campaign dismissed the claims, saying that if Nuciforo has a problem with the article's content, he should take his concerns elsewhere.
"Congressman Neal is working hard to bring jobs to the region, simplify the tax code, and preserve and protect Social Security," said William Tranghese, a spokesman for Neal. "He has no interest in negative campaigns or personal attacks. If Mr. Nuciforo has concerns about the stories that were written about him over the weekend, he should share them with the reporter who wrote them."
In this race, campaign finance has also been an issue among the candidates. Both Neal and Nuciforo have, over the course of their respective political careers, collected hefty amounts of cash from political action committees, a sticking point which Shein has used to boost his image as an outsider.
Last week, as Neal held a pricey fundraiser breakfast in the nation's capitol, Shein held a meet and greet at a Great Barrington coffee shop. In his invitation, Shein pointed out that to attend Neal's event, individuals, political action committees and hosts had to donate $500, $1,000 and $2,500, respectively.
Shein's event invitation said that PACs and lobbyists weren't invited and the event was centered on discussing the economy, the environment and money in politics.
"If Democrats are going to be Democrats again, and be full-throated champions of the bold ideas we need to fix our democracy, transform our economy, and protect our natural environment, that’s precisely the kind of fundraiser we must stop attending," Shein said in a statement. "As Democrats, we can’t properly fight against the democracy-distorting power of wealthy and corporate interests if we fund our campaigns with their money. Period."
Data from the Federal Election Commission state that Neal ended 2011 with a total of $2.4 million cash-on-hand compared to Nuciforo, who had $136,607 cash-on-hand.
Shein didn't enter the race in time to be listed in the FEC database and he has distanced himself further from his competition by pledging to only accept campaign donations of $99 or less.
The three candidates are expected to engage in a public debate in the coming months leading up to the Democratic primary. A Republican contender has yet to emerge in the race.
"An election in 1st, not a coronation"
Op-Ed by Andrea Nuciforo, The Berkshire Eagle (berkshireeagle.com), March 18, 2012
Over the last several days, my opponent has used the local media to launch personal attacks against me and supporters of my campaign for Congress. Unwilling to make these attacks in his own name, Congressman Neal has instead used surrogates to criticize me personally and distort my record.
This approach, of course, is politics as usual for an entrenched, 24-year Washington politician. But the voters of Western Massachusetts deserve a more honorable race -- not the innuendo and half-truths that Congressman Neal is advancing.
While voters across the country are understandably disappointed with this type of negative campaigning, we should not be surprised that Congressman Neal is trying to avoid a Democratic primary. Simply put, he is the most conservative member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation who, as a result of redistricting, finds himself running in one of the most progressive districts in the country. Here's why he is so reluctant to focus on issues:
1. Rep. Neal has raised millions from Wall Street, big banks, insurers and other PACs;
2. From 1994 through 2000, he consistently supported the deregulation of Wall Street and the erosion of consumer protections, siding with powerful corporations over consumer interests time and time again;
3. Rep. Neal has raised $67,500 from GE -- in the last election cycle alone -- while saying absolutely nothing about GE's obligation to restore the Housatonic River riparian zone and clean up Berkshire neighborhoods and riverbanks;
4. He has voted repeatedly against a woman's right to choose, including most recently in 2009 when he voted in favor of the now-infamous Stupak Amendment that threatened to block President Obama's landmark health-care legislation;
5. While dozens of his colleagues -- including Reps. Capuano, Frank, Lynch, McGovern, Olver and Tierney of Massachusetts -- have sponsored measures to overturn or mitigate the Supreme Court's ruling in Citizens United, Congressman Neal has steadfastly refused to stand up against its plutocratic opinion. As voters certainly know, in light of the ongoing Republican presidential primary, Citizens United allows corporations, unions and wealthy individuals to spend an unlimited amount of money to oppose or defeat candidates for public office, thereby drowning the voice of democracy and hindering incumbent opposition.
With this record, it's no surprise that Congressman Neal would resort to personal attacks rather than discuss his own legislative history.
I'm running because I be lieve this new district encompasses democratic ideals that are much more progressive than Rep. Neal's voting history reflects. After 10 years of service in the state Senate, Berkshire voters are familiar with my record, and it stands in stark contrast to Rep. Neal's.
While Rep. Neal was supporting the Wall Street-friendly deregulation of the financial sector prior to the collapse of the financial markets in 2008, I authored the state law that protects homeowners from high-cost home mortgage loans. That law is on the books in Massachusetts today.
In 2009, Rep. Neal voted for the Stupak Amendment to restrict a woman's health-care options, in connection with the Affordable Care Act. Just a few years earlier, I was fighting to establish a "buffer zone" around clinics, thereby allowing women and men access to contraception, counseling and other health-care services without receiving undue harassment.
While Rep. Neal was raising hundreds of thousands of dollars from health insurers, and refusing to support a Medicare-style single-payer health insurance option, I sponsored the single-payer health -care proposal during several legislative sessions in the state Senate.
Rep. Neal voted for the infamous Patriot Act in 2001. Ignoring the objections of countless civil liberties groups, the bill allowed the government to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance on American citizens and detain people in definitely without charge. Conversely, in May 2002 I was the lead sponsor of a successful Massachusetts state Senate resolution calling on Congress to prevent indefinite detention, racial profiling, and spying on Americans -- thereby upholding the Fourth Amend ment of the Constitution that the Patriot Act sought to compromise.
On these issues and many others, Rep. Neal and I couldn't be more different.
Pundits and political insiders always want to control who runs for office. But our democracy only works if voters make the choice. No one -- not even a career member of Congress -- has the right to run unopposed, no matter how much money they raise or how long they've been in Washington.
It's not a coronation. It's not an auction. It's an election. This fall, voters in the new 1st Congressional District will choose their new Congressman. And, as Americans, we will be stronger for it.
Andrea Nuciforo is a Democratic candidate for Congress from the 1st Congressional District.
"Report finds Neal paid family with campaign funds"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, March 24, 2012
A far-reaching report by a Washington, D.C.-based ethics group lists U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and three other Bay State representatives among 82 members of Congress who used their positions to directly benefit their families.
The study, released this week, found that the representatives paid a total of $5.5 million in salaries and fees out of their campaign accounts to family members during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.
Neal’s campaign paid his son, Brendan Conway Neal, a total of $28,500 during the time period, according to the report, issued by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, or CREW, in Washington.
CREW spent nine months examining every member of the House for campaign spending, budget earmarks, office accounts and lobbying by any relatives. The group states that, while in most cases the spending is allowed under Federal Election Commission regulations, the study’s findings reinforce the need for further oversight of campaign spending.
"Some things that aren’t illegal may still raise serious ethical questions," Melanie Sloan, executive director of CREW, told the New York Times. "If donors really understood where their money is going, I think they would be aghast."
Lawmakers who use campaign funds to pay relatives should be required to disclose that the payment is going to a family member, Sloan said, and there should be more detailed accounting of reimbursements paid to lawmakers or their family members for campaign expenses.
Neal, who is currently seeking re-election in the new 1st Massachusetts District, declined a request from The Eagle for an interview. His spokesman, however, issued a statement defending the payments to Neal’s son, Brendan Neal, who currently works as the director of community re lations at Springfield College, according to his LinkedIn profile.
"Brendan Neal is a highly regarded political strategist with years of experience on local, state and national campaigns," said William Trang hese in an email. "He helped manage the campaign, build a grassroots networks of supporters, and develop social media tools. Brendan is an invaluable surrogate for his father and was a major reason why the 2008 and 2010 elections were so successful."
In his publicly posted work history on LinkedIn, Brendan Neal says he spent a year working for U.S. Sen. John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign between 2003 and 2004 and then a year as a regional director for Kerry through 2005. He doesn’t list any work for his father’s campaign.
Criticism of the elder Neal’s fundraising has already figured prominently in the campaign rhetoric of his two opponents in the coming 1st District Democratic primary. Neal, a 12-term incumbent from Springfield, is challenged by Alford-based writer Bill Shein and former Pittsfield state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo Jr., both of whom have argued that Neal’s long reliance on donations from corporations and special interest groups to fund his campaign has left him too mired in "politics as usual" to be a true advocate for his constituents.
As of Dec. 29, the end of the last reporting period, Neal had $2.5 million worth of campaign cash on hand, almost 18 times more than his nearest opponent, Nuciforo, who had $136,000.
A 2011 Associated Press review found that Neal raised a higher percentage of funds from political action committees than any other member of the Massachusetts House delegation. He raised $535,450 from PACs during the current election cycle, according to analysis by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.
Neal’s campaign has brushed off criticism of his fundraising, saying the congressman welcomes financial support from all comers, but only votes in the best interest of those he represents.
While the payments to Neal’s son may raise eyebrows, according to the CREW report, it’s far from the most egregious example of candidates passing cash to their relatives.
Among the Massachusetts Delegation, Rep. Jim McGovern’s campaign committee paid out the most to family members, with a total of $38,434 going to McGovern’s brother-in-law. Neal’s spending on family members came in second, followed by South Boston Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch and Salem Democratic Rep. John Tierney, who each paid to relatives $3,331 and $794 respectively.
Across the country, some representatives paid family members six-figure salaries, including Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul, whose payments to six relatives totaled more than $300,000.
In all, the report includes 248 House members, representing 105 Democrats and 143 Republicans, about equal to their parties’ proportional makeup in the House. Lawmakers earned a mention if researchers were able to document any relative who served as a lobbyist, if the lawmaker or a relative had been paid a salary or consulting fee by the lawmaker’s campaign or official government accounts, or received a campaign contribution from the House member’s campaign fund.
Among the studies other key findings about sitting members of the House:
* 20 Democrats and 24 Republicans have family members who lobby or are employed in government affairs.
* 42 Democrats and 48 Republicans have paid a family business, employer or associated nonprofit.
* 13 Democrats and 7 Republicans used their campaign money to contribute to a family member’s political campaign.
* 6 Democrats and 8 Republicans charged interest on personal loans they made to their own campaigns.
* 24 Democrats and 14 Republicans sent budget earmarks to a family business, employer or associated nonprofit.
Material from the New York Times was used in this report.
"Neal's foes turn up heat over having son on payroll"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle Staff, March 27, 2012
After an ethics report cited U.S. Rep. Richard Neal for having his son on his campaign payroll, congressional hopeful Andrea Nuciforo Jr. on Monday called on Neal to reimburse his campaign donors for the $28,500 expense.
"I think he owes voters and donors an explanation," said Nuciforo in a statement.
Both of Neal’s two opponents in the coming 1st Massachusetts District Democratic primary, Nuciforo and Bill Shein, said they supported calls by the report’s authors for greater transparency in campaign finance disclosures.
The report by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, or CREW, listed Neal among 82 representatives who paid a total of $5.5 million in salaries and fees out of their campaign accounts to family members during the 2008 and 2010 election cycles.
CREW said that, while in most cases the spending is allowed under Federal Election Commission regulations, it can still raise serious ethical questions. CREW said its findings reinforce the need to require representatives to disclose that a payment is going to a family member.
Neal’s campaign defended the hiring of his son, Brendan Neal, calling him "a highly regarded political strategist with years of experience." And in an interview Monday, Neal said he doesn’t think further disclosures are necessary.
"It is transparent," he said. "You report the expenditure, the press reports the expenditure, then the voter makes up their mind. I don’t know how much more transparent it could be."
But Shein, an Alford-based writer, said the CREW report was indicative of broader problems in Congress.
"It doesn’t look right," said Shein. "It may be legal, but it’s unnecessary and it raises questions in the minds of voters and all Americans about whether or not things are being done properly."
He said representatives need to be held to a higher standard.
"The broader issue here, as raised in the CREW report, is we urgently need to revisit these things and take a closer look at what’s appropriate for campaign spending and how that information is shared with the public."
Nuciforo, a former state senator, took his criticism a step further with his call for Neal to return the funds paid to his son.
"While I have no reason to doubt Brendan’s skills as a proxy to his father, Neal’s donors deserve to know what contribution ‘an invaluable surrogate’ provided during two election cycles in which his father ran completely unopposed," Nuciforo said.
Neal ran unopposed in 2008. He did face a general election challenge in 2010 from Republican Tom Wesley, who Neal beat with 57 percent of the vote.
Neal called his son a "great political mind" and said he was pleased to have his help on the campaign trail. He said he has no plans to reimburse donors, brushing off Nuciforo’s criticism.
"It’s the political season," Neal said.
"Richard Neal faces challenges: 1st district challengers"
By BEN STORROW, Staff Writer, Gazettenet.com, April 9, 2012
While there is no competition in the 2nd District, a lively race is shaping up in the new 1st Congressional District, where three Democrats are vying for their party's nomination in the Sept. 6 primary. The 1st District is currently represented by U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, who is retiring.
Former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo of Pittsfield and Alford writer Bill Shein attempting to paint 11-term Springfield Congressman Richard Neal, who represents the current 2nd District, as a creature of Washington.
In particular, the two challengers have sought to make an issue of Neal's extensive fundraising from corporate donors and have argued that the former Springfield mayor is too conservative for a district that includes all of Berkshire and Hampden counties, the western halves of Franklin and Hampshire counties and a southwestern sliver of Worcester County.
"Representative Neal is the most conservative member of the Massachusetts delegation running in one of the most progressive districts in America," Nuciforo said in a recent phone interview.
Neal's pro-life stance puts him out of line with many voters in the district, especially progressive women, Nuciforo said, adding "I'm the progressive candidate in this race."
Shein, for his part, took issue with Neal's recent vote against a budget proposed by the Congressional Progressive Caucus. The budget would, among other things, impose a tax on financial transactions, establish a price on carbon and establish public financing for elections. The budget was supported by Olver, who has long represented much of western Massachusetts.
And Neal was one of four Democrats to sign a resolution that offers support for an Israeli military strike against Iran, Shein said.
"It is becoming clear to folks that the progressive values of western Massachusetts will not be represented by Congressmen Neal," Shein said.
Neal shrugged off such criticism, noting that he has endorsements from both the AFL-CIO and Olver.
"That is the argument of the political season," he said of criticism by Nuciforo and Shein.
"I voted against the two wars, I voted against the Bush tax cuts ... No one defended Social Security more vigorously than I did," Neal said in a telephone interview. "It's a pretty empty argument and you can see it's not gaining any traction anywhere."
Matt Barron, a Democratic political consultant from Chesterfield who is not aligned with any of the three candidates, said the efforts by Nuciforo and Shein to defeat Neal are complicated by the fact that they are competing for the same progressive voters.
Barron said he believes that Shein is the better positioned of the two to take on Neal. Nuciforo's early announcement that he intended to run in 2012 upset many supporters of Olver, who at that time had not announced his decision to retire.
"Nuciforo is dying on the vine. He's having trouble raising money, he's having trouble gathering signatures," said Barron, a former Olver staffer. "I think Bill Shein has hurt Nuciforo. I think anyone who was looking for an anti-establishment candidate will find it in (Shein). He's made money and campaign finance reform the centerpiece of his campaign and that's really undercut Nuciforo."
Nuciforo dismissed that thinking, saying of Shein, "Everybody has the right to run. That's the beauty of America."
The current register of deeds in the Berkshire Middle District, Nuciforo said his campaign's fundraising was "strong" in the first quarter of 2012 and that he has gathered nearly enough signatures to be placed on the ballot in the fall. He declined to say how much the campaign had raised in the year's first three months.
Shein was equally forceful in his criticism of Nuciforo, arguing that he had voted to repeal the Clean Elections Law while in the state Senate.
"I guess the question is, why has he come around on that after a lifetime in politics?" Shein asked of Nuciforo. "There is a difference between what you say and what you've done."
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal launches congressional campaign with focus on economy"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The (Springfield) Republican, June 11, 2012
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, officially kicked off his reelection campaign on Monday, with a focus on fiscal policy.
Neal spent the day traveling around the district on a “listening tour,” with stops that included opening an apartment complex in Springfield, touring a Plainfield farm and a Hawley cider company, and holding meet and greets in Heath and Leyden. In a statement officially announcing his campaign, Neal said his priorities will be jobs and the economy.
“My DNA, and that of the Democratic Party, centers around job creation; fair wages, good benefits, and a decent retirement is what built a middle class in this country and that is the America in which I grew up,” Neal said.
In a phone interview with The Republican and MassLive.com, Neal said he plans to work to renew the New Markets Tax Credit, a tax credit for investors in low-income communities that expired at the end of 2011, as well as a research and development tax credit. He will push for tax credits for renewable energy projects. Neal, who fought against the partial privatization of Social Security under President George W. Bush said he plans to continue to “defend Social Security and Medicare.”
Neal has served in Congress since 1989, representing the 2nd Congressional District. But redistricting has altered the makeup of the district, and Neal is now running to represent a reconstituted 1st Congressional District, which includes Berkshire County, virtually all of Hampden County, and parts of Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties. Retiring 1st District Rep. John Olver has endorsed Neal.
No Republicans have filed to run for the seat, but Neal faces a primary challenge from Democrats Andrea Nuciforo, the Berkshire Middle District register of deeds and a former state senator, and Bill Shein, a Berkshire County writer and activist.
The struggling economy and fiscal policy are likely to be the centerpiece of virtually every political campaign this year, and the 1st District race will be no exception.
As a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, much of Neal’s work has been on tax policy. He has called for repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax, which creates a higher tax rate on high-income individuals by limiting exemptions. He has worked to close tax loopholes, stopping companies from sheltering money through overseas tax havens. Neal recently sponsored legislation to require certain employers that do not offer retirement plans to give workers a way to invest in individual retirement savings accounts through an automatic payroll deduction.
Neal said reform of the tax code will continue to be a priority. “The tax code hasn’t been touched in more than 25 years,” Neal said. “It’s creaking under its own weight and we need to build a tax code that improves the quality of live for all Americans.”
Neal, like most Democrats at the time, opposed the tax cuts implemented under President Bush in 2001 and 2003, and opposed their extension in 2010. With the tax cuts set to expire again at the end of this year, Neal said, “I think for high end people, they should be allowed to expire.” But, he said, the future of the tax cuts overall should “be part of the discussion at the end of the year.”
Nuciforo has criticized Neal’s economic policy, focusing on his support for a handful of bills deregulating the financial industry, which Nuciforo said contributed to the current economic crisis. The Nuciforo campaign points to a 1994 bill repealing restrictions on banks expanding from one state to another; a 1999 law repealing the Glass-Steagall Act – which had separated the activities of commercial and investment banks; a 2000 law allowing for the expansion of derivative trading; and a 1998 act limiting the ability of private investors to sue for securities fraud.
The Nuciforo campaign ties those votes to donations Neal has gotten from the financial industry. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the top industry contributing to Neal throughout his career has been the insurance industry ($1.2 million), followed by securities and investments ($555,000).
Neal said bills like the repeal of Glass-Steagall had little to do with the financial meltdown. “The financial crisis came about because banks loaned money to people who couldn’t pay it back,” Neal said. “It was the use of sophisticated financial instruments, which people didn’t understand the magnitude of risk that was involved.”
Neal has consistently been a reliable vote for the Democratic Party. A Washington Post database of all congressional votes since 1991 found Neal voted with the Democratic Party 95 percent of the time. A study by Congressional Quarterly found in cases where a majority of Republicans opposed a majority of Democrats, Neal voted with Democrats 98 percent of time. He supported President Obama’s 2011 jobs proposal; Obama’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the so-called stimulus bill; and the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the bailout of the financial industry under Bush.
Asked to what extent he sees himself in line with the Democratic Party on economic issues, Neal said he has always supported “sensible economic positions” for dealing with budget deficits, and pointed to the work Congress did under the Democratic Clinton administration.
Neal said the “key day” for looking at the budget deficit is Jan. 19, 2001, President Clinton’s last day in office. “America was staring at a…surplus. And we balanced the budget four successive times,” Neal said. “What happened after that was we went to war in Iraq and Afghanistan and simultaneously cut taxes by record amounts… I objected on both counts.”
"Neal chooses not to answer rival on tax cuts"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, June 13, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's campaign on Tuesday declined to engage an opponent who inferred that the congressman wouldn't be siding with House Democrats in standing up against extending the Bush-era tax cuts when they expire at the end of this year.
In a statement that took aim at Neal, Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. cited a report in The Hill, a Washington newspaper that covers congressional affairs, that stated some Democrats "could get on board with a short-term deal that extended all tax rates and didn't implement spending cuts."
That statement from the article didn't spe cifically reference Neal, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means subcommittee that deals with taxes. But the congressman was quoted immediately thereafter as saying he would listen to a proposal for some "breathing room" if he thought a substantial deficit deal could be achieved.
Nuciforo called on Neal to vote against an extension of the tax cuts and "pledge to not support these tax breaks for the rich under any circumstances."
"We need to elect strong Democrats that are willing to have some backbone and actually stand up against these ludicrous tax breaks that only put us further in debt," Nuciforo said.
"We're not going to respond to that," said Neal campaign spokesman Matt Fenlon. "I think his [Neal's] voting record speaks for itself."
Neal voted against the Bush-era tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 and when they were extended in 2010.
In The Hill article, Neal also said Democrats had hurt themselves when dozens of them voted for the tax cuts to begin with.
"It distorted our message," Neal is quoted as saying.
Nuciforo, a former state senator from Pittsfield and the current Middle Berkshire register of deeds, is challenging the 12-term congressman from Springfield for the seat in the new 1st Congressional District in the Democratic primary in September. No Republicans qualified for the ballot.
Neal currently represents the 2nd District. Reapportionment had set up a potential campaign between two Democratic incumbents. But John Olver, who currently represents the 1st District, is retiring.
The new 1st District is made up of 87 cities and towns, including all of Berkshire Coun ty, much of Hampden County, and parts of Hamp shire, Franklin and Worcester counties.
"Neal raises 5 times more cash than challengers"
By Clarence Fanto, Berkshire Eagle Staff, July 18, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Although challenger Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. has increased the pace of his campaign fundraising for the new 1st Congressional seat, incumbent Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, has raked in five times more cash than Nuciforo and writer-activist Bill Shein of Alford combined.
The three men face off in the Sept. 6 Democratic primary, with the winner advancing to the general election on Nov. 6. There are no Republican Party challengers for the seat.
Nuciforo, in a phone interview, said the $61,485 he raised during the second quarter of the year -- as reported by the Federal Election Commission -- came entirely from private individual donations of $2,500 or less.
According to Nuciforo, Neal’s total of $364,000 came mostly from political action committees (PACs) relying on contributions from Wall Street banks and from insurance companies.
"Our opponent has a corporate marketing budget," Nuciforo contended. "We will never have a base of corporate support like that. What we will have is enough money to compete and to win."
Nuciforo’s total from April to June represented a 44 percent increase from the $42,493 he took in from January through March. He said he has received no PAC contributions this year, but noted that nearly two-thirds of Neal’s second-quarter fundraising came from PACs.
As he has throughout the campaign, Nuciforo, the Mid dle Berkshire register of deeds and a former state senator, positioned himself as a "strong progressive Democrat" and depicted Neal as "the most conservative member of the Mas sachusetts delegation running in one of the most progressive districts in the country."
He also contrasted his support for consumer protection with what he described as Neal’s support of Wall Street deregulation that led to the 2008 financial implosion.
Neal, in an email response from his campaign, asserted that "serious candidates raise money to get their message out to voters," citing the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Elizabeth Warren, who is seeking to oust U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.
"Congressman Neal welcomes the contributions he receives from his many friends and supporters, and he will continue to run an aggressive campaign for re-election," the statement added.
Neal’s campaign office statement also accused Nuciforo of hypocrisy, claiming that he "continues to accept campaign contributions from insurance and financial services executives in his campaign for Congress while criticizing Congressman Neal for doing so. He also voted against the clean election law as a state senator. He has not been challenged for his hypocritical and inconsistent approach to fundraising by the local media."
In response to that allegation, Nuciforo called Neal "a wholly owned subsidiary of the financial services sector" and said the identity and profession of his individual contributors are listed in his campaign-finance documents.
An examination of his filing showed direct donations from business executives, educational and health services officials, attorneys, architects and a wide variety of other occupations, as well as retirees.
For his part, Shein declared that he was proud to have been outspent by his opponents by a margin of 100 to 1. During the second quarter, he pulled in $6,700.
"The wealthiest corporations, Wall Street banks, Big Pharma, insurance companies and powerful Washington lobbyists are protecting their investment in the status quo," Shein stated.
"All of that corporate and lobbyist money works," he added. "It’s distorting our democracy for the exclusive benefit of those who provide it -- in greater sums every election cycle -- to both Republican and Democratic lawmakers."
Follow the money
Here’s a snapshot of the campaign funds raised and current funds in the bank by the three candidates battling for the 1st Congressional District seat:
Second quarter 2012:
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield: $364,000
Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo: $61,495
Writer-activist Bill Shein of Alford: $6,700
Current campaign total:
In the bank:
Neal: $2.2 million (includes funds from previous campaigns)
Sources: Federal Election Commission filings; media reports
07.17.2012 | HOLYOKE -- Andrea Nuciforo Jr., candidate for the newly drawn 1st Congressional District, spoke in Holyoke and Springfield Tuesday about his "Promise to the Middle Class - An eight-point blueprint to restore economic justice in America". In Holyoke, Nuciforo stopped at the Open Square mill complex. [Photo by Michael S. Gordon / The Republican]
"Congressional hopeful Andrea Nuciforo Jr. unveils 8-point policy plan"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, July 17, 2012
HOLYOKE -- Andrea Nuciforo Jr. says his ideas, values and legislative plans are what separate him from the competition in the race to represent the 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts -- and on Tuesday he took to the streets of the newly drawn district to explain just what those ideas are.
With an 8-point policy plan covering everything from Social Security and Medicare to manufacturing and creative infrastructure investments, Nuciforo, a former state senator and present Berkshire Middle District register of deeds, said that if elected, he will work in the first 90 days to draft legislation to make his talking points a reality.
"After talking to people on the campaign trail, we could have made this 80 points or 800 points," Nuciforo said at a stop in Holyoke. "This blueprint is our ideas, our concepts and our legislative proposals to help us get back to the places we once were with respect to middle class and working class economic justice."
Nuciforo is running against fellow Democrats Bill Shein and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal in a three-way primary with no Republican challengers to represent the newly drawn 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts.
In his "Blueprint to Restore Economic Justice," Nuciforo highlights what he sees as key areas that need to be addressed through legislation to make improvements that will increase the quality of life for people in the district.
On the topic of revitalizing manufacturing in the U.S., Nuciforo said that that by enacting fair trade legislation and encouraging investments in innovation and clean energy solutions, the country could begin to rebuild its once dominant manufacturing sector.
In regards to infrastructure, Nuciforo said that investing in the future goes well beyond the traditional rebuilding of roads and bridges.
"The infrastructure projects of the future include bringing broadband Internet to the small cities, small towns and very rural communities. That will be the project, very much like bringing electricity to rural areas 100 years ago or more," Nuciforo said. "These are the kinds of innovative infrastructure investments we need to be making to really bring economic development to the smaller rural communities."
Nuciforo said that protecting middle class tax breaks and ensuring "rock-solid" retirement by protecting Social Security are also among his priorities.
When asked how he plans on working to make his legislative agenda become a reality in Washington, given that the partisan divide seems stronger than ever, Nuciforo said he would draw upon his past experiences and work to draw support for ideas that everyone can support.
"We've got to be able to identify those areas where Democrats and Republicans can work together, and I have a long history of being able to do that after ten years in the state senate. That means setting aside partisanship and ideology and going to Washington t o find common ground with people even when you don't agree with them on every single item," Nuciforo said. "And it's not enough to vote the right way. We need people to advocate for these issues and will do so on the floor of the United States Congress, in city and town halls across the district and on CNN, NBC and Fox News. I'm ready and able to do all those things."
Nuciforo has raised just under $208,000 this election cycle with all but $500 coming from individual donors, not political action committees. At the end of June, he had $129,000 cash-on-hand.
Shein, who is only accepting individual donations of $99 or less, has raised approximately $18,000 throughout his entire campaign and ended June with $6,200 in the bank.
Neal, a longtime congressman who represents the current 2nd Congressional District, ended the fiscal quarter with $2.2 million in the bank, including $266,000 in individual contributions and $867,000 from political action committees this election cycle. Neal also started the cycle with cash left over from previous runs.
Nuciforo's campaign staff said his full policy plan will be available on his website, www.nuciforo.com later Tuesday.
Andrea Nuciforo, who is running for the state’s 1st Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, visits Berkshire Emporium and Antiques in downtown North Adams on Tuesday afternoon. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)
"Nuciforo keys in on middle class"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, July 18, 2012
NORTH ADAMS -- Rebuilding the middle class has become a key campaign promise of former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo Jr., who was in the city Tuesday afternoon promoting an economic policy plan as part of his bid for the new 1st Congressional District seat.
"This is a concrete eight-point policy that will form the foundation of my economic development proposals from day one on Jan. 1, 2013," he said during a campaign stop in Berkshire Emporium and Antiques on Main Street. The visit was one of five during a tour of the 1st Congressional District on Tuesday, which included stops in Great Barrington, Pittsfield, Holyoke and Springfield.
Nuciforo, who currently serves as Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds, will face U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and Alford activist Bill Shein in the Democratic Primary on Sept. 6.
The plan, according to Nuciforo, calls for the revival of American manufacturing, the rebuilding of the country's infrastructure; investment in higher education; providing middle class tax relief; ensuring "rock solid" retirement security; making financial reform stick; repealing Citizens United; and the revitalization of small businesses.
"This plan could have had 80 points but we've distilled it down to eight digestible points," Nuciforo said. "For instance, this country has lost 32 percent of its manufacturing jobs in the last decade -- that's from Akron, Ohio to North Adams. This didn't have to happen."
While global trade is a reality, he said that any trade agreements made by the United States have to be fair to the American worker and Ameri can manufacturers. Among his proposals is a cut to the corporate tax rate, which now stands at 40 percent, to 25 percent. Comparatively, other industrialized countries carry a 26 percent corporate tax.
"I will only support fair trade agreements that are fundamentally fair to American businesses," Nuciforo said.
Another important part of the plan, he said, is preparing a 21st-century workforce by investing in public education and improving access to higher education.
"Number one, student loans should be affordable for all borrowers," he said. "Recently, there was a debate in Congress about whether or not student loan interest rates should be doubled. It's a debate that never should have happened. In some sections of the country, the cost of higher education has outpaced the cost of living."
Nuciforo added, "Number two, Pell Grants need to be generously funded. This is one of our most successful Federal programs, which helps remove the barrier to college for many individuals."
The plan also calls for increased public investment in research and development, which benefits both industry and education.
As for middle class tax relief, he's calling for the Bush-era tax cuts to continue for 98 percent of tax filers.
"For the top 2 percent, we should revert to the 2001 tax structure," Nuciforo said. "The total tax burden on the top 2 percent is the lowest point its been at since World War II."
For more information, visit www.nuciforo.com.
"Why I support Richie Neal"
By Lee Harrison, Special to The Berkshire Eagle, July 27, 2012
With the Sept. 6 congressional primary election fast ap proaching (yes, it's on a Thurs day this year), it's certainly not too early to declare support for a candidate. I'm backing Con gressman Richie Neal for a whole host of reasons. The simplest is that both our retiring congressman, John Olver, and the wonderful Elizabeth Warren have heartily endorsed him. But there's a lot more. A lot more.
With Congressman Olver's retirement we are losing a very senior representative in Con gress, where seniority really matters. As an appropriations subcommittee chairman Olver has been able to boost economic development in the Berkshires in a way no freshman congressman ever could. Fortunately for us, Richie Neal is even a bit more senior (the 46th most senior member of Congress), and he holds a seat on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. That's the committee charged with writing tax legislation and bills affecting Social Security and Medicare. If elected, he too will be able to boost economic development and job creation in the county, and in fact he already has. Ask the folks at the Colonial Theatre.
Back in 2000, Congressman Neal was an original sponsor of the New Markets Tax Credit program, which stimulates investment, growth, and jobs in communities like Pittsfield that are often overlooked by conventional capital markets. If you've been to the Colonial, you've seen how successful this program really is, but you probably didn't know that $16.7 million, or almost 80 percent of the Colonial's restoration cost, came from NMTC financing.
[Note to conservatives: While the NMTC program has cost the government $4 billion in revenue, it has resulted in $50 billion in capital for projects in low-income communities and created or retained an estimated 500,000 jobs.]
Congressman Neal has helped the Berkshires in other ways, too. As a longtime proponent of renewable energy, he worked to expand the Investment Tax Credit to allow electric utilities to build solar projects such as the Silver Lake Solar facility in Pittsfield, which generates 1.8 MW of electricity from the sun -- enough to power 300 homes.
There are a couple other things I like about Congress man Neal. First, he was Springfield's mayor from 1984 to 1989. Next to the presidency, mayors have the toughest political jobs in America. They aren't insulated from the everyday problems of governing -- from fixing potholes and plowing roads to collecting garbage, financing schools, fighting crime, and more. They are on the firing line every day, and that experience is invaluable. Richie Neal has it, and the Berkshires will benefit because of it.
Second, if you are collecting Social Security, have family members who do, or expect to do so yourselves, you should know that Neal was Speaker Nancy Pelosi's point man in the fight against Bush's effort to privatize Social Security. Neal is an expert on the topic, and that expertise has very personal origins. Both of his parents died by the time he was 15, so he and two younger sisters moved in with relatives and were raised on Social Security survivor benefits.
Still, Congressman Neal hails from Springfield, and some people might wonder whether that could be a problem for us in the Berkshires. We heard the same concerns 20 years ago about Olver, who comes from Amherst, but during the intervening two decades John has become a fixture in the Berk shires. It won't be any different with Congressman Neal. Alr eady, he's visited Berkshire man ufacturers from Great Barring ton to North Adams. He's been to Soldier On. He's met with seniors at the Froio Center in Pittsfield, Sugar Hill in Dalton, and Kimball Farms in Lenox. He's toured our hospitals, met with local officials, and visited our high schools, colleges, and cultural institutions.
The Berkshires represents just 18 percent of registered voters in the new 1st Con gressional District. Any other candidate might ignore such a small portion of the electorate, but by visiting the Berkshires early and often, Congressman Neal has signaled that the Berkshires are important to him. For that reason -- along with his seniority, job creation experience, and commitment to Social Security and Medi care -- I'm supporting Con gress man Richard E. Neal. I hope you will, too.
In June, Lee Harrison stepped down as chairman of Berkshire Brigades, the countywide Democratic organization, to take an active part in the primary campaign.
"Rivals slam Neal on debates"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, August 8, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and Bill Shein on Tuesday criticized U.S Rep. Richard E. Neal for agreeing only to participate in two of six debates that had been proposed in the 1st Congressional District race.
Shein and Nuciforo said they’re disappointed they’ll only be debating Neal at a radio debate in Pittsfield and television debate in Springfield. Both are scheduled later this month. Six media-sponsored debates had been proposed before the September election.
In a statement, Nuciforo said he isn’t surprised Neal wants to keep the debates to a minimum.
Neal "sees the same data we see, and [it shows] that we have widespread support and solid positions on issues that resonate with voters," said Nuciforo, the Middle Berkshire register of deeds and former Berkshires state senator.
Neal "thinks he will lose fewer votes by declining most debates," Nuciforo added.
"We should have six debates spread throughout the campaign," said Shein, a writer and political activist from Alford. "Six would be a good number."
The Neal campaign responded by citing how the 24-year veteran of Congress was eager to debate his opponents.
"Congressman Neal always debates opponents during the election season and this year is no different," said campaign spokesman Matt Fenlon. "Neal was the first candidate to accept the dates in Springfield and Pittsfield as both involve multiple media outlets."
The three candidates face off Sept. 6. With no Republican or third party candidate in the race, the 1st Congressional District will be decided then.
WGBY television in Springfield will air a pre-recorded studio debate featuring all three candidates on Aug. 20.
On Aug. 30, Nuciforo, Shein and Neal are scheduled to take part in a studio debate at WBEC radio in Pittsfield. The live broadcast, from 6 to 7 p.m., will also air on radio stations WSBS in Great Barrington and WNAW in North Adams.
Organizers of the debate planned for Aug. 27 at Berkshire Community College before a live audience say Neal never responded to the invitation, sent out three months ago.
"We are disappointed that he decided against introducing himself to the voters of Berkshire County through an event in a neutral setting with free admission for the public and widespread media coverage," said Jonathan Levine of the Pittsfield Gazette.
The weekly newspaper, BCC and Pittsfield Community Television have collaborated to stage the debate, which may go on without Neal, according to Levine.
Fenlon wouldn’t comment whether Neal received invitations to or would consider participating in other political forums.
Nuciforo claims Neal has plenty of time to attend additional debates because Congress takes a break during the election season.
"In fact, the debates were intentionally scheduled during congressional recess," Nuciforo noted. "By evading debates, the Congressman is doing a disservice to voters, and is further eroding faith in our democratic system."
Neal currently represents the 2nd Congressional District. The state’s Congressional districts were reduced from 10 to nine and the redrawn 1st includes Neal’s hometown of Springfield as well as all of Berkshire County. Congressman John W. Olver, of the 1st Congressional District, is retiring at the end of the year.
Andrea Nuciforo (Ben Garver)
"Nuciforo: Where's Neal?"
By Phil Demers, North Adams Transcript, August 8, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Ramping up his campaign for a Sept. 6 primary, congressional candidate Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. contrasted his views and voting record with that of incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, at an editorial board meeting with the Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle on Tuesday.
From housing and mortgage policies to consumer protection, health care and financial reform, Nuciforo repeatedly returned to a theme: "Where has Congressman Neal been?"
Positioning himself against a longtime incumbent congressman of the state's 1st Congressional District with a roughly six to one disadvantage in financial backing, the 48-year-old Pittsfield native re mained undeterred.
"Seniority matters, but results matter more," Nuci foro said during the meeting at The Eagle's office. "We need a change this year."
Nuciforo will face Neal and Alford political acti vist and writer Bill Shein in September's primary. Since there is no Republican in the race, the 1st Congressional District will be decided then.
Nuciforo, with six years served as Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds and a decade representing the Berkshire district in the state Senate from 1997 to 2007, thinks of himself as the right person for the job.
Nuciforo credited himself with authoring the 2004 Anti-Predatory Lending bill -- which he described as the toughest lending bill of its kind in the country, preventing companies from making high-cost mortgage loans to unsuspecting buyers -- and said this was while Congressman Neal "again was advancing a Wall Street agenda that ultimately led to the collapse of the financial markets."
"Think about what I was doing on Beacon Hill and compare that to what my opponent was doing on Capitol Hill," Nuciforo said.
Nuciforo went on to characterize Neal as a "very conservative Democrat," taking him to task for his support of five key Congressional measures to deregulate the financial markets passed in the 90s and in the last decade.
Nuciforo said these measures allowed banks to grow at unprecedented rates through interstate bank branching, and opened the door for increased high-risk speculation and derivative trading by dismantling the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act. All this was while also allowing the banks to be gin buying up mortgages, a practice he linked to the housing bubble and resulting collapse in 2008.
"It's rare to find a member of either party in Washington that advanced that Wall Street agenda more enthusiastically than Congressman Neal did," Nuciforo said.
Nuciforo supports reinstating Glass-Steagall-style regulations on speculation in the financial markets.
Voicing his support for a single-payer health care system, which he said the commonwealth has "been ready" for since the 90s, and for the repeal of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision of 2010, Nuciforo accused Neal of failing to do likewise until this election cycle, in April 2012, he said.
Giving a nod to the high senior population of Northern Berkshire, Nuciforo said he'd fight against any attempts in Washing ton to tamper with Social Security and Medicare.
Summing up the afternoon, Nuciforo said:
"We need a strong Democrat in Washington sticking up for us."
"City councilor places her support with Nuciforo"
The North Adams Transcript, Letter to the Editor, thetranscript.com - August 7, 2012
To the Editor:
I’m voting for Andrea Nuciforo for Congress because he’s pro-choice.
Congressman Neal is not pro-choice, and that issue is very important to me.
It’s bad enough that Neal voted against a woman’s right to choose in 2009, as he has in the past. He did that by joining House Republicans in voting for the Stupak Amendment, which would have denied millions of women access to reproductive and contraceptive care.
But what’s worse is that Neal is likely to do the same again, and that he would do it in a congress that is narrowly split between Democrats and Republicans.
Women’s health and reproductive freedom aren’t just issues of fundamental concern to people who are women. They are crucial to everyone whose mother is a woman, whose wife is a woman or whose daughters will some day be women. Compromise has its place, but the last thing we need is a congressman who will compromise away the rights of women with the likes of Bart Stupak.
When Stupak and his tea party allies wanted bi-partisan cover for their efforts to turn back the clock on reproductive freedom, they went straight to Congressman Neal’s office. If Neal is still in that office, they’ll do it again next January.
I want a pro-choice congressman, not a congressman that will compromise away a wo man’s right to choose. That’s why I’ll be voting for Nuciforo for Congress on Sept. 6.
City Councilor Jennifer M. Breen, Esq.
Aug. 6, 2012
08.20.2012 | SPRINGFIELD -- Democratic candidates for the Massachusetts First Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives take their positions for a debate at the studios of PBS affiliate WGBY-57. Left to right are Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., activist and writer Bill Shein, and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal. The debate was taped at 2 p.m. and will air at 8 p.m. on WGBY and local NPR affiliate New England Public Radio.
08.20.2012 | SPRINGFIELD -- Democratic candidates for the Massachusetts First Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives prepare to debate at the studios of PBS affiliate WGBY-57. Left to right are activist and writer Bill Shein, U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, moderator Jim Madigan of WGBY, and Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.
08.20.2012 | SPRINGFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, left, reviews notes prior to the taping of a debate between the Democratic candidates for the Massachusetts First Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives at the studios of PBS affiliate WGBY-57. At right is moderator Jim Madigan of WGBY.
08.20.2012 | SPRINGFIELD -- Democratic candidates for the Massachusetts First Congressional District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives stand for a photo prior to taping a debate at the studios of PBS affiliate WGBY-57. Left to right are Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., activist and writer Bill Shein, and U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal.
Photographs by Greg Saulmon of the Republican / AP photos.
"1st Congressional District candidates spar in WGBY debate in Springfield"
By Robert Rizzuto, The Republican, August 20, 2012
SPRINGFIELD - The 1st Congressional District debate between Democratic candidates U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo Jr. and political activist Bill Shein was heated and covered a number of topics related to domestic policy, the financial crisis and campaign finance.
Jim Madigan, director of public affairs for WGBY-57, moderated the debate. He kicked off the hour by asking Shein and Nuciforo why they would challenge Neal, a 23-year Democratic member of Congress who has been tapped by president Barack Obama's campaign to act as a surrogate.
Shein said that Neal's campaign contributions this election cycle, of which $867,000 came from political action committees and corporations, are the problem in Washington.
"It's exhausting to run for Congress in this very large district and it's been just as exhausting to have to correct the record on Congressman Neal's fundraising virtually every time he's asked about it," Shein said. "More than 90 percent of the money he's raised is from corporate PACS, corporate lobbyists who hold fundraisers for Congressman Neal, at their offices in Washington, at fancy restaurants. It's not just votes, that money means silence on a lot of issues. It means not speaking out month after month, year after year."
Nuciforo, the Berkshire Middle District register of deeds, also took aim at Neal's campaign contributions and brought up past votes on bills which he says deregulated Wall Street, lending to the financial collapse of 2008.
Neal, on the defensive, fired back, saying that his campaign contributions have nothing to do with the way he votes.
"The campaign contributions I receive have been a careful reflection of the interests of the people of Massachusetts," Neal said. "It comes from a broad array of employers and employees from across Massachusetts."
Neal went on to list the numerous projects in the region he has been involved with during his tenure in Congress, including the Springfield Technical High School data center and the Union Station transportation hub.
A heated exchange between Neal and Nuciforo centered on the mortgage crisis with Nuciforo charging the longtime congressman has chosen Wall Street over Main Street, an accusation that Neal said is baseless.
Circling back to campaign finance, which dominated much of the debate, Neal pointed out that when Nuciforo was in the state senate, he received a substantial amount of corporate campaign contributions as he was the chair of the Joint Committee on Financial Services and the Joint Committee on Banks & Banking.
Neal questioned how Nuciforo could honestly voice concerns about his campaign contributions considering where his money came from during his decade in state politics.
Shein, who interjected during a back-and-forth between Neal and Nuciforo, said to Madigan that his opponents shouldn't be allowed to bicker about who got more corporate money in the past.
The Alford-based writer then reiterated his idea that to get Washington to work on the issues affecting the citizens, corporate money needs to have a limited amount of influence and the path to that conclusion is legislation working to limit the impact of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, which allowed corporations to spend unlimited amounts of cash in elections.
At one point, Nuciforo took aim at Neal for not supporting the Fair Elections Now Act, which was introduced by U.S. Rep. John Larson, D-Conn. That bill would have reformed campaign finance laws to allow for candidates with less money to get public funding and become more viable.
And before his opponents could strike, Nuciforo pointed out that as a state legislator, he helped kill a clean elections bill in the Massachusetts State Senate. That bill, which would have controlled campaign spending in state elections and allowed for public financing of candidates, was a bad one, according to Nuciforo.
"I passed absolutely the right vote on clean elections when it came before the Senate," Nuciforo said. "You had thresholds that were so unbelievably low that virtually anybody could qualify for public money."
Nuciforo said he cast his vote by balancing the need for clean elections against the financial impact to the taxpayers, considering the specific terms of the bill.
In the end, an hour blew by, with questions relating to foreign policy, Washington's partisan gridlock and energy going largely unmentioned.
With no Republican or independent contenders in the race, the winner of the Sept. 6 primary election will become the likely Congressman of the new 1st Congressional District in Massachusetts.
The candidates will participate in a second and final debate on Aug. 30 in a radio forum hosted by a Berkshire County media consortium.
"Nuciforo, Shein zero in on Neal in debate"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle, August 21, 2012
SPRINGFIELD -- During the first debate of the campaign season, 1st Massachusetts District challengers Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and Bill Shein accused incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of bowing to corporate interests and failing to provide meaningful leadership in Congress during the economic collapse of 2008.
"I fear that Congressman Neal has not done what has to be done to stick up for the people that were really whipsawed in this economy in 2008 and 2009 as a result of the economic collapse," Nuciforo said. "If you take a look at the congressman's record -- that record has to do with advancing a Wall Street interest while forgetting about the people back on Main Street."
Neal vigorously defended his work in the House throughout the debate, hosted by WGBY in Springfield and televised throughout the district Monday night after being taped earlier in the day. Neal cited his work with federal and state officials throughout the foreclosure crisis.
"Every time there has been a consumer question raised over the course of my career, I've sided with the consumer," he said.
In the absence of any Republican challengers, the winner of the Sept. 6 Democratic primary election be tween Neal, Nuciforo and Shein will likely go on to represent the 1st District.
The debate's moderator, WGBY station manager Jim Madigan, began by addressing what he characterized as the elephant in the room: Why Nuciforo and Shein would choose to run against Neal, a senior member of their party who was recently chosen by the Obama campaign to work as a campaign surrogate.
Both Nuciforo and Shein focused on what they characterized as Neal's record of accepting money from political action committees and other corporate interests while failing to stick up for regular people stuck in the midst of an economic brought on by Wall Street.
"More than 90 percent of the money [Neal] has raised has come from corporate PACs, from corporate lobbyists that throw fundraisers for Congressman Neal at their offices in Washington, at fancy restaurants," Shein said. "It is the overwhelming amount of money that he raises and what I've argued in the campaign is that that money is drowning out the ideas that we need."
Nuciforo said that, as the Middle Berkshire register of deeds, he's been at the forefront of the foreclosure crisis. He said Congress hasn't done enough to help people in financial distress.
Neal responded that he has worked directly with state Attorney General Martha Coakley and the Obama administration on the issue. He said he supports letting mortgage holders who are current with their payments renegotiate the terms of their loans.
"My office has been aggressive in helping people who come through those doors with foreclosure issues," he said.
Neal went on to criticize Nuciforo's record as a state senator representing the Berkshires for 10 years until 2007, pointing out that as chairman of the Legislature's insurance and banking committee, Nuciforo effectively killed auto insurance reform legislation while taking huge amounts of money from insurance companies.
"You couldn't have taken any more money from Commerce Insurance," Neal said.
Nuciforo said the auto insurance reform bill would have been bad for the state.
At that point, Shein interjected with a plea to the debate moderator: "I hope we're not going to spend the whole time letting these two longtime politicians bicker about who has taken more money from corporate interests."
Shein outlined how his campaign accepts only contributions of $99 or less, which he said means he could truly represent the interests of the district and bring new ideas into Congress.
"I'm being outspent 100 to 1 in this race," Shein said. "Most candidates wouldn't want to talk about that, but I mention it because I am proud of it. That 100 represents continuing to do things the same, broken way. That 100 means handing over the keys of our democracy to Wall Street, to wealthy interests that have been playing both sides of the aisle for too long."
Shein said it's difficult to judge Neal on his voting record because many important ideas regarding climate change, campaign finance reform and Wall Street reform never make it to the floor of the House because representatives who are beholden to their donors don't bring them up.
"That money means silence on a lot of issues," he said.
Shein promised to support progressive proposals and join the congressional progressive caucus, which Neal is not a member of, but outgoing 1st District U.S. Rep. John Olver was.
Neal twice noted that Olver had endorsed him. Neal said he would continue to provide steadfast support for job-training initiatives, community colleges and social safety net programs. He also highlighted his past work on local infrastructure projects, including extending broadband to rural areas.
Nuciforo and Shein both said they'd support a single-payer health care system.
Nuciforo also said he would do whatever he could to bring manufacturing jobs back to places like Springfield, Chic opee and Pittsfield.
The debate Monday was one of two in which Neal agreed to take part. Six had been proposed.
The next debate will be hosted in Pittsfield on Aug. 30 by WBEC radio. It will air from 6-7 p.m. and will also be carried by WSBS in Great Barrington and WNAW in North Adams.
"Andrea Nuciforo, Bill Shein strike out at US Rep. Richard Neal during debate"
By Ben Storrow, Daily Hampshire Gazette, 08/21/2012
SPRINGFIELD — The sole televised debate among the three Democratic candidates in the recently redrawn 1st Congressional District proved a testy affair Monday, as challengers Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and Bill Shein sought to paint 12-term U.S. Rep. Richard Neal as a servant of Wall Street.
But Neal offered an emphatic defense to those charges, citing votes to enhance consumer protections, rein in the finance industry and protect Medicare and Social Security.
The stakes for the hourlong exchange broadcast on WGBY were especially high, as they marked the three candidates' only joint television appearance prior to the Sept. 6 primary. As such, the debate represented the best opportunity for Nuciforo and Shein make the case to voters to dump Neal.
The debate settled into a pattern early on, with the two candidates from Berkshire County wasting little time in trying to draw contrasts between themselves and the Springfield congressman.
Nuciforo and Shein would attempt to paint Neal as beholden to Wall Street, pointing to votes where he had favored corporate interests. Neal would then respond, pointing to votes that favored consumers.
Nuciforo, a former state senator from Pittsfield who now serves as the Register of Deeds for the Middle Berkshire District, said Neal had voted to let the big banks enter into the securities and derivatives markets and to repeal Glass-Steagal, a piece of Depression-era legislation that regulated the banking industry for nearly a half-century.
"I fear that kind of Wall Street agenda, forgetting about Main Street, is precisely the kind of thing we don't need more of in Washington," Nuciforo said.
Shein, as he has throughout the campaign, focused on campaign finance reform, saying that donations from corporate interests have prevented progress on environmental and economic justice issues.
"Until we figure out how to restore a democracy that is not overrun by corporate money, which goes to members of both parties, we are not going to have elections where all our voices are heard, we are not going to have a legislative process that includes all the ideas and, in particular, the progressive ideas Democrats need to be championing," the Alford writer said. "Congressman Neal raises most of his money from the same corporate PACs, the same corporate interests that fund Scott Brown."
To charges that he supported Wall Street over Main Street, Neal noted that he had voted in favor of Sarbanes-Oxley in 2002, which enhanced public disclosure requirements on publicly traded companies following the Enron accounting scandal; the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989, which expanded oversight of the savings and loans industry after it collapsed in the late 1980s; and Dodd-Frank in 2010, which helped create the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and generally sought to strengthen the country's financial regulations following the economic collapse of 2008.
"Every time there has been a consumer question raised over the course of my career, I have sided with the consumer," Neal said.
And he dismissed suggestions that his campaign contributions mean he advances a corporate agenda on Capitol Hill.
"The contributions I have received have been a careful reflection of the interests of the people of Massachusetts," Neal said. "SEIU, firefighters, teachers, policemen, tin knockers, electricians - it has come from a broad array of employees and employers across Massachusetts."
According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a non-partisan watchdog organization, 72 percent of the $1.6 million Neal has raised in the 2011-12 election cycle has come from the political action committees that represent corporate, labor and other third-party interests, while 65 percent of his contributions come from outside the commonwealth.
His top five contributors over the last two years are American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons ($20,000), Raytheon Co., a defense contractor based in Waltham ($18,000), Credit Suisse Group, a financial services firm based in Zurich, Switzerland ($17,500), United Technologies, a defense contractor based in Hartford, Conn., ($15,500) and the American Hospital Association ($15,500), the center reported.
Perhaps the most heated exchange occurred over the tax code, which Neal plays an important role in writing as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee.
Shein criticized Neal for supporting a tax break known as an active financing exception, which, he said, costs taxpayers an estimated $50 billion annually and encourages employers to ship jobs overseas.
Neal pushed back, saying he has repeatedly worked to close tax loopholes over his career. The Springfield congressman said he favors lowering the corporate tax rate while closing the loopholes many companies currently take advantage of.
In another exchange, Nuciforo said Neal had done "nothing to fix" carried interest, a provision in the tax code that allows hedge fund managers to count the income they receive from investors as capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate.
"On five different occasions I voted to tax carried interest at the competitive interest rate it should be taxed at - 35 percent," Neal interjected over moderator Jim Madigan and Nuciforo.
There are no Republicans running in the 1st District, meaning whoever wins the September primary will likely go on to represent the district in Washington.
Much of the 1st Congressional District has been represented by retiring U.S. Rep. John Olver of Amherst for the past two decades. The district was redrawn last fall by the state Legislature as a part of the decennial redistricting process to include all of Berkshire and Hampden counties, as well as parts of Franklin, Hampshire and Worcester counties.
The 1st District towns in Hampshire County are Chesterfield, Cummington, Easthampton, Granby, Goshen, Huntington, Plainfield, Middlefield, Southampton, South Hadley, Westhampton, Williamsburg and Worthington.
"Citizens Agenda: Jobs, economy at forefront of 1st Congressional District discussion"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle, August 19, 2012
Jobs and the economy: In a survey of Eagle readers, it consistently topped the list of issues that voters in Berkshire County consider most pressing.
"I have a graduate degree, but I can't find a job," one reader wrote. "What's up with that? I've been unemployed since I graduated this past May."
Or, as another Eagle reader ob served: "It's the economy, stupid!!!"
In the following question-and-answer session, the three candidates in the new 1st Congressional District for the Sept. 6 Democratic primary -- incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., and writer and activist Bill Shein -- outline their vision for reviving the economy locally and nationally.
The responses to questions from The Eagle have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What do you see as the most pressing fiscal issues facing the Berkshires, Western Massachusetts, and the country?
Neal: Well clearly it's on the jobs front and it's the national economy. During the Clinton years we created 22 million jobs and had an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, and the budget had been balanced for successive years, only to see the unraveling and the undoing of the Clinton economic successes, to the point where we were staring at a $15 trillion surplus. We're now staring at a $15 trillion deficit.
Nuciforo: Unemployment and underemployment. The Massachusetts unemployment rate trends slightly below the national rate, but a lack of good jobs continues to create hardships for middle-class and working families here. With so many people looking for work, or discouraged from even trying, our policymakers in Washington have an obligation to make improvements in the job market the top priority in the next Congress.
Shein: Without question, it's the need for jobs that pay a living wage that can support a family. For 30 years, we've been in a race to the bottom on wages and benefits in Western Mas sachusetts and across the country. That's what happens when economic and tax policy continues to give ever-more advantage to large global corporations rather than the smaller, local enterprises that can form the backbone of a durable, sustainable local economy.
Q: How would you like to see Congress ad dress the aforementioned issues?
Neal: First of all, extending credit is a big deal. There's been a bit of a credit freeze, in terms of loans for people who want to buy homes, loans for people who want to start small businesses, and loans for some of the vets that want to try their hand at enterprise.
I've also been in the vanguard of using the tax code, whether it's Build America Bonds, or New Markets Tax Credit Program, or one of my issues that I've championed for many, many years in Congress, the Research and Dev elopment Tax Credit -- there isn't any state in the nation that benefits more from R&D than Massachu setts. I think using the tax code is very important.
I also think we've seen the results of what stimulus spending can do. I think extending broadband is very, very important to the hilltowns and across the whole Berkshires. You can see with the Recovery Act here, we've brought $45 million for that effort in Massachusetts, and there's lots more work like that to be done.
Nuciforo: First, as part of our national effort to restore American manufacturing, we must assure that our international trade agreements are fair to American workers and manufacturers. In many cases, these agreements have been beneficial to shareholders but have carried hugely negative impacts for workers. I will fight to assure that every bilateral and regional trade agreement include protections for Amer ican workers.
I will also support an increase in the amount of public investment into research and development. On a percentage basis, we lag behind our peer countries. By doubling the amount that we invest in R&D, we can create new jobs, generate additional tax revenue, and promote the development of the next innovative medical devices, drug and green technologies.
Likewise, we should recommit ourselves to cleaning up the toxic legacies of our industrial past. Contamination continues to impede redevelopment in Springfield, Ludlow, and certain sites in the Berkshires.
Shein: Right now, I support substantial direct investment in job creation through New Deal-style jobs programs, something we should have done more vigorously in 2009.
Legislation has been introduced that would authorize hiring several million Amer icans to work on upgrading our schools, teaching our children, staffing Head Start programs, performing green retrofits of old buildings and homes, and employing young people in a modern Civilian Conservation Corps to do work in our state and national parks and other environmental work. That direct investment in hiring would provide a multiplier effect in our economy to spur private-sector job creation.
Along with substantial reductions in defense spending, allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire, and a range of ideas I strongly support in the Congressional Progressive Caucus Budget for All [which U.S. Rep John Olver voted for, Neal against], that's how we'll restore economic vibrancy and get on a path to fiscal and budget balance.
Q: How can Berkshire residents best be trained for jobs emerging in the new global economy?
Neal: Well, you're very well-positioned with the Mas sachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and you're very well-positioned with Berkshire Com munity College. I don't think I've had one stop in eight months across the Berkshires where I haven't had people talk to me about the role that Berkshire Com munity College plays and the role that MCLA plays.
Linking that to the whole notion in America of the skills gap is terribly important. Also, we need to make sure the kids that come out of high school have sufficient training. There are precision manufacturing jobs that go wanting, and I think addressing that skill set by keeping kids in school is a very important consideration, but [I understand] that a lot of parents can't afford $56,000 a year at George Washington University, so Berkshire Community College becomes a pretty good deal.
Let me give you a number which I think bares noting: The unemployment rate for the college-educated in America is 4 percent.
Nuciforo: The Berkshire Compact is one example of how the higher-education community in Berkshire County can gain a better understanding of which programs would best complement Berkshire employers. I worked with my colleagues in the statehouse to secure support for the Berk shire Compact, and served as a member of the Berkshire Compact for several years.
In keeping with the compact's objectives, we must 1) encourage young people to aspire to no less than 16 years of formal education; 2) make higher education achievable, both logistically and financially; and 3) build a system that encourages adoption of technology skills into our workforce. These long-term efforts will cost money.
As a member of Congress, I will fight to protect federal loan guarantees, Pell grants, and other federal programs that provide access to students from all walks of life. I will also promote federal investments in R&D, which provide direct federal support for research universities such as UMass in Amherst.
Lastly, we must maintain our commitment to vocational education. I would enhance federal funding for vocation education, under Title 20 and on a regional program-specific basis.
Shein: We need top-quality K-12 public education for all, affordable higher education, continued investment in vocational schools, and full funding of early education programs like Head Start. It's also never been more important to have an education system that empowers teachers to encourage the development of flexibility and independent, creative thought, rather than focus on high-stakes testing.
To fund education, I support substantial cuts to military spending and reforms to restore progressive taxation. We must live up to our rhetoric on education as the key to opportunity, and that means investing in our young people and making sure they aren't burdened with so much debt that their career and life options are narrowed. That's why the interest rate on federal student loans should be zero, not 3.4 or 6.8 percent.
I also strongly favor substantially expanding debt forgiveness programs along the lines of what's proposed in the Student Loan Forgiveness Act of 2012.
Q: What is the role of the arts economy in the new 1st District?
Neal: It's part of an integration. Over the years, I was involved with the Congres sional Arts Caucus. In addition to which I've been a champion of the National Endowment for the Arts and resisted the demagoguery that took place during the argument we had over the Contract with America.
I've been a supporter of the NEA, the National Endow ment for the Humanities and a big believer in the role that the arts play in our lives, whether it's Jacob's Pillow, Tanglewood, the Mahaiwe Theater or the Colonial Theatre.
One of the great success stories of the New Deal was Roosevelt's decision to em brace the arts. And not only did it make a lot of sense then, it makes a lot of sense now.
Nuciforo: The arts are a key part of our economic mix in the Berkshires. My record in the Massachusetts State Senate [1997-2007] reflects my early and enthusiastic commitment to the arts. For example, I worked in the Legislature to secure $6 million for the nascent Colonial Theatre restoration in downtown Pittsfield, and I continue to serve on the board at the Berkshire Theatre Group.
I worked with [former] Mayor Ruberto, [developer] Richard Stanley and various state and local officials to facilitate the development of the Beacon Cinema, and to fund streetscape improvements through out down town Pittsfield. The success of MassMOCA in North Adams is a continuing reminder of the economic power of innovative thinking.
There are tangible economic benefits associated with the creative economy. According to Berkshire Creative, the arts cluster is one of the most important economic drivers in Berkshire County, providing more than 6,000 jobs. These positions are increasingly year-round and can pay up to $30 per hour.
Shein: Our creative economy is vital for both tourism dollars and to maintain the vibrant cultural offerings that make Western Massachusetts a wonderful place to live. It means both economic activity and culturally interesting communities where people want to visit or live permanently.
The city of Holyoke is exploring ways to expand its creative economy as Pittsfield has done during the last decade, and it can be an important part of economic revitalization across the region.
Q: How will you ensure that Berkshire County will continue to re ceive its fair share of federal largesse, as Rep. Olver did for the Colonial Theatre and other projects?
Neal: Well, the Colonial Theatre was also done with New Markets Tax Credits -- $19 million of the $23 million used came from that program -- and using the tax code, in that sense, is a great investment. But I've also been a real champion of Medicare, and let me point out something about Medicare that I think bares noting: Half the revenue of Berkshire Medical Center comes from Medicare. Anoth er 15 percent comes from Medicaid. It is not only first-class, quality care for people who turn 65, but it's a huge component of the economy across Massachusetts. And Medicare provides not only good health care but thousands of jobs, and it helps to train new doctors.
In a campaign, you can hear people say they're going to support Medicare. I've done it. I've spent a career doing it. There isn't anybody in Congress whose been more of a longtime champion of Social Security than I have.
Nuciforo: During my 10 years in the Massachusetts State Senate, I used strong, project-specific advocacy to bring millions of dollars to Berkshire County. I intend to take the same approach as a member of Congress.
I am proud of my track record: $6 million for the Colonial Theatre restoration; state support for roof and HVAC repairs at the Berk shire Museum; street scape improvements in numerous Berkshire towns; funding for directed patrols to address downtown crime hot spots; "critical access hospital" funding for our local health-care system; and much more.
It is not enough to simply vote to provide funding for national initiatives. I intend to advocate for Berkshire projects within specific federal agencies -- from the Department of Transportation to USDA.
Shein: Every member of Congress works hard to bring resources back to their district for worthwhile and essential projects. By championing the same progressive tax and budget priorities as Rep. Olver and the Congressional Progressive Caucus, I will help make available more resources for the many investments we need to make.
Rather than fight over scraps, our goal should be to ensure we have federal resources available for what's necessary in our communities and elsewhere. And that means doing more than just bringing home dollars. It means being an outspoken champion of political reform so that our tax policies, in particular, don't continue to favor the wealthy interests that fund our candidates and an army of corporate lobbyists.
Q: What can be done to help traditional businesses, many of them manufacturing, continue to thrive?
Neal: I think the Research and Development Tax Credit is a huge component of their success, making sure that they're well-positioned for federal opportunities in terms of investment, as is General Dynamics.
But also, returning to that argument about having well-trained students that can take those jobs: The skills gap in America is alarming today. There are an estimated 3.5 [million] to 5 million jobs that go wanting because we don't have the satisfactory skills for someone to take those jobs.
Parts of the manufacturing economy today in America are doing quite well in boosting exports, which grew last year by 5.7 percent. When you look at the German success story today, with an unemployment rate of 5 percent, their growth has overwhelmingly come from exports. And in the Berkshires, again, the plastics industry, General Dynamics, Sabic, they're all well-positioned to grow exports.
Nuciforo: Massachusetts has a proud legacy of manufacturing, and I will work hard to support the revival of that sector. I will do so by advancing the proposals [that I] outlined above.
In addition, I will file legislation to accomplish the following: to promote federal investment in green technology; to establish a new, permanent tax credit for American companies that invest in domestic R&D; to provide federal support for educational programs tailored to meet the employment needs of local manufacturers; and to transform America's "H" visa program, and thereby allow foreign customers better access to American software companies, manufacturers, and other suppliers.
Shein: In addition to the ideas [that I] presented above that are applicable to small business, I support President Obama's efforts to expand, and eventually double, the budget for the Hollings Manufacturing Extensions Partnership (MEP).
Through MEP centers in Massachusetts and every state, small- and medium-sized manufacturers have access to a variety of resources and technical expertise. Combined with federal and private-sector investment in research and development, particularly related to clean energy development and deployment, we can preserve manufacturing jobs and, where necessary, work to transition small- and medium-sized manufacturers to product lines that serve new and evolving needs and markets.
"Citizens Agenda: Health insurance, care major campaign issues"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle, August 23, 2012
The rising cost of health insurance premiums. The successes and failures of the Affordable Care Act. The shortage of primary care doctors in the Berkshires.
Today, the three Democrats vying to represent the 1st Massachusetts District in Congress tackle health care in America.
The topic, chosen by readers as part of The Eagle's Citizens Agenda series, is one of the major issues facing citizens in the district.
In the exchange that follows, incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., and writer and activist Bill Shein share their positions. The three will face off during the Sept. 6 Democratic primary, which in the absence of any Republican candidates will likely decide the November general election.
Q: What action would you support to combat the rising cost of health insurance?
Neal: I think that some of the things that have been done on a state basis, for example the way that the governor and the Leg islature have approached some of these cost containment measures is important. The states have really been great crucibles of experimenting. I think there are realties that have to be acknowledged, and one of the realties is that it's technology that drives the cost of health care. In a hospital where you're being treated for colon cancer, you want to know that there is a linear accelerator available, and those are very expensive pieces of equipment when you consider the changes that are impacting health care, there's nothing that drives the cost more than the cost of technology. That's a challenge, how we keep advancing technology and containing costs. I think where the government can assist in helping with the cost of technology, including the National Institutes of Health, is a key consideration.
Nuciforo: I think we have to move in the direction of a universal, single-payer system. Let me relay a story to you. My first term in the state Senate, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce was absolutely opposed to any movement in the direction of the single-payer system. And the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce is the big employers in the Boston area. As I was leaving the Statehouse, the big employers in the city of Boston were no longer as rigidly opposed, and the reason they weren't was because they saw inflation going up by an annualized rate of 3 percent, but they saw their insurance premiums going up by 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11 percent per year. I think as the business community starts to come around to the notion of the single-payer system -- with reduced administrative cost [and] most insurance dollars going toward actual care -- I think in that case you're going to start to see the business community in general embrace the idea of single-payer and I want to be one of the people in Washington that helps them get there.
Shein: I'm going to keep coming back to single-payer. We built this reform on top of a system that is not going to be able to contain costs the way that we need to and also provide quality care to everyone. Keep in mind that [the Affordable Care Act] does not provide health care for everyone. We're still going to have tens of millions of people who don't have health care. We pushed a lot of people in this reform into Medicaid, and remarkably, one out of six Americans gets their health care from Medicaid. We need a better program than Medicaid. That's, I believe, a weakness in this reform. The problem with health care costs right now, among others, is that people are finding they can't even afford to use the health care that they're going to have to pay for because of rising co-pays and rising deductibles. I meet people almost every day and it's remarkable how often that precise example comes up. They'd like to go to the doctor, but they can't afford the deductible. ... The winners are the insurance companies, because that means they're receiving premium dollars and they're not providing health care.
Q: What action do you think Congress and the federal government can take to address the shortage of primary care doctors in rural areas like the Berkshires?
Nuciforo: I think the federal government could play a role in two respects. No. 1, supporting programs in medical schools that will encourage young physicians to go into primary care, some of this can be done with loan accommodation and loan forgiveness programs. No. 2, with respect to reimbursements, health care is an industry built around payment schedules. So the payment schedules have to be attractive enough so that those physicians that go into that particular practice can do so and know that they'll be fairly compensated for their work.
Shein: We need to change the economics; we need to make sure the primary care physicians are paid better. The system right now is set up to incentives doctors who specialize and we need to increase what we're paying for services provided by the primary care doctors and particularly preventative care services. ... I think we can look to loan forgiveness for doctors who become primary care physicians. That's important. ... One of the advantages of a single-payer system is we can address that.
Neal: I think that Congress has a role in expanding the slots at medical schools, particularly those that are government-funded medical schools. It's more complicated than that, but I think it would certainly be a step in the right direction. And I think a more significant subsidy in terms of helping a primary care physician, to write off the costs of their educations, as long as they become a primary care physician for up to five or 10 years would be very helpful.
Q: Where would you like to see further reform to the country's health care system?
Shein: One of the things the Affordable Care Act does nothing on is dental care. I also don't support the language, the idea of the Stupak amendment, which is important because Congressman Neal supported it. It was an effort by pro-life Republicans and a handful of Democrats who blocked any health care subsidies for plans that include reproductive health services, including abortions. It just about derailed the entire process. And Congressman Neal supported that. I don't believe women should be denied legal reproductive health services just because they are poor. ... The problem is that reforms [are] built on top of the broken, expensive, private health insurance system. That's why over the long-term I don't think it will achieve everything that is necessary. So that's why I support enhanced Medicare for all. Single-payer health care would save us an estimated $400 billion a year in money that we now spent on insurance company overhead and profit. ... We did not have single-payer Medicare for all as part of the conversation, despite broad support across the country and particularly in Western Massachusetts. Every time there's been a nonbinding ballot question across the region on single-payer health care, it gets overwhelming support. That speaks to one of the central arguments of my campaign, which is that campaign money from insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies drown out the best ideas.
Nuciforo: I will tell you that I don't think that it went nearly far enough. During my service in the state Senate, on several occasions I offered and co-sponsored the Health Care For All measure with respect to a universal single-payer health plan. And while I think that arch of health care in this country is in the direction of a Medicare-for-all style universal, single-payer system, and I regret that that did not occur back in 2009 and 2010. ... I would love to see a greater range of services offered and paid for through Medicare and the various Medicaid programs that are provided in the home. Institutional settings such as nursing homes, skilled nursing facilities, hospitals -- institutional settings tend to be the most expensive way to provide care, and with advances in technology, medical devices, drugs, many health care services can now be provided in non-institutional settings, at home, for example. ... The issue of women's health was raised in a major way in connection with President Obama's Affordable Care Act. As you know, Congressman Neal joined with House Republicans in an attempt to undermine that act in supporting the Stupak Amendment ... restricting access to reproductive care and contraception for millions of women. So when the chips were down ... Cong ressman Neal helped House Re publicans in voting for it. Ultimately the president had to include an executive order that contained that same language in order to assure passage of the Affordable Care Act by both the House and the Senate. I would not have voted for it and I think any responsible Democrat would not have taken that vote.
Neal: I think you're going to continue to see changes as you move along based on a component [already in] the health care bill, known as opportunities for geographic experiments. So there's going to be an opportunity here for certain regions -- they're called technically regional demonstration projects -- and they'll be able to do some experimenting. And there will be financial incentives for the purposes of the experiment. ... There's some really good stuff in here when you drill down on it. Not only has [the act] not played out, but remember that a lot of the really good parts have gone into effect right now, including the women's health care. Osteoporosis [and] mammography screening are the two good examples, but the regional demonstration projects will give us an opportunity to figure out where we want to go in the future. I mean, I think the approach that we've learned since Medicare, to Clinton, to Obama, has really been to experiment and to offer incremental advances.
"Candidates zero in on Wall Street reform, Occupy movement"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle, September 1, 2012
Echoes from the fall’s Occupy Wall Street movement are still reverberating around the Berkshires.
In our survey of Eagle readers, a litany of issues brought to the forefront by protesters were raised in connection to the race to represent the 1st Congressional District in the U.S. House.
Calls for campaign finance and Wall Street reform came to the forefront.
In today’s installment of our Citizens Agenda series, incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Middle Berkshire register of deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., and writer-activist Bill Shein share their views on issues.
In the absence of any Republican contenders in the redrawn 1st Congressional District, Thursday’s primary between the three Democrats will decide the November general election.
Q: Given the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, how can concerns about the role of SuperPACs and corporate money be meaningfully addressed short of passing a constitutional amendment?
Nuciforo: Certainly I would support a constitutional amendment, and I understand the difficulties associated with that and the time constraints. I also believe that full and immediate disclosure from those that are contributing to super PACs should be the law of the land. Even though the 5-4 majority in Citizens United said super PACs can exist and can spend an unlimited amount of money, the court did not preclude full transparency. ... And I also believe that Š it couldn’t be more important to have a Democratic president, because the next president, either Obama or Romney, is likely going to have the opportunity to fill at least one seat on the Supreme Court. Citizens United was of course a 5-4 decision, and I think it would be terrific if the super PAC question arose anew and appeared before a newly constituted Supreme Court.
Shein: I don’t think a constitutional amendment is far off given the rapid pace of organizing for passage of an amendment and the understanding among a great majority of Americans that we have to address this question to protect our democracy. Before Citizens United, we already had an out-of-control problem with campaign money going directly to candidates and that problem still exists. We can’t hide behind Citizens United. We have to enact public financing of elections. We have to ban contributions from lobbyists and to elect people like me who make clear that they will not take any of that money. We need to not take any corporate money or large donations so we can be outspoken champions of meaningful reforms.
Neal: The process for amending the constitution would take years. Am I on the bill? Yes, I am. The most important thing we can do right now is change the Supreme Court, and you only need one vote to change it. I think it’s noteworthy that ... with Citizens United, it was a very conservative court that has enabled the argument that money enables speech. These are Supreme Court decisions. I have voted for every campaign finance measure that has come through Congress since I’ve been there. And every time that we embrace these reforms, somebody finds away around it, and Citizens United is the most recent example. I do think, another thing with Citizens United that would be very helpful is transparency. You should know whose giving this money.
Q: What further measures do you support to prevent another economic collapse at the hands of a banking system primarily motivated by the pursuit of profits?
Neal: That’s what bankers do. I think that in the Dodd-Frank legislation, there is a wind-down for the too-big-to-fail policy. And in addition I think transparency is important. I support the Volcker rule in terms of proprietary trading. I also think that managing risk is the big issue and trustees and others should know precisely what the element of risk is as some of these sophisticated, risky devices.
Nuciforo: The Dodd-Frank bill provided some meaningful Wall Street reform, but I don’t think it went far enough. I will be proposing a very tough Volcker rule. The Volcker rule in a nutshell is a restriction that appeared in Dodd-Frank on proprietary trading -- when a bank uses its own capital to make risky bets. ... So Dodd-Frank had a provision, the Volcker rule, that would prevent the banks from proprietary trading. Sounds good, right? It turns out that the various federal regulators have been delaying and denying and dragging their feet with respect the Volcker rule. So basically, I’m saying we need a tough Volcker rule to restrict proprietary trading and thereby protect the capital of the banks so the banks don’t fall part again.
Shein: Break up the big banks. An enterprise that’s too big to fail is too big to exist. We also need those campaign finance changes that are required to break the stranglehold of Wall Street money on our elections and our legislative process. We need to fully implement Dodd-Frank, recognizing that it doesn’t go far enough. And we need to have economic policy focused on giving advantage to small and local business rather than global businesses that are not owned by those in our communities.
Q: What issues raised by the Occupy movement do you think Congress most urgently needs to address?
Shein: Obviously, No. 1 is wealth and income inequality. We can not have the kind of fair society that we all want without a fair economy and shared prosperity. Secondly, Occupy Wall Street is about getting big money out of politics. I’ve made clear in this campaign that until we fix the way our legislative process works, we’re not going to make nearly enough progress on fairness in our economy and we’re not going to see the action we need on environmental issues, particularly climate change.
Neal: I think the Occupy movement is entirely accurate about income disparity. It is not, however, a one- or two-year phenomenon. It’s a 30-year phenomenon. And much of it has to do with education. Much of it has to do with skills training. And much of it has to do with automation. But there is no question that globalization is not going to retreat and we have to be mindful of it in making sure the young men and women who come out of Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School have the best skills available to them for the challenges that are going to confront the nation.
Nuciforo: Jobs and the economy. The Occupy movement was driven in part by young, educated Americans that were unable to find a job. I’m related to several of those people -- several family members who, having done everything right, having done well in high school, having gone on to college, having gone to graduate school -- found themselves in 2009 and 2010 unable to find work. And I think the Occupy movement has done a good job shining a light on that critical problem.
"Congressional candidates focus on how to cut deficit"
Berkshire Eagle Staff, September 3, 2012
Right now it’s at $15.9 trillion.
In the final installment of our Citizens Agenda series, we address a problem that is getting a little bigger every day: the national debt.
In the exchange that follows, the three Democrats vying to represent the 1st Congressional District discuss the problem and what solutions they’ll bring to the table if voters send them to Congress.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, Middle Berkshire register of deeds Andrea F. Nuci foro Jr., and writer-activist Bill Shein will face off during Thursday’s primary election. In the absence of any Republican challengers, the winner will likely go on to represent the district.
Q: How can Democrats meaningfully address the growing national deficit while maintaining increasingly expensive social service programs?
Neal: The first thing to consider is that, if you can get the unemployment rate back to the historic post-war norm of 4.5 to 5 percent, that takes care of one third of the deficit issue: Capital gains go up, income taxes go up, pressure on social spending goes way down -- that takes some of the pressure off of Medicaid for example. And I think that then you move on to dealing with the fiscal cliff, and clearly revenue is going to have to be part of the fiscal cliff. And I think taxing people with over $1 million of income makes sense.
Nuciforo: When you talk about trimming or reducing the acceleration in government spending, I think you’ve really got to talk about health care. I’m a big fan of the provisions relative to Accountable Care Organizations. This would allow for the creation of a collection of providers -- a hospital, a long-term care facility, several physicians groups, a visiting nurses organization -- these providers, together, would be paid a fixed amount of money and then be tasked with providing care to a fixed number of patients living within a community. One other point: Defense spending. Š I think that any responsible Congress going forward will try to wring as much savings as possible out of the money we’re spending in the defense budget.
Shein: There are a variety of things we can do. One, we should reduce military spending. The military budget is double what it was 10 years ago. We can reduce that spending and invest money in other priorities in deficit reduction. We can restore progressive taxation by allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire. We can enact a carbon tax. Part of the revenue from the Save Our Climate Act -- which I support and my opponents do not -- would be used for deficit reduction.
Q: Do you think Obama’s proposal to let the Bush-era tax cuts expire those for making more than $250,000 a year goes far enough to address the deficit in terms of raising revenue?
Nuciforo: I agree with the president’s proposal and I support it. I think that taxpayers at the very top of the income scale are paying effective tax rates that are near the lowest they’ve paid since WWII, and with all of the obligations we have in this country these days -- and I’m talking everything from infrastructure to health care -- I think we will need to restore the pre-2001 tax rate to make sure we’ve got the revenue necessary to meet our obligations.
Shein: It’s not enough by itself, but it’s the right policy on income tax rates. We should tax capital gains as income. We should require corporations to pay their fair share, and that includes ending tax breaks for General Electric and others that congressman Neal wants to make permanent. We can reduce the tax burden on individuals by restoring proper taxation of multinational corporations. U.S. based.
Neal: It doesn’t go far enough in terms of ending the deficits, but it certainly heads in the right direction.
Q: What kinds of long-term debt solutions would you advocate?
Shein: In the broader picture, we also need to move to single- payer health care. The growing expense of Medicare can be best addressed by expanding it to include everyone. That’s the best way to control costs. I’m strongly opposed to reducing Medi care or Social Security benefits. Second, we need to raise or eliminate that Social Security tax cap, which is now at $110,000. Because of bad policy, too much of our national income now falls above the Social Security tax cap, and that’s why we have funding challenges in the years beyond 2035.
Neal: Well the tax code really has to be changed. The tax code is creaking. It has now not been reformed in 25 years, and I think that it’s one of the great historic achievements of the Tip O’Neill/Regan years: fundamental tax reform. And the argument now that I would embrace and support enthusiastically is closing loop holes. And I think that’s how you broaden the base. I’ve worked hard on the Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein. I’ve battled the Bermuda loophole for a long period of time. I don’t think allowing American companies to expatriate to tax havens and then not pay American corporate taxes is a good idea.
Nuciforo: I think the solutions that we’ve talked about for the annual budget deficit are not unlike the solutions we’ll need to implement long term to deal with the national debt. The total national debt is what, $15 trillion now? In order to tackle a number of that magnitude, we will, on an annual basis, have to reduce what limited amount of money we are spending while increasing revenue.
Editorial: "A candidate stumbles"
By Daily Hampshire Gazette, Editorial, 08/18/2012
It has been more than a week since a fellow 1st Congressional District candidate questioned the source of policy positions that appeared on Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.'s campaign website. And Nuciforo has had a week to acknowledge that lifting statements from a hodgepodge of like-minded Democrats and fashioning them as his own words was a dreadful blunder.
You won't find the statements on Nuciforo's website now, for the Pittsfield Democrat and former state senator had the questioned material taken down. (It remains available on the site of rival Bill Shein of Alford, who discovered the statements.)
In a conversation at the Gazette Monday, Nuciforo said he and his staff had not yet completed a review of the passages. Nuciforo said that review could take days, weeks or months - a bizarre timetable given that the Sept. 6 Democratic primary is upon us. In the absence of a Republican challenge, the vote will choose a new leader for the redrawn district, since U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, is retiring.
We waited a full week for Nuciforo to do the right thing and own up to this misstep. As of 5 p.m. Friday, the candidate had taken no public action to set things right. This campaign appears to have engaged in the theft of intellectual property and not been honest about that. This does not build public trust. We question whether Nuciforo possesses the moral compass required for this high office.
Candidates travel the high road, when running for office, by discovering what they believe should be done in our legislatures or corner offices and then letting voters judge them by those policies.
We liked the policies on seniors, women, veterans and the environment laid out in the now-removed sections. So did their authors, former U.S. Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, former Senate candidate Alan Khazei of Massachusetts and Stacey Lawson, a congressional candidate in California. Identical language, or thinly revised clones of that language, first appeared on those politicians' websites.
Nuciforo has said his campaign's intent is to add proper references and citations. That misses the point. The candidate has continued to dispute that this adds up to plagiarism. Merriam-Webster defines plagiarizing as "to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own."
The candidate has said that as a progressive Democrat he "stands on the shoulders of giants." Given the sources of the purloined beliefs, that company apparently includes the disgraced former North Carolina senator and former presidential candidate. We doubt Nuciforo would tell audiences on the campaign trail that they should vote for him because he thinks John Edwards got it right.
Most galling is the campaign's use of material clearly adapted from "The Khazei Principles" produced by that candidate during his run for Senate, in which he explains how he reaches positions on policy. In this case, Nuciforo doesn't just name-check a policy, he represents another man's approach the intellectual process as his own.
A campaign website is a sales tool. It seeks to get voters nodding in agreement and winning them over. By not clarifying what happened, and taking the larger responsibility of accepting responsibility for this mistake, Nuciforo has engaged in false advertising.
We suspect Nuciforo is dithering because he believes admitting a mistake of this kind will do more damage to his campaign. This week, pressed by Gazette editors and a reporter to explain his then four days of inaction, Nuciforo said three times, in a rehearsed statement, that he takes "full and personal responsibility" for any material produced by his campaign. That's good, for trying to lay blame on someone else would have been ludicrous.
We are disappointed the candidate allowed this to happen in the first place.
Nuciforo said in his meeting at the Gazette that he embraces all of the positions expressed in the disputed passages.
But effective leadership involves more than lining up with policies.
It requires an ability to articulate those ideas and beliefs from the candidate's own heart and mind. On the floor of the House of Representatives, in a contentious policy debate, it isn't enough to say you agree with colleagues already lined up on the same side of a bill. An effective leader must be able to change minds by making fresh arguments. A memorable speech can't be built from scraps of earlier oratory.
The public takes a dim view of Congress because it often appears its members are more interested in personal success than in advancing the nation's interests. Just 10 percent of Americans believe Congress is doing a good job, according to a Gallup poll this month; that ties a poll in February as the worst rating in the 38 years the organization has been asking this question.
Nuciforo's lack of outrage - at himself - raises troubling questions.
AP photos, design by Jennifer Levesque. Source: "Tailored Message, Stolen Message?: Democrat Bill Shein accuses his 1st Congressional District opponent Andrea Nuciforo of plagiarism." By Maureen Turner, Valley Advocate, August 10, 2012.
Excerpt: "A review of Nuciforo’s campaign-finance records show, however, that the individual donors who’ve contributed to his Congressional campaign include numerous lobbyists, corporate attorneys, and executives from investment firms, mortgage lenders and pharmaceutical companies."
"D.C. work pays local dividends"
By Congressman Richard Neal, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, August 26, 2012
For nearly a year, I have made hundreds of visits across Berkshire County and met with thousands of people. I have listened to people’s concerns and shared my views on issues that are important to our region. While I have been fortunate to meet many of you, for those who have not had a chance to say hello, my DNA is local government. My days as a public servant began as a mayoral aide, a city councilor, and finally mayor of Springfield before winning election to Congress in 1988.
In addition to managing a major city and having firsthand knowledge of the budgets and fiscal realities the Berkshires face, for 24 years I have represented wide-ranging communities from small, rural towns to large urban cities. This has enabled me to develop a keen understanding of how a diversified economy can succeed in the global market. I can tell you Berkshire County is a microcosm of our national economy and is primed for growth.
Two of my friends over the past 25 years have been your two previous congressmen. John Olver -- who has glowingly endorsed my candidacy for re-election -- and I have partnered for 20 years to provide leadership to Western Massachusetts. Before that, I worked closely with Silvio O. Conte. Sil mentored me when I first entered Congress, and I long for the days when Dem ocrats and Republicans can once again have the same relationship Sil and I shared.
Having been represented by Sil and John for the past 50 years, the Berkshires know the importance of a senior congressman; I look forward to continuing this tradition of experienced leadership. Over many years, my work has already paid dividends locally. Sil, John, and I always supported investment in transportation to improve our infrastructure and put people to work. One of the keys to redeveloping downtown Pitts field was the Colonial Thea tre, a crown jewel that would be the envy of any city in the world. The Colonial was rehabbed using New Markets Tax Credits, a program created by legislation I worked on. New Markets counted for $19 million of the $23 million redevelopment, and this project would not have been feasible without my stewardship.
No one is a stronger advocate for preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare. I was the lead Demo crat who traveled the country defending Social Security and Medicare from Republican attacks. Just imagine if the Social Security Trust Fund was turned over to Wall Street like President George W. Bush proposed. My sisters and I were raised by an aunt and grandmother on Social Security Survivor’s Benefits after my parents died, so you can count on me to protect Social Security and Medicare. I assisted with Medicare and Medicaid waivers used by Berkshire Medical Center and North Adams Regional Hospital, and these waivers enable you to maintain two world-class hospitals.
My work on behalf of renewable and alternative energy can be seen countywide. The Silver Lake Solar Facility in Pittsfield was built because of tax credits I co-sponsored. Energy efficiency home improvements, installation of smart meters, and increased use of natural gas were direct results of legislation I helped sponsor -- and people across the Berkshires have seen lower energy costs.
You will soon be able to do business across the globe with the click of a finger because John Olver and I secured the $72 million necessary to expand broadband Internet access to the Berkshires. Similarly, John and I funded expanded rail transportation throughout New England and you can count on me to keep fighting for an east-west rail link from Pittsfield to Boston.
Experience means more than just results. Experience afforded me the wisdom to cast the two votes I am most proud of after a long career. While there were not many of us, I voted against the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 -- and got up on the House floor to speak against both. I am proud of my domestic agenda and my foreign policy work, specifically playing a key role brokering peace in Ireland-which is a model for the world. I ask for your support and your vote so I can be the voice of the Berkshires.
Rep. Richard Neal is running for the 1st Berkshire District congressional seat against Andrea Nuciforo Jr. and Bill Shein, whose op-ed columns will run in The Eagle in the days ahead.
"Andrea Nuciforo files financial disclosure form late; discloses legal salary, rental income"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The Republican, August 27, 2012
Republican file photosThis composite image shows candidates for western Massachusetts' 1st Congressional District, including U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, former State Sen. Andrea Nuciforo and political activist and writer Bill Shein.
Congressional candidate Andrea Nuciforo will face a late fee after he failed to turn in a personal financial disclosure form required by the U.S. House Committee on Ethics until asked about it by a reporter.
Nuciforo is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and political activist Bill Shein in the Democratic primary for the newly redrawn 1st congressional district. No Republicans are running.
The financial disclosure statement, which is required of all candidates who raise or spend $5,000, was due May 15. A candidate who files late must pay a $200 fine. Nuciforo filed the forms Friday, after a MassLive.com reporter asked the campaign about the omission.
Nuciforo spokesman Patrick Tool said he did not know why the report was not filed on time, but all the information was disclosed in a May report filed with the Massachusetts State Ethics Commission. Nuciforo was required to file that report because he holds public office as Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds.
Nuciforo said he regrets not filing the forms earlier but has made the appropriate filings and disclosures this month. “Everything I’m required by law to file has been filed,” he said.
This is not the first campaign misstep for Nuciforo, who overhauled his website after Shein revealed that portions of Nuciforo’s website were copied almost word for word from other politicians.
The financial disclosure forms require candidates to list their assets, liabilities and income, and allow the public to know about potential conflicts of interest. Only forms for current members of Congress are available online. The forms for congressional candidates are kept by the U.S. House clerk in Washington, D.C. Copies can be reviewed through the lobbyist division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State.
MassLive.com previously reported on Neal’s finances, which included assets valued between $68,000 and $201,000. Candidates are required to check a box indicating a range of values for their assets, so exact numbers are not available.
Nuciforo earns $90,000 a year as Register of Deeds. He is also a lawyer with Cianflone & Cianflone, and earned $43,300 in that job in 2011. (Clients that paid him at least $5,000 for legal services included Greylock Federal Credit Union and Berkshire Bank.)
Nuciforo owns four rental properties, two each in Boston and Pittsfield, and took in a total of between $15,000 and $40,000 in rental income in 2011. The Boston properties are assessed at between $250,000 and $500,000, while the Pittsfield properties are assessed at between $100,000 and $250,000.
He had other assets totaling between $46,000 and $165,000 in 2011. That includes E-Trade and Diamond Trust mutual funds and stock in GE and Meridian.
Nuciforo has mortgages on three rental properties and his home. Three mortgages are between $100,000 and $250,000 and one is between $250,000 and $500,000. He owes between $5,000 and $50,000 on a student loan.
The federal disclosure form and the state Ethics Commission disclosure include similar information, but some different details. For example, only the federal form required Nuciforo to list his exact law firm salary and the value of his mutual funds and stocks.
Shein said he has no real estate, stocks, bonds or bank accounts over $5,000. He reported earning a total of $29,550 in 2011 from an information technology and web consulting business and from freelance writing. As of May 8, 2012, he had earned $8,400 from the consulting business this year. Shein did computer work for Gellfam Management Corp. in New York; Biodynamic Farming and Gardening Association in Wisconsin; and Green Berkshires, Inc., in Great Barrington, Mass.
"As Massachusetts state senator, congressional candidate Andrea Nuciforo pushed mortgage reform, scuttled auto insurance reform"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The Republican, August 29, 2012
In 2006, Republican Governor Mitt Romney, with support from Democratic legislators, proposed a sweeping reform of the Massachusetts auto insurance industry, which would have introduced more competitive pricing, giving insurers more flexibility to adjust rates.
State Sen. Andrea Nuciforo, chairman of the Joint Committee on Financial Services, called the proposal anti-consumer. He said, according to the Boston Herald, "If it does not die the death it deserves in the House, it will be dead on arrival in the Senate."
And it was. “I did everything I could to kill that,” Nuciforo said in an interview with MassLive.com. “You may find inflammatory language I used…I stand by that language 100 percent. For as long as I was chair of the committee, I didn’t let that bill advance.”
Nuciforo, who is running against U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and writer Bill Shein in the Democratic primary for the redrawn 1st Congressional District, faces an uphill climb challenging a 12-term incumbent Congressman, but he is not unknown among local voters. Nuciforo served in the state Senate from 1997 to 2006 and held significant sway over regulatory issues as chairman of the Joint Committee on Banks and Banking, which became the Joint Committee on Financial Services. Among the most significant bills Nuciforo was involved with were a bill curbing predatory lending practices and attempts to scuttle auto insurance reform. By some, Nuciforo was seen as a consumer advocate. But he also accepted large amounts of money from industry and insurance companies, leading others – including Neal in a recent debate – to question his motivations for opposing insurance reform.
Before the insurance debate, one of Nuciforo’s defining achievements was a predatory lending bill he sponsored, which became law in 2004. State House News Service wrote in 2004 that there had been a decade-long stalemate over how to regulate predatory lending. Nuciforo said he became interested in the issue after hearing testimony from the public and consumer advocates about the rise of subprime mortgages and high-cost loans that were being made in low and middle income communities, where borrowers were often unable to repay them.
“I pushed (the predatory lending bill) very aggressively,” Nuciforo said. “It became a top priority for me in light of what was happening to borrowers across the commonwealth.” Legislative leaders coalesced around the proposal, which was ultimately endorsed by the consumer group Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now and accepted by the mortgage lenders industry.
The law placed new restrictions on mortgage lenders making high-cost loans. State House News Service reported that, among other provisions, the law required borrowers receiving a high cost loan to receive credit counseling, and required lenders to have a reasonable belief that the borrower could repay the loan. It capped the points and fees that could be charged for a home mortgage loan, and placed heavy penalties on lenders that violated the law.
Former Rep. John Quinn, the House chairman of the Banks and Banking Committee who co-sponsored the bill, said it was the most significant piece of legislation considered by the committee from 2001 to 2004. “We were trying to get a balanced approach to a bill that allowed business to continue to be conducted, but would get rid of bad actors in the business,” Quinn said. “We were trying to be fair to everyone in that complex world of financial regulations and mortgages.”
Kevin Cuff, executive director of Community Mortgage Lenders of America, was then executive director of the Massachusetts Mortgage Bankers Association. Cuff said he believes most legislators naturally look out for consumers, and Nuciforo was no different. Cuff said Nuciforo was professional and had an open door. “Andy was very good at getting the gist of ‘OK, we’ve got ourselves a big animal here, give me the parts that are acceptable to industry … and that are unacceptable to industry.’ He’d make his arguments why those were necessary; I’d make my arguments why they were not.”
Cuff said one big issue was making laws governing mortgage lenders similar to laws governing bank loans. For example, banks were not allowed to offer different loan services in Lenox and Springfield because Springfield was a higher risk market. Nuciforo worked to apply similar restrictions to mortgage lenders.
Another area where Nuciforo played a major role was auto insurance reform. Massachusetts had an unusual system in which state regulators set insurance rates based on a few factors, such as driving record. A bill was put forward by Democratic Rep. Ronald Mariano, who could not be reached for this story, building on Romney’s proposal. Among other changes, the bill would have given insurers more leeway to set rates based on factors including age, education, credit score and others.
Nuciforo echoed comments he made in 2006 when he told The Republican, “That was one of the most anti-consumer provisions I’ve ever seen produced in the legislature.” Massachusetts requires consumers to have auto insurance, and Nuciforo said he worried insurance companies would make policies unaffordable for young, urban drivers, seniors and others who could least afford it.
Deirdre Cummings, legislative director for the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group, commonly referred to as MassPIRG, said Nuciforo was “a clear, outspoken and tireless advocate” for consumers. “There were numerous proposals to deregulate the auto market, and he was very vocal in ensuring that the deregulated system was not allowed to move forward, and making sure that drivers got a fair shake out of the whole deal,” Cummings said. “He was very careful making sure we wouldn’t undermine or repeal some of the important consumer protections that had been adopted over time.”
Insurance companies were split on the measure. The Boston Globe reported that Commerce Insurance and Arbella Mutual Insurance did well under the state-regulated system and opposed the bill.
The Berkshire Eagle reported that 18 executives at Commerce Insurance donated a total of $9,000 to Nuciforo’s campaign in 2005, the most money donated by employees of any one company. Other top donors included employees of Liberty Mutual ($6,800) and Arbella insurance Group ($2,400), according to the Berkshire Eagle. Liberty Mutual supported the reform.
The conservative Boston Herald editorial board noted Nuciforo’s opposition to the bill and commented, “Surely, the fact that Nuciforo is a beneficiary of the largesse of an insurance company with a stranglehold on Massachusetts consumers has nothing to do with such bombast.”
Neal made a similar point in an Aug. 20 debate, commenting, “You couldn't have taken any more money from Commerce Insurance.”
Asked about the insurance industry contributions, Nuciforo said, “I did absolutely the right thing on that bill. I took the pro-consumer position.”
Brian Lees, a former Republican Senate Minority leader with no involvement in the Democratic primary, said Nuciforo did look out for the public. “He was known in the Legislature as someone who was a watchdog for consumers,” Lees said. “He was very moderate to liberal on issues, but that’s what his constituency was.”
Coming from Pittsfield, Nuciforo was concerned with Western Massachusetts. “We had similar passions for representing Western Massachusetts interests,” said Sen. Stephen Brewer, a Barre Democrat supporting Neal. “Regional school issues and rural issues, small town issues.”
Nuciforo obtained $11 million in state money for improvements at Pittsfield Municipal Airport, $2.5 million toward road improvements on Route 7 in Pittsfield, and $6 million toward a $23 million restoration of Pittsfield’s historic Colonial Theater (after he left the state Senate, Nuciforo became a trustee at the Colonial Theater).
But former North Adams Mayor John Barrett, a Democrat supporting Neal, said Nuciforo had little interest in steering money to smaller towns. “He seemed to pay attention to cities with a larger population base than mine,” Barrett said. “I think his priorities were reflected in serving a larger constituent base than those of smaller communities. … We had various projects going on and he put all his eggs in the basket of securing those for city of Pittsfield.”
Nuciforo pointed to his work helping the town of Monterey renovate its town hall and responded, “Small towns had no stronger advocate than me.”
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal releases TV ad about outsourcing; Andrea Nuciforo attacks Neal on Wall Street ties"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The Republican, August 28, 2012
Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard Neal on Tuesday released the first issue ad of his congressional campaign, addressing his work preventing outsourcing.
Neal, the 12-term congressman from Springfield, is facing Democrats Andrea Nuciforo, the Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds, and Bill Shein, a writer and political activist, in the Sept. 6 primary. Neal ran introductory ads in the Berkshires in June. Nuciforo is also running ads in the district, attacking Neal for his ties to Wall Street. Shein said his advertising is "coming soon."
Over shots of a beach, the Neal ad says there are American companies that set up a post office box in Bermuda or the Cayman Islands in order to avoid paying U.S. taxes. “I filed legislation to address that issue and we won,” Neal says in the ad. “I intend to continue my effort to address the issue of ending bank secrecy internationally, and those companies who move offshore to tax havens for the purpose of sophisticated tax avoidance.”
Neal is apparently referring to a bill (H.R. 3157) he has sponsored that would stop foreign insurance companies from shifting U.S. income overseas in order to avoid U.S. taxes. According to Neal, the bill would raise $11 billion over a decade. The Hill reported in 2010 that a similar bill attracted significant lobbying from both U.S. insurers, which support the bill, and foreign insurers, which oppose it. Neal reintroduced the bill in 2011, and it is still pending.
Neal has also been ramping up his activities recently as a surrogate for Democratic President Barack Obama against Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Though Neal’s ad does not mention the presidential race, Democrats nationally have criticized Romney for having assets overseas – including in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands.
The Nuciforo ad, posted online Monday, shows pictures of Neal side by side with stock tickers. “The longer Richie Neal is in Congress, the closer he gets to Wall Street,” the ad states. “Neal voted to deregulate Wall Street, which led to our country’s financial collapse. Neal pocketed $3 million special interest money from big banks, Wall Street, and insurance companies.” Nuciforo also is running radio ads.
Nuciforo has criticized Neal throughout the campaign for voting for a handful of bills deregulating the financial industry. They include: a 1994 bill repealing restrictions on banks expanding from one state to another; a 1999 law repealing the Glass-Steagall Act – which had separated the activities of commercial and investment banks; a 2000 law allowing for the expansion of derivative trading; and a 1998 act limiting the ability of private investors to sue for securities fraud.
The non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics reports that since 1998, Neal has collected $2.8 million from the finance, insurance and real estate sectors.
"1st District hopefuls spar in sole Berkshire County debate"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle, August 31, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- The three candidates in the 1st Congressional District race traded barbs over defense spending cuts, stemming home foreclosures, saving Social Security and other campaign issues on Thursday night in their only Berkshire County debate.
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal primarily found himself defending his 24 years in Congress against former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and writer/political activist Bill Shein during a one-hour radio debate heard throughout the county. WBEC (AM 1420) hosted the live, in studio broadcast, simulcast on sister stations WNAW (AM 1230) in North Adams and WSBS (860 AM, 94.1 FM) in Great Barrington.
Pittsfield Community Television, Northern Berkshire Community Television and Community Television of the Southern Berkshires also plan to televise the political forum prior to the next week’s decisive state primary election.
Neal, Nuciforo and Shein are vying for the Democratic party nomination in the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District. The district includes all 32 Berkshire County cities and towns along with Neal’s home base of Springfield in Hampden County.
Barring a write-in candidate surfacing after Thursday’s primary, the winner will succeed U.S. Rep. John Olver because no Republican or third-party candidate will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. Olver isn’t seeking re-election after a 20-year career on Capitol Hill.
Nuciforo, of Pittsfield, and Shein, of Alford advocated reduced defense spending as a way to balance the federal budget and stimulate the economy.
They both called for a 25 percent cut in defense, with Shein claiming those losing government jobs can be placed in the private sector.
Neal pointed out that defense spending cuts will hurt private industry, especially in Pittsfield.
"You need to be careful about a 25 percent cut in defense as General Dynamics is one of your biggest employers here," he said.
Neal suggested that cutting the nation’s unemployment rate in half will help stimulate the economy.
Nuciforo said what’s needed is "tax sanity."
"Let the tax cuts expire for the top 2 percent and extend the tax credits to everyone else," said the current Middle Berkshire District register of deeds.
Shein went a step further saying, "We need to restore progressive taxation and make sure corporations pay their fair share, including General Electric."
Neal’s opponents also verbally attacked the congressman on the mortgage foreclosure crisis, claiming he did nothing on Capitol Hill to prevent thousands of people from losing their homes.
"In Hampden County alone, there are 2,000 foreclosures on record," Nuciforo noted.
In his rebuttal, Neal said he’s still fighting for homeowners and consumers in Congress, while Nuciforo hasn’t the past six years.
"If you really cared about these issues, you wouldn’t have left the state Senate and you don’t deal with them as register of deeds," he said.
Shein claimed all of Congress is to blame, in part, for many homeowners’ inability to pay their monthly mortgage payments.
"We need [national] policies in alignment with the people of this country, not the banks writing the checks," he said.
As for keeping Social Security solvent for decades to come, Shein called on lifting the Social Security tax cap to keep it funded. Nuciforo advocated for maintaining the cost of living increase benefit to Social Security recipients, something Congress failed to do in 2009 and 2010, he said, under Neal’s watch.
Given his personal history, Neal questioned Nuciforo’s assertion.
"I was raised [by relatives] on Social Security," he said. "There’s no greater champion in Congress for Social Security and Medicare."
Neal also denied Nuciforo’s claim that he was siding with Republicans who support limiting the reproductive rights for women. The veteran congressman said he supported the Affordable Care Act.
Nevertheless, Nuciforo felt he was more progressive when it came to health care.
"We need people in Congress we can trust on health issues," he said.
Shein vowed to ensure all women have access to gender-specific health care services.
"I don’t think they should be denied legal abortions, if they are poor," he said.
"Massachusetts 1st Congressional District candidates get testy in Pittsfield debate"
By Patrick Johnson, The Republican, August 30, 2012
PITTSFIELD — For the last time before the Sept. 6 primary election that will likely determine who takes office in January, the three Democratic candidates for the 1st District Congressional seat squared off in a sometimes heated debate that touched on the economy and deficit, the mortgage default crisis and health care issues for women.
Incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, and challengers Andrea Nuciforo of Pittsfield and Bill Shein of Alford met in an hour-long debate primarily for the benefit of Berkshire County voters. The debate was sponsored by News/Talk 1420 WBEC radio in Pittsfield and simulcast on radio stations in North Adams and Great Barrington.
Under redistricting, the 1st District, represented by John Olver, D-Amherst, is being merged with Neal’s current 2nd District to create one large district covering most of Western Massachusetts. Olver is retiring from Congress at the end of this term.
Neal, the incumbent and presumed front-runner, found himself the target of the other two candidates, who each questioned aspects of his lengthy voting record in his more than two decades in office.
Nuciforo, a state senator from 1997 to 2006 who is now Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds, in particular went after Neal, repeatedly asking, as he did during discussion of Congress’s role in the foreclosure crisis, “Where was Congressman Neal?”
Neal shot back “If you were really concerned about the issue, you’d never have left your state senate seat. You don’t fix the issue in the Registry of Deeds.”
The three candidates took part in televised debate with WGBY in Springfield on Aug. 20.
No other debates are planned.
On the issue of the economy, Nuciforo said he favored eliminating the Bush tax cuts on incomes over $250,000 and reducing the defense budget. With cuts to military spending and more tax revenue “we’re moving in the right direction.”
Shein, a political humor columnist and progressive activist, said he favors cutting the military budget by 25 percent rather than paring back funding for social programs like Social Security or Medicare. He said he found it upsetting that Congress is not poised to discuss where it intends to make cuts until after the election.
Neal said he also favored ending the Bush tax cuts on the top-tier income, but he cautioned that significant cuts to the defense budget would have devastating consequences in municipalities that are home to defense contractors or military bases like Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee or the 104th Air National Guard at Barnes Regional Airport in Westfield.
Neal said if the federal government concentrated on halving the currently unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, the additional payroll tax revenue “would take care of one-third of the deficit.”
The debate became quite heated during a question on women’s health issues when Nuciforo attempted to link Neal with Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the Republican vice presidential nominee, and Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., and other conservative Republicans who seek to roll back abortion rights. He said Ryan and Akin personally lobbied Neal in his office.
He cited Neal’s 2010 vote for the Stupak amendment to the Affordable Care Act, which barred federal money to be used for abortion or to cover the costs of abortion under any health plan.
By supporting Stupak, Nuciforo said “Congressman Neal has already cast his lot with Todd Akin.”
Akin, currently running for U.S. Senate, came under fire from women’s groups and others recently by comments he made about “legitimate rape.”
Neal, who previously cited his support of abortion rights and women’s health issues going back 20 years, said Nuciforo’s charge was absurd and an example of the negative aspects of “modern campaigning.” He said he has never met Akin and had previously debated Ryan in favor of women’s reproductive rights.
He said the Stupak amendment merely reaffirmed the Hyde amendment that was enacted as law in the mid-1990s, and he supported Stupak only because without it, moderates in Congress would never have endorsed the Affordable Care Act.
When Nuciforo repeated the charge that Neal was standing with Stupak, Ryan, Akin and other Republicans in the war on women, Neal responded “Do you have a truth meter? Bart Stupak is a Democrat.”
As the debate wound down to the closing arguments, Nuciforo and Neal continued to antagonize each other.
Nuciforo in his closing remarks highlighted his work in Berkshire County as state senator and registrar of deeds. He also criticized Neal for accepting political action committee money and donations for big banks and corporations. “Congressman Neal in his 24 years has advanced the agenda of Wall Street. I will advance the agenda of Main Street,” he said.
Neal cited his record in advancing peace in Northern Ireland and his record in Congress. He said he has “vigorously and aggressively represented” the Springfield area and he will do the same for the Berkshires.
“My votes against the war in Iraq and against the Bush tax cuts establish my credibility. I didn’t hide out and wait for the opportunity to run after John Olver,” he said.
Shein closed by seeking to distinguish himself against his two opponents. “One of the candidates is not like the other two - and that is me.”
He noted how in his campaign he has refused to take PAC money or any donations over $99 dollars. “If you truly believe it is time to do things differently, I ask for your support.”
The debate will be rebroadcast Sunday at 7 a.m. on 100.1FM (WUPE-FM) and 9 a.m. on Live 95.9FM (WBEC-FM). The Sunday broadcasts will also stream online through the websites of those stations.
Video roundup: 1st Congressional District candidates Rep. Richard Neal, Andrea Nuciforo, Bill Shein talk jobs, Social Security and more with Republican editorial board
By Mandy Hofmockel, MassLive.com - August 31, 2012
Ahead of the Sept. 6 primary, which will essentially lock in a win for the next 1st Congressional District representative, all three candidates for the post visited The Republican to address the editorial board on a variety of issues.
Democrats Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, former state Sen. Andrea Nuciforo and political activist Bill Shein discussed different issues in their individual sit downs with the board, including Social Security, jobs and the Defense of Marriage Act. No Republicans are currently running for the seat.
Here's a rundown of the highlights from each of their videos:
Neal, who spoke to the board in late July after the Aurora, Colo., shooting answered readers questions about his stance on automatic weapons, term limits and his position on marriage equality and the Defense of Marriage Act.
"We already have term limits. We call them elections," Neal said, "I think people in the valley have had a chance over the course of a career in Central Massachusetts to see what a senior congressman is capable of delivering."
Nuciforo took questions on jobs, Social Security and how he would service parts of western Massachusetts that are east of Pittsfield, where he lives.
"You can't talk about restoring the middle class in Western Mass. or in America without talking about manufacturing," he said, later adding, "I don't think we'll ever be making T-shirts again in the United States, but can we make heavy machinery, can we make medical devices? Absolutely."
Shein talked about Social Security, what he would do in Congress to help bridge its bipartisan gap and what can be done to put people in western Massachusetts back to work.
"Springfield has a poverty rate right now of 30-odd percent, an unemployment rate that is way too high. We're not creating jobs that pay a living wage," Shein said, later adding, "I support ideas like the Wellspring Initiative here in Springfield... It basically asks a very simple question, how do we keep more of our wealth and resources here so we have an economic multiplier effect that's gonna create jobs."
Videos web-link: www.masslive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/08/post_3.html
September 1, 2012
Re: The Republican criticizes Nuciforo
The Springfield Republican endorsed Congressman Richie Neal for re-election. The Editorial also criticizes Nuciforo. The Editors state: "Nuciforo has run a particularly negative and mean-spirited campaign." The Editors go on to state that Nuciforo's attacks on Neal are baseless and irresponsible. This is not the first Editorial to criticize Andrea Nuciforo. The Daily Hampshire Gazette also ran an Editorial calling out Nuciforo's negative campaigning and plagiarism. I also liked Alan Chartock's column in today's Berkshire Eagle where he endorsed Congressman Richie Neal and wrote about Nuciforo being a weak candidate.
- Jonathan Melle
"Editorial: Richard Neal best choice to serve new 1st Congressional district"
By The Republican Editorials, September 01, 2012
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, seen in Chicopee last week, deserves to be elected as the congressman from the newly configured 1st Congressional district.
Thursday’s primary will be the first election since the 2010 U.S. Census reported a shift in the state’s population, forcing Massachusetts to eliminate one of its 10 congressional districts.
Under the revised map, Springfield Democrat Richard E. Neal’s new 1st Congressional district has been expanded to include Berkshire County – sparking a dual-challenge from Berkshire County residents seeking to unseat the 23-year veteran incumbent in Thursday’s Democratic primary.
Neal’s opponents are Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr., Berkshire Middle District register of deeds and a former state legislator, and Bill Shein, a writer and progressive Democratic Party activist.
Shein’s low-key campaign has focused on policy differences with Neal while Nuciforo has run a particularly negative and mean-spirited campaign, painting Neal as a Washington insider, who is beholden to special interests and corporate lobbyists.
Nothing could be further from the truth - and Neal’s constituents know better than to fall for the Nuciforo’s baseless charges and irresponsible negative advertising. Time and again, Neal has put his district’s needs first - proving, over and over, to be a worthy successor to his political mentor, the legendary Eddie Boland.
During his tenure in Congress, Neal, 63, has become one of the most respected and powerful lawmakers on Capitol Hill, now serving a top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee.
Combining his seniority with hard work and strong personal skills, Neal has been extremely successful in bringing federal dollars to the region that have boosted jobs and the local economy. To name just a few: $200 million for a new federal courthouse and improvements to the State Street Corridor, funding for a $110 million data center at the site of the former Technical High School, Neal’s alma mater, and $45 million to renovate Springfield’s Union Station for an intermodal transit hub.
Just as impressive as the array of bricks-and-mortar projects Neal brought to the region is his commitment to the underserved and the elderly. A vigorous defender of Social Security and Medicare, Neal knows full-well the difference the programs make in the people’s lives. It was Social Security that made it possible for Neal’s grandmother and aunt to care for him and his two sisters after his parents died.
In addition to his work on domestic policy, Neal worked for years to help broker a peace in Northern Ireland – playing a pivotal role in the discussions that led to the Good Friday accords. His efforts have been lauded by President Obama and President Clinton. Neal got a taste for politics early, working on the 1972 presidential campaign of George McGovern. He became a mayoral aide to Springfield’s William Sullivan, and served on the City Council before he was elected Springfield’s mayor.
Neal is one of us and he works for us. Election officials are expecting a very low turnout on Thursday. But we hope voters get to the polls to support Neal for decades of passionate, exemplary service.
"Former President Bill Clinton endorses U.S. Rep. Richard Neal"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The Springfield Republican, September 01, 2012
Democrats in the 1st congressional district will receive a flyer and phone call supporting U.S. Rep. Richard Neal from a prominent Democratic source - former President Bill Clinton.
The Neal campaign announced Saturday that Clinton endorsed Neal for re-election. Neal is facing a Democratic primary against former state Senator and Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo and writer and political activist Bill Shein.
Neal is a 12-term Congressman and a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, who has acted as a surrogate for President Barack Obama.
Neal’s campaign said flyers mentioning the endorsement would be distributed Saturday. On Tuesday, the day before Clinton speaks at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, Democrats in the district will receive a phone call featuring Clinton. The primary is on Thursday.
In the flyer, which features a picture of Clinton and Neal shaking hands, Clinton praises Neal for having a “steadfast and unwavering loyalty to protect Social Security.” Clinton says Neal “forced corporations with post office boxes overseas to pay U.S. taxes” and “has shown undying loyalty to Western Massachusetts by bringing home the dollars that make the difference.”
“I've known Richie for two decades, and I've worked with him, and I know no one works harder for the people of western and central Massachusetts than he does,” Clinton said in a statement emailed to reporters.
Neal said, “During his presidency, we worked together to grow our economy to the tune of 22 million jobs, a 3.8 percent unemployment rate, a trillion dollar surplus, and four consecutive balanced budgets. By embracing Clinton's economic message, I know we will experience similar results.”
Clinton campaigned for Neal in Massachusetts in 2010 when Neal was facing Republican Tom Wesley. Clinton has endorsed other Democrats around the country. He came to New Hampshire earlier this summer to campaign for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Maggie Hassan.
"Massachusetts Congressional District 1 primary preview: Incumbent Rep. Richard Neal faces challengers Andrea Nuciforo and Bill Shein"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The Republican, September 02, 2012
For at least a decade, until 2010, Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard Neal never faced a challenger. Two years ago, Neal beat his Republican opponent handily to win a 12th term in Congress representing Massachusetts’ 2nd District.
Now, after redistricting moved Neal to the 1st District, Neal must fend off two Democratic challengers to keep his seat – Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds Andrea Nuciforo and writer Bill Shein. No Republicans are running.
The district includes Berkshire and Hampden counties and parts of Hampshire, Franklin and Worcester counties.
Neal has been in Congress since 1989 and is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Redistricting meant introducing himself to new voters in the Berkshires and Franklin County. Neal was endorsed by retiring 1st District Rep. John Olver.
Much of Neal’s work has been on tax policy. He has called for repealing the Alternative Minimum Tax and has worked to close tax loopholes, stopping companies from sheltering money overseas. Neal has pushed for the renewal of a Build America Bonds program, which lets governments borrow money at a lower cost than in the typical bond market. He has touted his support for President Obama’s health care overhaul and has been a reliable vote for the Democratic Party.
Neal has earmarked federal money for local projects throughout his career. Projects range from a defense accounting center in Southbridge to renovations to State Street in Springfield. He found funding for broadband expansion, rail improvements and Westover Air Reserve Base.
Neal has also been a surrogate for Democratic President Barack Obama.
Neal, a teacher, still teaches a journalism class at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
Neal’s opponents have criticized him for participating in only one television and one radio debate. They also attacked him for raising money from political action committees and lobbyists.
Neal, in a statement to The Republican, said he was proud of his accomplishments, from helping broker a peace process in the Northern Ireland to voting against the war in Iraq and the Bush tax cuts.
“However, I know there is work to be done,” Neal said. “Domestically, the unemployment rate is still too high, the tax code needs to be rewritten, we have one million new veterans and with over 30 million more Americans getting access to health care, we need to contain costs. Around the globe, war is raging in Syria, Iran is developing nuclear technology, Afghanistan remains unstable and we are witnessing a democratic transition in Iraq.”
Nuciforo, a Pittsfield attorney, served in the Massachusetts Senate from 1997 to 2006 and chaired the Joint Committee on Banks and Banking, which became the Joint Committee on Financial Services. He successfully got a bill passed curbing predatory lending practices. He prevented reform of the auto insurance industry, which he called anti-consumer, which would have given insurers more leeway when setting rates. He was elected Register of Deeds in 2006.
Nuciforo has portrayed himself as a progressive advocate for consumers and has attacked Neal for having Wall Street ties. He supports congressional term limits and wants a constitutional amendment to repeal the Supreme Court ruling allowing corporations to make unlimited independent political expenditures.
Nuciforo told The Republican he believes the country is “heading in the wrong direction” with high unemployment and millions of people who have lost their health care or homes due to the economy.
“We have seen in Washington over the last several years a combination of Washington complacency and Wall Street agendas that have combined to damage middle class and working people,” Nuciforo said. Nuciforo said he wants to revitalize manufacturing, protect Medicare and Social Security and “bring my consumer expertise in financial services to bear for those families.”
Nuciforo angered some state Democrats by running against an incumbent who has seniority in the House.
Nuciforo had to revamp his campaign website after Shein revealed that he copied some positions word for word from other politicians.
Shein, of Alford, is a political humor columnist and activist. He ran a satirical presidential campaign in 2004. He has focused his congressional campaign on the need to get special interest money out of politics. Shein supports a nationalized health care system, opposes war and wants to address climate change.
“To address the urgent crisis in our democracy, economy, and environment, western Massachusetts deserves a member of Congress who always stands on their side, not with the wealthy corporations and lobbyists who so often get their way in Washington,” Shein emailed The Republican.
“We can’t create jobs that pay a decent wage, keep families facing foreclosure in their homes or properly address the accelerating threat of climate change until we do things differently,” Shein wrote.
Shein, who only accepts contributions of less than $99, raised just $19,000 as of Aug. 17, compared to $1.25 million for Neal and $211,000 for Nuciforo.
"3 Democrats to face off in western Mass. primary"
By Shannon Young, Associated Press, Boston.com - September 2, 2012
BOSTON—For months, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal has toured the towns of western Massachusetts that make up the newly drawn 1st District he's running against two fellow Democrats to represent. He began scouting out the area in November and said he's visited nearly every one since the finalized district map was announced.
In his 12 terms as 2nd District congressman, Neal has been representing about half the area. The new 1st District created after population losses cost the state a congressional seat gives him new territory to learn, as well as his first contested election in years.
The district includes 87 cities and towns that stretch from Williamstown in the northwest corner of the state to Dudley on the border of Connecticut in central Massachusetts.
The winner of Thursday's Democratic primary will likely go on to Congress, as there is no Republican candidate in the district. The district's current congressman, John Olver, is retiring.
Neal has far more money to spend than his opponents in Thursday's Democratic primary. He has more than $2.2 million in cash on hand, according to the most recent financial disclosure forms filed with the Federal Elections Commission, compared with $100,000 for former state senator Andrea Nuciforo Jr. and $5,000 for humorist and activist Bill Shein.
Neal defended himself against criticism that he's accepted campaign contributions from political action committees and lobbyists, pointing out that donations have come from groups with special interests in Massachusetts, like teachers, blue-collar workers and hospital associations.
"People think that I take a judicious view of the big issues of the day and that I'm approachable," Neal said of his ability to raise money. "I do seriously weigh the issues that come to me."
Neal, who was first elected to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988, serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, which works on issues including taxes, tariffs, trade and Social Security. He is also the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Select Revenue Measures. Tax policy, economic development, higher education, energy costs and manufacturing are high-priority issues for his campaign.
Supporters point to his years of experience as an advantage to serving the district's needs.
"It's easy to say that you want to run against a congressman because Congress doesn't have the best reputation. Here's a guy who's been here for 24 years and that has the seniority that you need to do things in the district," said Steven Como, a Pittsfield resident and executive vice president of Soldier On, at one of Neal's campaign stops Wednesday.
Far outweighed in campaign cash, both Nuciforo and Shein said they are using grassroots tactics to reach voters.
Shein, who helped organize Occupy events in the Berkshires, said he has been going door-to-door to meet with voters. He said his campaign has also relied a lot on networking among voters and social media.
The Alford writer focuses on limiting corporate money in politics, environmental issues and economic development.
Nuciforo, a fellow Berkshire County resident who served in the state Senate for a decade, said his campaign is focused on restoring regulations on Wall Street, creating economic opportunities and confronting what he called "tea party extremism" on issues like Medicare and Social Security.
Born and raised in Pittsfield, Nuciforo said he has been positively received by voters, especially those who are sick of Washington politics.
"This is a year where voters want a strong Democrat," he said. "You can't change the game in Washington unless you change the players."
"Vote for Neal, the real Democrat"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, September 3, 2012
My husband and I, proud members of the Pittsfield Democratic Committee, have had the pleasure of working for Congressman John Olver for 21 years. It is from that perspective, we write to set the record straight with regard to Andrea Nuciforo’s desperately negative postcard, TV, and radio campaign.
Andrea may claim to be the "real Democrat" in the race, but for two decades the Berkshires has seen a real Democrat in action. That man is John Olver, who has wholeheartedly endorsed Congressman Richie Neal for reelection.
Richie Neal’s Democratic credentials are solid. Both Richie and John voted against the Iraq war. Both voted against the Bush tax cuts, twice. As Congress’ staunchest supporter of Social Security and Medicare, Richie traveled the country to defend these programs against Republican attacks.
Richie and John worked with Obama to pass the Affordable Care Act, and this year Obama asked Richie to serve as his national surrogate, and Richie has already campaigned in New Hampshire.
On the other hand, as state senator, Andrea: killed the Clean Elections Law -- even after voters passed it in a referendum; took money from insurance and banking interests while chair of the Joint Committee on Finance; and now we learn his positions on critical issues were "borrowed" from other candidates across the country, leaving voters wondering what he stands for.
As supporters of Richie Neal, we are proud to say Richie has never run a negative campaign; he runs on his record of accomplishment. We urge you to vote for the "real Democrat" in this race for Congress, Richie Neal.
"Neal for Congress"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, September 2, 2012
Berkshire County will move on from the Representative John Olver era next year with the winner of the Thursday, September 6, Democratic primary. Representative Richard Neal of Springfield, the veteran congressman from the 2nd Berkshire District, which will become the 1st District following the loss of a Massachusetts congressional seat, is being challenged by Andrea Nuciforo Jr. of Pittsfield and Bill Shein of Alford. Because there is no Republican candidate, the Thursday primary will determine the new congressman.
A congressman since 1988, Mr. Neal brings experience and seniority to the table, with the latter earning him a seat on the influential House Ways and Means Committee. He has been strong on issues affecting the middle class, such as preserving Social Security, shifting tax burdens away from the middle class, and penalizing businesses that move jobs offshore. He showed integrity and bravery in his early opposition to the second war in Iraq.
We disagree with some of his votes, such as those on Wall Street reform measures, but it is possible to cherry-pick wayward votes in the career of any long-term congressman. While his vote in favor of the Stupak Amendment limiting abortion funding, for example, was disappointing, he received a 100 percent score from the NARAL Pro-Choice America on women's rights issues two years later, indicating he is strong on protecting those rights currently under assault in America.
Representative Neal's opponents assert that he is not as progressive a congressman as is Mr. Olver, and while that is true, political litmus tests are counter-productive and it is significant that the retiring Mr. Olver has endorsed Mr. Neal. While a Berkshire congressman will be keenly aware of Berkshire interests, Mr. Olver, an Amherst resident, did well by the Berkshires during his tenure and we expect Mr. Neal would do the same with another election always around the corner. He has campaigned regularly in the Berkshires and as our congressman we believe his values, institutional knowledge and middle-class advocacy will make him an effective representative for the Berkshires.
Andrea Nuciforo Jr. was a capable state senator for the Berkshire District and would be a welcome voice in Congress on single-payer health reform, consumer protection and other traditional liberal causes he advocated strongly for on Beacon Hill. His roots in the Berkshires are deep, he knows the issues here, and he would have the interests of the city and county in mind in Washington.
Mr. Nuciforo has attacked Mr. Neal effectively from the left on Wall Street reform, but his criticism of Mr. Neal for the campaign contributions he has received from special interest groups have been less effective because he has received similar contributions in his political career. He justifiably criticized Mr. Neal for not supporting the Fair Elections Now Act toughening campaign finance laws but opposed a similar clean elections bill in the Senate.
We remain disturbed by Mr. Nuciforo's passing off of political statements from other Democrats such as former North Carolina Senator John Edwards and former Massachusetts Senate candidate Alan Khazei as his own, often with little or no rewording, on his campaign website (the passages have since been removed). His initial reaction to the accusations, which was to attack Mr. Shein for drawing attention to this political plagiarism, then criticizing a former aide, compounded matters. Voters trust that a candidate's words and thoughts are his own and they expect him to accept responsibility for mistakes, and there was a worrisome lack of organizational control in evidence here.
Bill Shein, an experienced and knowledgeable writer and progressive political activist, has made the corrupting influence of money in campaigns and in governing the theme of his campaign. There is no disputing him, as The Eagle editorial page has expressed the same concerns, and Mr. Shein's idealism is refreshing. He would be independent and a watchdog of the politically powerful.
Pragmatically, however, we question whether Mr. Shein can be as effective on the mundane but important congressional duties of constituent services and shaking loose federal funds for local projects as an experienced congressman like John Olver or Richard Neal have been and in Mr. Neal's case will continue to be. At an editorial board meeting with The Eagle, Mr. Shein asserted that while candidates like Mr. Neal say "we can navigate a broken system" he wants to fix the system. Realistically, we don't believe the system will be fixed any time soon, if ever, and a congressman who can best navigate a broken system will best benefit the Berkshires. That candidate is Richard Neal.
"Reader: Nuciforo’s postcard doesn’t match his actions"
The North Adams Transcript, Letter to the Editor, September 1, 2012
To the Editor:
Andy Nuciforo’s last-minute postcard to voters is dishonest. He criticizes Congress man Richie Neal for "taking millions of dollars in contributions from big corporations." But 10 years ago, then State Senator Nuciforo helped to kill a Clean Elections law that voters passed in a referendum. When Mr. Nuciforo had a chance to change the system he supposedly opposes, he took the money and ran. That’s the definition of hypocrisy and one of the reasons I support Richie Neal for Congress.
North Adams, Massachusetts
Aug. 31, 2012
"Candidates make final appeals before primary"
By Ned Oliver, Berkshire Eagle, September 5, 2012
With just a day to go before the 1st Congressional District Democratic primary, the three candidates vying for the seat are busy pulling punches and dropping names as they make their final pitch to voters.
Over the weekend, incumbent U.S. Rep. Richard Neal announced an endorsement of his candidacy by former President Bill Clinton, who writes in a campaign mailer that "no one works harder for the people of western and central Massachusetts than [Neal] does."
Meanwhile, Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and writer-activist Bill Shein have continued attempts to chip away at Neal's campaign with a barrage of attacks challenging his record and leadership.
In the absence of any Republican contenders, the primary Thursday will likely decide who will next represent the newly reconfigured district on Capitol Hill.
Clinton's endorsement of Neal is being announced to voters in a mailing the campaign says has been sent to every registered Democrat in the district, which includes all of Berkshire County and the southern half of the Pioneer Valley and Springfield. The campaign said voters can also expect to receive a robo-call voiced by Clinton.
Neal said in a statement that he is "proud to have the endorsement of President Clinton."
The endorsement is one of a handful Clinton has made in congressional primaries around the country. The endorsements have primarily gone to incumbent Democrats who, like Neal, endorsed his wife, Hillary Clinton, in her primary bid against Barack Obama during the 2008 presidential race, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
At the same time as Neal unveiled his high-profile backer, Nuciforo and Shein unleashed a flurry of campaign statements echoing earlier criticisms of Neal and challenging the veracity of his campaign statements.
Shein tore into Neal's television ad and campaign mailers, in which Neal says he "won" with legislation he filed to close loopholes that let U.S. corporations evade taxes by setting up bogus headquarters overseas.
Shein pointed out that the legislation Neal references, which would target the so-called "Bermuda loophole" is still pending, citing a 2011 Boston Globe article that states Neal "has been thwarted for years in his efforts" to close the loophole, with the likelihood of progress in the near future unlikely.
"The ad's claim is simply false and meant to mislead voters about a nonexistent accomplishment," Shein said in a statement. "Rep. Neal could certainly earn kudos for his efforts without making a patently false statement, but it might be difficult for voters to square with his frequent claims about his power in the Ways and Means Committee and his inability, over the last 12 years, to pass a bill to close the Bermuda loophole."
Neal's campaign responded by outlining two pieces of legislation that were passed as part of larger measures. One bill, co-sponsored by Neal and included in the 2010 Hiring Incentives to Restore Em ployment Act, requires foreign-held assets be reported to the IRS. Another bill authored by Neal and included in the American Job Creation Act of 2004 allows the government to continue taxing corporations that expatriate to foreign tax havens if the makeup of the company in question remains the same and it has no real business in that country.
At the same time, Neal's campaign said the congressman is still working to close other offshore tax evasion loopholes like the one referenced by The Globe in 2011.
Nuciforo, meanwhile, zeroed in on Neal's past support for financial deregulation measures, which Nuciforo called "instrumental in the 2008 financial crisis."
"Between 1994 and 2000, Congressman Neal supported five measures that deregulated the banking, investment and securities markets," Nuciforo said in a statement. "These measures contributed to the financial calamity in 2008, the collapse of the housing market and the foreclosure crisis."
Nuciforo went on to criticize Neal for "failing to explain" during debates "his lack of leadership regarding "the foreclosures and his consistent support for the Wall Street agenda."
During debates, Neal has repeatedly called Nuciforo's charges false.
The candidates continue campaigning today. Both Neal, Nuciforo and Shein will travel throughout the district, including stops in Berkshire County.
At the polls ...
What: State primary for 1st Congressional District and Middle Berkshire District register of deeds
When: Thursday; polls open at 7 a.m., close at 8 p.m.
"$99 and free"
The North Adams Transcript, Editorial, September 5, 2012
The Transcript endorses Alford-based writer and activist Bill Shein in Thursday’s primary for the 1st Con gressional District seat.
The reason for this is simple: It’s safe to say most agree our federal government is broken, its back cracked over the knee of a cadre of lobbyists who have bought influence for far too long among those elected to power by the people.
After the campaign’s debates, public statements, mailings and editorial board meetings, we were left with the impression that Mr. Shein wants to do more to solve this fatal trend in U.S.government than either U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, or former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr.
Mr. Shein prioritizes getting money out of politics and banning the practice of lobbying. And he’s starting with himself: He states that he has accepted no campaign contribution greater than $99. While this noble gesture makes Mr. Shein free from having to kowtow to corporate interests, it also undoubtedly limits what he has been able to communicate in this campaign, but perhaps that’s another systemic problem that requires a sobering look.
The intentions of the Framers, at least as we have come to understand them in current times, was that this be a country where one has the right and ability to run for any public office. This dictum, in its purest interpretation, was not made on condition of the size of a hopeful’s campaign coffers. Was this ever truly the case? We would say likely not, but that is part of the problem as well, and Mr. Shein’s desire for publicly financed elections could be the solution.
As a first-year representative, Mr. Shein would be one shoelace on one shoe of a very large body: Congress. From that position, there is an obvious limit to how many priorities Mr. Shein could hope to address. However, we believe that having even one atom moving in the right direction on the justice of this government matters deeply. What starts with Mr. Shein’s plans could be made real in the future if a multitude like him are elected over time.
Some may call us naive for endorsing someone other than the candidate with the lion’s share of experience, but we would argue that we are in fact simply tired of the system as it exists, and ever hopeful for remedies to the diseases at work in the blood of our federal government.
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal celebrates Massachusetts 1st Congressional District victory, thanks supporters"
By Jack Flynn, The Republican, September 06, 2012
SPRINGFIELD — For U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, victory number 19 was just as sweet as the rest.
Keeping a career-spanning winning streak alive, Neal triumphed in a three-way 1st Congressional District Democratic primary over challengers Andrea Nuciforo Jr., a former state senator from Pittsfield and political newcomer Bill Shein, a humorist and activist from Alford.
By sweeping to victory in the newly-configured 1st Congressional District, Neal guaranteed his hold on the seat he first won in 1988. There are no Republican or Green-Rainbow candidates for the seat.
“Sometimes you win, and sometimes you win,” Neal told several hundred supporters gathered for a victory party at the Community Music School on State Street.
Taking the stage after an introductions by his daughter Maura, Hampden County Sheriff Michael Ashe and other elected officials, Neal thanked his supporters, particularly in Berkshire County.
He also expressed pride in running a clean campaign. Referring to his three-decade political career, Neal said. “We have never once run a negative add.”
“Tell them what you’re for, and tell them what you’re against,” Neal said. “You don’t have to disparage a person’s character; you don’t have to disparage a person’s career.”
Neal also professed surprise at the lopsided margin of victory.
“We had a big victory - bigger than I even expected,” he said.
“This is one of the most satisfying victories of my career,” he added.
While the outcome in Pittsfield was not decided, Neal said he was confident of victory in North Adams, as well as Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester counties.
Regardless of the outcome in Pittsfield, Neal said his campaign won the battle of lawn signs, a tribute to his new campaign workers in the Berkshires.
“The geography has changed, but not the people,” Neal said of the new district, which includes territory from U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, who announced his retirement last year.
In thanking mayors and other elected officials, Neal singled out Olver, who endorsed him in February.
“There’s not even air between us on the important issues,” Neal said, recalling how Olver described their political similarities.
Neal also said the name recognition he earned from two decades in Congress helped him with new voters.
The remodeled district encompasses all of Hampden and Berkshire counties along with Hampshire County towns of Easthampton and South Hadley and parts of southern Worcester County.
The demographics work to Neal’s advantage – 63 percent of voters are in Hampden County, where Neal served as a city councilor and mayor of Springfield before succeeding U.S. Rep. Edward Boland, D-Springfield in 1988.
In the 47-year old Nuciforo, Neal faced an opponent with a political pedigree, something many of his previous challengers have lacked.
Currently Berkshire Middle District’s registrar of deeds, Nuciforo served in the state Senate from 1997 to 2007 - the same seat his father held from 1964 to 1973.
In 2010, Neal turned back a challenge by Republican Thomas Wesley from Hopedale on a night when heavy Democratic losses nationwide cost the party control of Congress.
For the 2012 race, Neal criss-crossed a district expanded to 82 communities, double the size of the old one.
His daughter, Maura, said her father prided himself in grueling schedule, reciting the names of communities he visited during the day like a train conductor.
Noting that this was Neal’s 13th primary victory, she added: “Dad, I’m so proud of you.”
"Neal defeats Nuciforo, Shein, in 1st Congressional District primary"
The Berkshire Eagle, Staff and wire reports, September 6, 2012
BOSTON -- U.S. Rep. Richard Neal has won his three-way Democratic primary in the newly redrawn 1st Congressional District in Western Massachusetts.
No Republican is on the ballot for November, meaning he is virtually assured a 13th term.
Neal was competing against former state Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. and humorist and activist Bill Shein.
With 25 of 32 communities in Berkshire County reporting results, Neal won 5,877 votes to Nuciforo’s 5,652 and Shein’s 3,143.
Nuciforo did win a majority of the votes in his hometown of Pittsfield, beating Neal 2,932 to 2,742. Shein picked up 745 votes in Pittsfield.
Shein, meanwhile, made a strong showing in the southern Berkshires, where he won Egremont, Great Barrington, Monterey, Mount Washington, Sheffield, Stockbridge and West Stockbridge.
Neal, a former city councilor and mayor in Springfield, has represented the 2nd Congressional District since 1989.
This election cycle he was thrust into a redrawn 1st District -- the result of last fall’s redistricting process that consolidated the state’s 10 congressional districts into nine to account for sluggish population growth in the state.
The new 1st District includes all of Berkshire and Hampden counties along with western and southern parts of Franklin and Hampshire counties.
The district is currently represented by Rep. John Olver, who opted not to run for re-election but issued a strong endorsement of Neal early in the election season.
Though Nuciforo had hoped the redrawn district would level the playing field in what became an uphill battle against an established incumbent, Neal easily overcame any challenges associated with introducing himself to unfamiliar voters in Berkshire County.
Neal had made upward of 50 campaign stops in the Berkshires during the months leading up to the election and won support from many established politicians and business figures in the county.
Leaving the polls Thursday, voters who supported Neal said they value his experience and perceive him as a strong Democrat who will stand up for party values.
"Part of it is he’s an established, but I also just like his attitude and the way he does things," said Pittsfield resident Herman Rotenber. "I like the things he said (in debates and interviews)."
Even voters who said they don’t agree with Neal’s stance on all the issues said his clout in Congress outweighs those concerns.
"I have a couple issues with his voting history, but in terms of his experience and the work that has to be done, this next session is going to be absolutely essential," said Julia Sullivan, also of Pittsfield.
"Andrea Nuciforo pledges to help U.S. Rep. Richard Neal"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The Republican, September 10, 2012
Andrea Nuciforo, who came in second in Thursday’s Democratic 1st congressional District primary, this weekend pledged to help U.S. Rep. Richard Neal work on issues affecting the middle class.
“When we formally kicked off my campaign for Congress on February 8, 2012, I expressed my belief that the middle class in this country was falling behind, and that for too long the economy has been rigged against people playing by the rules,” Nuciforo said in a statement. “I hold these same beliefs today. I trust that Congressman Neal understands this, and that he, working with others, will shape policies in Washington to address these critical issues. I stand ready to help the Congressman and others that have committed to advancing an agenda that reflects middle class issues.”
Neal, running for a 13th term in Congress, won the primary with 65 percent of the vote. Nuciforo, the Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds and a former state senator, received 25 percent. Writer and activist Bill Shein got 10 percent. No Republicans are running for the seat.
In the statement released Sunday, Nuciforo thanked his supporters and congratulated Neal. “While I hoped for a different outcome, I respect the will of the voters and appreciate their attention to this important contest,” he said.
Asked about his future plans, Nuciforo said in a statement, "It's much too early to talk about long term plans. In the shorter term, I intend to take time to say thank you to the hundreds of people that helped our campaign along the way. Then I will spend a considerable amount of time with my wife Elena and our 19 month old son Eric, which I have not done over the last year. And then I'll finish out my term as Register of Deeds."
"Nuciforo in no hurry to chart future path"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle, September 11, 2012
PITTSFIELD -- Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. said he plans to take time to reflect before deciding his political future.
"I think I will let the dust settle for a little while," the Pittsfield Democrat said on Monday. "I'm going to spend some time thanking our supporters. That's the priority for now -- to thank them for what they did and to make sure I finish strong" at the Registry of Deeds.
The outgoing Middle Berkshire register of deeds and a former state senator, Nuciforo, 48, lost to Richard E. Neal in Thursday's election for the U.S. House seat in the 1st Congressional District.
Nuciforo ran against Neal, who has represented the 2nd Congressional District for 24 years, and activist Bill Shein of Alford in the state's newly redrawn 1st Congressional District. There is no Republican contender for Neal to face in November's general election.
Neal, a former mayor of Springfield, received 65 percent of the vote to Nuciforo's 25 percent. Shein received 10 percent.
But the vote was much closer in Berkshire County, where Neal received 40 percent of the vote to Nuciforo's 39 percent.
In Nuciforo's hometown of Pittsfield, he beat Neal by 192 votes, although he lost eight South County towns to Shein, who garnered 21 percent of the Berkshire vote.
"I think we ran a good campaign," Nuciforo said. "It certainly focused on issues."
If he had won, Nuciforo said, he had hoped to bring to Washington the example that had been set by the late Silvio O. Conte, the Pittsfield Republican who represented the 1st Congressional District for 32 years before his death in February 1991. Conte was succeeded by Amherst Democrat John W. Olver, who is retiring this year following 21 years in Washington.
"I remember how effective and personal [Conte's] relationship and reputation was," Nuciforo said. "I carry with me the memory of him and respect for him. It was the kind of reputation that I hoped to bring to Washington for Berkshire County and this region. It's one of the things that motivated me to run."
Nuciforo was criticized by some local Democrats by announcing his intention to run for Congress in 2012 during the summer of 2009. At the time, Nuciforo said he planned to endorse Olver in the 2010 election, which Olver won, before mounting his own campaign two years later.
On Monday, Nuciforo said he had no regrets about declaring his intentions when he did. Nuciforo said he came forward early because he knew the state's legislative districts would be redrawn based on the population results of the 2010 federal census, and that he believed Western Massachusetts would be the affected area.
"Obviously, I was right on both counts," he said. "Now any responsible candidate needs to take time to prepare. It was absolutely the right thing to do. I stand by those judgments today.
"There's an old saying, there's things that you can control and you leave the rest to God," he said. "We could not control the drawing of the district. It included Springfield not Amherst and Neal not Olver. This was never about personalities. It was entirely about making a judgment about what redistricting might do. I'm comfortable with the decisions we made."
In a written statement, Nuciforo thanked those who supported his campaign.
"I am forever grateful for the faith that these people have shown in me, and for their commitment to the ideals advanced by our campaign. A vote is an expression of trust and I am honored and humbled that so many placed that trust in me."
Nuciforo also congratulated Neal for his victory and commended Shein for his participation.
"When we formally kicked off my campaign for Congress I expressed my belief that the middle class in this country was falling behind, and that for too long the economy has been rigged against people playing by the rules," Nuciforo stated. "I hold those same beliefs today."
Nuciforo stated that he plans to help Neal achieve those goals in Washington.
"I trust that Congressman Neal understands this, and that he, working with others, will shape policies in Washington to address these critical issues. I stand ready to help the Congressman and others that have committed to advancing an agenda that reflects middle class issues."
"Former Massachusetts 1st District congressional candidate Andrea Nuciforo is out $70,000 after run"
By Shira Schoenberg, Political Correspondent, The Springfield Republican, February 4, 2013
Former congressional candidate Andrea Nuciforo finished his 2012 congressional campaign $75,000 in debt – mostly reflecting money that he loaned himself.
Nuciforo, a Democrat, said he does not plan to repay himself. “As a candidate, I’ve always believed that if a candidate asks others to contribute to an effort, that candidate has to demonstrate some interest in putting some skin in the game,” Nuciforo said. “That $70,000 represents my contribution to that effort.”
Nuciforo, a Pittsfield attorney and former state senator, challenged incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield. He lost in the September 2012 primary, getting 25 percent of the vote compared to 65 percent for Neal. Political activist Bill Shein received 10 percent.
Nuciforo has since finished his term as Berkshire Middle District Register of Deeds and is continuing to practice law in private practice. End of year Federal Election Commission filings show that Nuciforo’s campaign committee owed $75,000 as of the end of the year, months after Nuciforo’s campaign ended, with all but $5,000 of that to Nuciforo himself.
Campaign finance was a large part of the congressional campaign, with both Nuciforo and Shein criticizing Neal for taking campaign donations from Wall Street and from corporate interests. Asked whether his debt illustrates the need for a candidate to raise money from outside interests, Nuciforo responded, “Any successful campaign requires resources, and money is one of those resources. You can tell from the reports we filed over last couple of years, you can see where our contributions came from. Some came from me personally but the overwhelming majority came from individual contributors.”
Nuciforo did not rule out running for office again in the future. “I’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” he said.
Neal’s end of year report showed him with $2 million in cash in the bank. Shein, who accepted only individual donations of less than $99, essentially broke even and finished the year with $1,000 in his campaign account.
"U.S. Rep Richard E. Neal opens Berkshire office"
By Tony Dobrowolski, New England Newspapers - thetranscript.com - February 7, 2013
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal speaks with Cory Thurston, the executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, at the federal building in Pittsfield. (Tony Dobrowalski / New England Newspapers) Friday, February 8, 2013
PITTSFIELD -- U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal believes that constituent services are the "lifeblood" of Congressional work.
"It's not glamorous," the Springfield Democrat said. "But it's critical."
Neal's remarks came Thursday when he officially opened his Pittsfield office at the Silvio O. Conte Federal Building on Center Street.
His local office is in the same space previously occupied by both his predecessor, retired Congressman John W. Olver, and the late Conte himself.
"It's an attachment to me," Neal said. "Washington [D.C.] is 375 to 380 miles from here."
Neal, who has served in Congress for 25 years, was elected to represent the Berkshires this fall. The county came under Neal's jurisdiction after the state's legislative districts were redrawn based on the results of the 2010 federal census.
His Pittsfield office will be open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. It will be operated by two full-time staffers, Dan Johnson and Cindy Clark.
Johnson, a 2004 graduate of Pittsfield High School, worked on Neal's 2012 re-election campaign. Clark, who lives in Dalton, previously worked for both Olver and Conte.
Neal said he plans to visit his Berkshire office "regularly" but didn't give any specifics. His other office in the First Congressional District is in Springfield.
Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi thanked Neal for opening a local office.
"He followed through on his promise to be close to the Berkshires," Bianchi said.
"Since Day One, Richard Neal said he would have a presence and be a presence," in the Berkshires, said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield. "Not for one moment did I doubt that that would be the case."
Dan Johnson and Cindy Clark will staff U.S. Rep. Richard Neal's Pittsfield office.
"Neal Opens Pittsfield Office, Hires Local Staff"
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff, February 07, 2013
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire's newest congressman, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, may call the federal office his but it is really Cindy Clark's.
Clark has been anchoring the congressional office since 1986, working for three different congressmen — Silvio O. Conte, John Olver and now Neal. While politics and personalities have changed, her job is staying the same.
"It's all constituent services. If someone has a problem with a federal or even a state agency they call us," Clark said on Thursday, when she joined Neal and a large group of the county's leaders to announce the opening of the office. "They call us in desperation ... We act as a liaison between an individual who has a problem and the agency they are they are having problems with."
In more than 25 years, Clark has navigated a lot of agencies and has heard a lot of opinions about hot-button issues.
The phones ring now more than ever, she said. "I believe more people are aware that there is a congressmen's office here."
While the days can be hectic and not everyone she meets is cordial, she says she loves the job when she can help others. But it isn't her only way to help people in need.
When Conte was ill (he died 22 years ago Friday at age 69), Clark wasn't sure how much longer she'd have a job so she went back to school and earned her nursing degree. Now, she spends her weekends working part time in the maternity ward at Berkshire Medical Center.
Neal hired Clark because of the "institutional knowledge" she's gained over the years and says her role in constituent services is the most important to congressmen.
"This is the life bread of congressional work," Neal said, adding that it isn't a "glamorous" position. "Cindy is going to anchor the office."
Neal said he prides himself on being accessible to the residents and while a lot of his work is on the road, the office creates an easy way for residents to get in contact with him.
"Washington is 375, 380 miles from here and people think it is hard to talk to you," Neal said, but he likes "shaking your hand and looking you in the eye."
Also staffing the office full time is city native Dan Johnson, who went from an insurance salesmen just a year ago to a member of the Neal's staff.
Johnson, who holds a political science degree from Hartwick College, said he liked Neal's platform so much that he volunteered to help with the campaign. He began as the field organizer for Berkshire and Franklin counties.
"I've always had an interest in government," said the 2004 Pittsfield High graduate.
Neal cruised to victory in the election but he didn't want Johnson's work to be over, so he hired him to staff the office as well.
Neal is also hoping for "steady flow of interns" from Berkshire Community College and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, which will help provide full-time service and possibly jump start careers. On Thursday, Neal told stories of former interns and staffers who went onto good careers — like the man who introduced him.
"The opening of this office is the physical example of what we see in our day-to-day work," said state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, who started his career as one of Neal's interns. "He has been a presence in this region in every sense of the word."
The office is on the second floor of the Silvio O. Conte Federal Building on Center Street.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal vowed to be as accessible as possible.
"CONGRESSMAN RICHARD E. NEAL ANNOUNCES BERKSHIRE COUNTY CONGRESSIONAL OFFICE AND TWO FULL-TIME STAFF MEMBERS"
neal.house.gov - Early-February, 2013
(PITTSFIELD) Congressman Richard E. Neal will join government officials and business and civic leaders from across Berkshire County as he announces the opening of his Berkshire County Congressional Office. Neal will employ two full-time staffers dedicated to the Berkshires, Cindy Clark and Dan Johnson.
"The core function of district Congressional offices is constituent services, and I pride myself on being open and accessible to my constituents," said Neal. "This full-time office in Berkshire County will be a great resource by acting as a direct liaison to all federal agencies."
Neal's Congressional offices will assist constituents with a variety of issues, including help with federal agencies, grant resources, service academy nominations, flag requests, and visits to Washington D.C. Neal's dedication to serving the people of the Berkshires is already a well known entity.
"Both in his campaign and since the election, Congressman Neal has shown a commitment to meeting the needs of the Berkshires," said Berkshire County's state Senator Ben Downing. "He has constantly reached out and listened to constituents from every corner of western Mass. Opening a full time office in Pittsfield, just as Congressman Conte and Olver had, is a concrete symbol of that commitment we have seen from him starting on day one."
Cindy Clark resides in Dalton with her husband Ed and daughter Olivia. She is a 2006 graduate of UMASS-Amherst with a B.S. in Nursing. Clark previously served as senior casework director and office manager for Congressman John W. Olver from 1991-2012 and served as a congressional aide for the late Congressman Silvio O. Conte from 1986-1991.
Dan Johnson is a lifelong resident of the Berkshires who graduated from Pittsfield High School in 2004. He studied political science at Hartwick college in Oneonta, NY. Johnson was a pivotal asset to Neal's resounding victory during the reelection campaign in 2012.
Neal will have three offices serving the people of the First Congressional District. In addition to the Berkshire County Office, Neal will maintain his offices in Springfield and Washington D.C.
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal to join Lenox Memorial Day Parade"
By Clarence Fanto, Special to The Berkshire Eagle, May 25, 2013
LENOX -- U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, whose district includes a large swath of Western Massachusetts, will participate in the annual Memorial Day Parade in Lenox -- his only public appearance on Monday.
The First District Democrat will be introduced by state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, at the noontime ceremony on Main Street. State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing also is scheduled to speak.
Neal has been a family friend for 25 years, Pignatelli said.
"I’ve got to give credit to my father," he added, noting that the elder Pignatelli was the one who approached Neal on the day after Neal’s election victory last November and asked him to attend.
John J. Pignatelli retired from key positions in town and county government in 1993 after more than three decades of service.
The parade and ceremony at the war monument in the center of town will honor the Coakley and Muchnick families as a tribute to Lance Cpl. Roger W. Muchnick Jr., 23, who was among the eight U.S. Marines killed when a mortar shell exploded during training exercises in Nevada on March 18.
More than 1,000 mourners attended the funeral at St. Ann’s Church in Lenox on March 29. The fallen Marine was the grandson of longtime residents Robert and Mary Ann Coakley and had been a frequent visitor to the town.
The Memorial Day event is organized by Sean Ward, commander of the Lenox VFW Post 12079. Veterans, the Lenox police and fire departments and units of the Lee Fire Department will participate, as well as local schoolchildren, Ward said. He asked that any veterans wishing to march gather at the Church on the Hill at the top of Main Street prior to the parade, which steps off at noon.
To contact Clarence Fanto: firstname.lastname@example.org or (413) 637-2551. On Twitter: @BE_cfanto
"Neal bills will help workers, families"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, May 26, 2013
Congratulations to Congressman Richard Neal for standing up for working families. Just recently, I saw on YouTube that he introduced two bills that directly affect low- and middle-income families: one would allow people to create automatic IRAs; the other would improve and simplify the Earned Income Tax Credit. Americans aren’t saving enough for retirement, but Congressman Neal’s Automatic IRA Act would help to correct that by allowing workers to put money into an IRA through payroll deductions. The idea, developed jointly by the liberal Brookings Institution and conservative Heritage Foundation, is supported by AARP and other organizations.
Congressman Neal’s bill to improve and simplify the Earned Income Tax Credit is also much needed and welcomed. If it becomes law not only will more individuals be eligible for the EITC, it simplifies things for a spouse who is living with children but not yet divorced.
The EITC bill would also eliminate the "investment income test." Of course, very few EITC claimants have investment income at any level, but they still have to deal with complex paperwork to determine whether they have income that would be defined as investment income under the EITC.
Some people may view these as small changes, but for a whole lot of working families they will be a very big deal. Let’s support Congressman Neal’s effort to get them passed.
ETHAN S. KLEPETAR
Our Opinion: "Dean of the delegation"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, 7/8/2013
With Edward Markey having gone from being the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation to the most junior member of the U.S. Senate, Representative Richard Neal of the expansive 1st Congressional District, which includes the Berkshires, is now the most senior member of the state's congressional group. It's a position with a great tradition, at the state and national level, and with his keen sense of history, Mr. Neal should bring more to the unofficial post than mere years spent in office.
The Massachusetts delegation was one of the most powerful in Washington for decades, but that has changed dramatically in a short period of time. The formidable pair of Edward Kennedy and John Kerry carried domestic and foreign influence by virtue of talent and seniority, but Massachusetts' senior senator is now Elizabeth Warren, who was elected last November. Senator Warren has made an impact on issues related to Wall Street and Senator-elect Markey long played a prominent role on important and complex issues in the House, but neither will have the influence of the late Senator Kennedy and the current U.S. Secretary of State Kerry, at least not in the immediate future.
The all-Democratic House delegation is entrenched in the minority, which is unlikely to change in 2014 given redistricting measures guaranteed to protect Republicans from challenges in a variety of states, most notably Texas, which has taken gerrymandering to whole new levels. This was undoubtedly a source of considerable frustration for Mr. Markey and Representative Steven Lynch, who challenged Mr. Markey in the Democratic primary.
Representative Neal may be able to reach across party lines and boost the delegation's influence by virtue of his proven willingness to work with Republicans. He has maintained a friendship with House Speaker John Boehner as well as Minnesota's Paul Ryan, a tea party favorite who ran for vice president on the Mitt Romney ticket last November. Bipartisanship is all but non-existent in the House in this highly polarized era, however, and if Mr. Neal reaches out there is no guarantee that Republicans will reach back.
In an interview with the Boston Globe last week, Representative Neal said he would pattern himself after long-time delegation leader Joseph Moakley of South Boston, who made it a point to encourage unity among the membership. A former history teacher who truly loves politics, Representative Neal spoke to the Globe about the historic legacy of two of his renowned predecessors, Thomas "Tip" O'Neill and John McCormack, both of who rose to become influential and admired Speakers of the House.
Defending the state's interests, in particularly on the economy, education, health care and technology, will be a challenge for the state's House and Senate delegates. Representative Neal is sure to at least relish the challenge ahead as the state's new senior partner in the House.
"Lawmakers benefit from status quo"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, 9/3/2013
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
The Eagle’s recent editorial on lobbyist influence in Boston and Washington ("What lobbyists do," August 26) was welcome indeed. But it was also notable for a misrepresentation of how lobbyists operate and for a glaring, inexplicable omission.
First, legislators do not "hide under their desks" from big-money lobbyists. Quite the contrary. Legislators on Beacon Hill and Capitol Hill constantly call and cajole those lobbyists, demanding that they donate money to their campaigns and raise additional funds by hosting fundraisers -- events attended by the lobbyists’ wealthy corporate clients and frequently held at the lobbyists’ own offices.
And the glaring omission? That while noting the destructive impact of lobbyist influence on important legislation (like the long-stalled Bottle Bill), The Eagle failed to mention that Western Mass. is represented in the state Senate and the U.S. House by legislators who rely almost exclusively on lobbyists and their corporate clients to fill their campaign coffers.
In fact, the campaign-finance disclosures of State Sen. Benjamin Downing (D-Pittsfield) and U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) -- available online with just a few clicks -- read like a "who’s who" of the most powerful lobbyists and corporations in America. These deep-pocketed interests are not working to advance the public interest. Instead, they spend millions of dollars to tilt the economic playing field to their very substantial advantage. And it’s working. That’s why more and more Americans are struggling to hang on to homes, decent jobs, and the chance of a better future during an era of obscene corporate profits and massive wealth concentration.
Of course, every legislator insists that contributions from lobbyists and corporate interests "don’t buy my vote." True or not, it ultimately doesn’t matter. Because the real power of lobbyists and corporate money in politics lies in narrowing the agenda to ensure that the ideas and change we need are never even seriously considered. All of that money and lobbyist influence buys silence. Or as the Eagle’s editorial put it more charitably, "inaction." That means the most we can hope for is marginal change at a time in history when so much more is necessary.
We certainly can’t expect legislators like Downing and Neal -- Democrats who rely so heavily on the big-money lobbyist infrastructure The Eagle rightly decries -- to speak out in support of broad campaign finance and lobbying reform. If their role in maintaining and benefiting from the corrupt status quo is not even highlighted in an editorial criticizing that corrupt status quo, why would they?
"Neal will defend privacy rights"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, 12/11/2013
Lately it seems the only people expressing outrage at the National Security Agency’s (NSA) accumulation of private personal information and cell phone tracking data live abroad. Maybe the hullabaloo over the introduction of Obamacare has drowned out some voices. Fortunately, Congressman Richie Neal is not one of those.
Indeed, Congressman Neal has long defended the right of privacy, having been one of only 66 members of the House who voted against the Patriot Act in 2001. Today he is one of nine co-sponsors of the Surveillance State Repeal Act, which among other things would: repeal George W. Bush’s misguided Patriot Act, prohibit the NSA from acquiring information on U.S. citizens without a warrant based on probable cause, and bar the federal government from requiring manufacturers of electronic devices and related software to build in mechanisms that allow the NSA and other agencies to bypass encryption or other privacy technology.
Recent revelations that the NSA is gathering nearly 5 billion records a day on the whereabouts of cellphones around the world underscores the severity of the problem. Such records enable the agency to track individuals -- and map their relationships -- in ways that would have been previously unimaginable. In short, the federal government has grossly overstepped its bounds in its surveillance of U.S. citizens. Congressman Neal’s legislative effort would go a long way to rectify the problem.
The presumption of privacy -- the idea of what we write, email, or say in private should (in the absence of evidence of wrongdoing) remain confidential -- is as old as our Republic. It’s even embedded in our Constitution. Yet, as Congressman Neal notes, this right has been severely diminished by the NSA and the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court. Clearly, new restrictions are needed. We cannot rely on the government’s most secretive court to check the actions of its most secretive agency.
This attack on our basic right to privacy has to stop. As Benjamin Franklin said more than two and a half centuries ago, "They who would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both." Americans should know that what they intend to be private, stays private. Whether in their homes, online, or on their cellphones, Americans should feel safe from government prying.
I congratulate Congressman Neal for once again stepping up to safeguard these basic rights from overreaching federal agencies.
SHEILA A. MURRAY
The author is chair of the Berkshire Brigades, the county’s Democratic Party organization.
"How to fix the EITC"
By Congressman Richard E. Neal, Op-Ed, The Boston Globe, April 21, 2014
This month marks the 39th year the Earned Income Tax Credit has been available to help American families make ends meet. In its illustrious history, the EITC has helped families out of poverty more than any other federal initiative. In 2011 alone, the benefit helped 28 million working American families pay their bills and lifted three million children in working families out of poverty.
The EITC, a brainchild of President Gerald Ford, is one of the more popular anti-poverty programs we have. And because only working families are eligible, the EITC serves as a strong work incentive, increasing employment rates among parents and reducing welfare receipt.
As productive as it is, there are still many ways in which we can strengthen and improve the EITC. At the moment, low-income childless workers receive little benefit from the tax credit. Because their earnings surpass the income limit, these hard working Americans are currently not eligible to qualify. As a result, the broken federal tax system drives them deeper into poverty.
I have introduced legislation in Congress to fix this problem. My proposal nearly triples the maximum credit for childless workers, lowers the age of eligibility for qualifying for the credit from 25 to 21. Taken together, these reforms would boost benefits for nearly 15.2 million taxpayers.
However, extending the credit is not the only way in which it can be improved. We can continue to cut down on the improper payments. The Internal Revenue Service estimates up to one-quarter of the nearly $62 billion in EITC payments in fiscal year 2012 were paid in error.
I strongly disagree with the detractors of the credit who label these improper payments as fraud. The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, has stated that a major source of improper payments is the complex eligibility requirements. The fact that millions of dollars owed to eligible workers goes unclaimed each year is further evidence of the complexity of the EITC. We need a simpler process that beneficiaries can understand.
Another way to fix the program is to professionalize tax preparation nationwide. I was outraged when I read a recent story of a 20-year-old Alabama women who was still charged $400, or a quarter of her total refund, after she told the commercial tax preparer not to file her return. With nearly 56 percent of individual returns being done by paid preparers, we need to address this problem growing problem. In 46 states, there stricter regulations on barbers than on tax preparers. To ensure consumer protection, more transparency and oversight is needed.
Nina Olson agrees. In her testimony before the Senate Finance Committee, she stated that the “absence of minimum competency standards for return preparers leaves these taxpayers vulnerable to inadvertent errors that could cause them to overpay their tax or to underpay their tax and face IRS collection action. It also leaves some taxpayers open to unscrupulous preparers, many of whom would be weeded out if the return preparation industry were professionalized.”
Expanding the EITC without correcting this problem would be unwise because the number of Americans being charged unreasonable fees during tax season continues to grow.
I applaud my colleague House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp for putting out a major tax reform bill this year. In a display of bipartisanship, we both recognize the current tax code is indefensible, and is inefficient at promoting work. Unfortunately, there is little appetite for wholesale reform in the current Congress. But that should not prevent us from taking modest action, and I believe that enhancing the EITC is a right place to start. There is bipartisan support for the program And President Obama made it a priority in his budget.
By making these sensible changes, we can can save the taxpayer and the Treasury Department billions of dollars each year. These savings could be reinvested into a new and improved EITC to enhance benefits and strengthen work incentives. These are not a red state or a blue state proposals. They are common sense initiative that will benefit millions of hard working Americans. The time for Congress to fix the EITC is now.
US Rep. Richard E. Neal of Massachusetts is a member of the Ways and Means Committee.
"U.S. Representative Richard Neal works for the 99 percent"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, May 30, 2014
To the Editor of THE BERKSHIRE EAGLE:
While Berkshire County is fortunate to be represented in Washington by some of the best and brightest political figures in the nation, other parts of the country are not so lucky. Take Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas who believes gay marriage will lead the "country down the road to the dustbin of history," or Rep. Darrell Issa of California who has this thing about Benghazi, or Speaker John Boehner of Ohio for whom 50 votes to repeal Obamacare is not enough.
These so-called representatives of the people continue to waste the people's time and money, while Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey and Rep. Richie Neal continue working hard to make life better for all Americans. For instance, earlier this year Congressman Neal introduced the Invest in "US Act" in Congress to extend and reauthorize key bond measures that benefit both states and municipalities, extend several critical tax credit initiatives, set up an infrastructure bank, increase the minimum wage, and provide small businesses with tax relief. As the title of the legislation indicates, the congressman believes that investing in "US" is the way to drive economic recovery.
Indeed, Congressman Neal knows that despite improved jobless numbers, too many people are still out of work and too many people who are working are paid too little. By making strategic investments in infrastructure now, while also providing tax relief for businesses that hire new employees and buy new equipment, his legislation would go a long way toward jump-starting the economy.
If John Boehner and his band of Tea Party Republicans cared a whit about those of us who make up 99 percent of all Americans, they'd follow Richie's lead.
"Rep. Neal should defend Massachusetts economy"
By Ron Patenaude, Brian Morrison, and Jon Weissman, The Berkshire Eagle, Op-Ed, 1/11/2015
PITTSFIELD - With one of the most unpopular Congresses in U.S. history having disbanded, our representative, Richard Neal, has been exceptionally disappointing on a key issue for Massachusetts workers. Rep. Neal was one of just a handful of Democrats in the House of Representatives to not stand up against an undemocratic 1970s-era procedure known as Fast Track that has been used to railroad the most controversial and damaging of U.S. "trade" deals through Congress.
Since the Fast Tracking of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Massachusetts has lost more than 172,000 manufacturing jobs. Nationwide, 5 million manufacturing jobs have been lost since NAFTA, with large numbers of service sector jobs now being offshored also.
LOST SAY ON TRADE
How did we get into this mess? Fast Track delegated away Congress' constitutional authority over trade, empowering the executive branch to unilaterally pick our trade agreement partners and negotiate and sign sweeping pacts, all before Congress got a vote. Fast Track allowed these pre-cooked deals to be steamrolled through Congress quickly with no amendments allowed and debate strictly limited.
Massachusetts voters sent Rep. Neal to Congress to represent their interests, not to delegate away his authority to do so.
President Obama promised during his 2008 election campaign that he would replace Fast Track with a democratic process for negotiating and implementing trade agreements, and replace the NAFTA trade pact model with one that fosters U.S. jobs, public health, safe food and a clean environment.
Unfortunately, Obama flip-flopped and is now calling for Fast Track to be revived so that a NAFTA-expanding deal known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) can be railroaded through Congress. This is an incredibly unpopular move — 62 percent of U.S. voters oppose Fast Tracking the TPP, and majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents alike reject the status quo trade model.
Obama recently acknowledged that doubling down on the NAFTA model via the TPP is unpopular outside of Washington's corporate lobbies, noting "a public perception generally that trade has resulted in an erosion of our manufacturing base as companies moved overseas in search of lower-wage labor."
As it happens, the public perception is backed up by U.S. government data that shows a massive $177 billion NAFTA trade deficit and more than 845,000 jobs lost nationwide to the pact. To save face, Obama has attempted to paint the TPP as different from NAFTA.
In reality, the TPP is NAFTA on steroids. It includes the same NAFTA provisions, and then builds on them. The TPP would expand NAFTA's foreign investor privileges for companies that offshore American jobs to low-wage countries, such as Vietnam, where minimum wages are a fraction of those paid even in China. And like NAFTA, the TPP would ban Buy American procurement preferences that require U.S. tax dollars to be used to create U.S. jobs.
Massachusetts workers cannot endure another Fast-Tracked expansion of the NAFTA model. Just consider the most recent version — a Fast-Tracked 2011 "free trade" agreement (FTA) with Korea that literally has served as the U.S. template for the TPP. In the first two years of the Korea FTA, the U.S. trade deficit with Korea in the top ten products that Massachusetts exports to Korea — including everything from machinery to transportation equipment – ballooned 19 percent, costing more Massachusetts jobs.
Plus, the TPP would also expand NAFTA's monopoly protections for pharmaceutical corporations. That would mean fewer generics and pricier medicines. And the TPP would jeopardize the safety of our food by exacerbating NAFTA's limits on inspections of food imported from TPP countries like Vietnam — a major seafood exporter cited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for widespread contamination.
And the TPP includes new corporate handouts, such as Hollywood-pushed "copyright" rules similar to those in the notorious Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) that the U.S. public and Congress rejected as a threat to Internet freedom. Even if Fast Track made sense back when trade agreements were actually about trade, it makes no sense now given all of the non-trade domestic policies that would be rewritten under today's so-called trade agreements.
To replace Fast Track, nearly 600 organizations representing millions of Americans have proposed a new, democratic system for negotiating and implementing trade agreements. It would deliver the benefits of expanded trade while safeguarding against the excesses of NAFTA-style pacts. In the the new Congress, Rep. Neal has another chance to join his many colleagues that support this new process and to make clear his opposition to any attempts to revive Fast Track.
Obama recently defended his unpopular bid to Fast Track the TPP by saying that opponents should stop "fighting the last war." Americans will stop fighting the last war when the president stops pushing the last trade model.
Ron Patenaude is president of Hampshire/Franklin Central Labor Council. Brian Morrison is president of the Berkshire Central Labor Council. Jon Weissman is coordinator, Western Massachusetts Jobs with Justice.
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal laments roadblocks to public works projects"
By Tony Dobrowolski, The Berkshire Eagle, February 24, 2015
PITTSFIELD - The "best and fastest" way to put people back to work, according to U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, would be through a public works initiative.
But the Springfield Democrat said the gridlock that has stalled legislation in the House, and the way transportation projects are currently funded have been impediments to growth.
"Part of it is the ideological divide, and part of it is this stop-and-go nature we have with budgeting where the highway system runs out of money in the spring," Neal said on Monday during a tour of Petricca Industries in Pittsfield. "It's very hard to put construction work out to a potential contractor when they need lead time."
Since the Big Dig was completed, federal funding for infrastructure and transportation improvements in Massachusetts has been harder to come by. Money available to the state from the Federal Highway Trust Fund dropped 3.1 percent between the 2008 and 2013 fiscal years, according to figures compiled by The Associated Press.
"I would also say this pretty boldly," he said, "one of the things that has changed during my time in Congress is a lot of people who won't vote for the revenue but want the projects. My attitude if you want the projects you have to vote for the revenue. That's been a huge philosophical divide."
Neal's comments came during a swing through three Pittsfield sites on Monday. He also visited Marland Mold on East Street and the Berkshire Museum on South Street.
At Petricca Industries, company President Perri Petricca told Neal that transportation is "a big issue for us" especially when it comes to transporting large pieces of pre-stressed concrete out of Pittsfield.
"The laws as they're set up don't contemplate somebody of our size sending these big pieces over the roads every single day," Neal said.
Unistress Corp., a subsidiary of Petricca Industries, last year received a $70 million contract — the largest in the company's 47-year-history — to provide pre-stressed concrete panels for the new Tappan Zee Bridge over New York's Hudson River. Since then, Unistress has received two other multimillion bridge contracts to build new spans; one in New York City, the other in Maine.
"Sending 70 of them a day out of Massachusetts to New York or down to Boston is something that the DOT hasn't really learned to deal with efficiently yet," Petricca said.
Petricca said the Berkshire's legislative delegation has been working on this issue, but added. "It's a big challenge for us because we're limited geographically by our cost of transportation.
"We can get to New York City officially, but right now we can't get to Northern (New) Jersey or Philadelphia," he said. "Our transportation costs become too high in regard to our competition."
Neal did not address Unistress' specific transportation issues, but said if a public works initiative were enacted at the federal level, it would provide funding for more projects that Unistress could be involved in.
"It would allow them to bid on other projects that are going to come up," he said. "There are going to be a lot of them in Massachusetts, that's for sure. And as they've indicated, they want to more geographically mobile. They want to have opportunities that go way beyond the Berkshire that nonetheless would employ more people in the Berkshires."
Petricca said his firm hired 138 new workers for the Tappan Zee Bridge project, and is planning to hire an additional 100 to 150 employees once the 2015 building season ramps up.
"We've been expanding beyond our traditional market building parking garages," Petricca said, adding that his firm is now the seventh-largest manufacturer of pre-stressed concrete in North America.
"I'm not sure the federal government will come up with all the funding for these bridges," Petricca said. "But we certainly need it."
"The problem with it is, as you can see now, all these public works projects are stalled," Neal said. "I still think bridge work, highway, airports and railroads is the best way to jump-start the economy."
Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224. tdobrowolski@ berkshireeagle.com @tonydobrow on Twitter
Workers pour concrete at Petricca Industries, Unistress, in Pittsfield, on Monday. February, 23, 2015. Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, his entourage, and members of the media tour Petricca Industries, Unistress, in Pittsfield, on Monday. February, 23, 2015. Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, right, gets a tour of Petricca Industries, Unistress, in Pittsfield, from Plant Manager Ralph Schwarzer, center, and Operations Manager Marc Perras, left, on Monday. February, 23, 2015. Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, left, gets a tour of Petricca Industries, Unistress, in Pittsfield, from Plant Manager Ralph Schwarzer, right, on Monday. February, 23, 2015. Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle
U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, right, gets a tour of Petricca Industries, Unistress, in Pittsfield, from Plant Manager Ralph Schwarzer, center, and Operations Manager Marc Perras, left, on Monday. February, 23, 2015. Gillian Jones — The Berkshire Eagle
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal delivers $7.5K boost to Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club mentoring program"
By Phil Demers, The Berkshire Eagle, March 8, 2015
PITTSFIELD — He'll soon be a life mentor for a group of city kids, but on Friday, Dan Joslyn was playing hoops mentor.
One by one, he crossed them up, then took them straight to the rack on the court at the Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club on Melville Street.
Joslyn, 24, then left the court to discuss the club's new mentoring program, which received a $7,500 kick start thanks to a federal grant delivered by U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield.
A city native and graduate of St. Joseph Central High School, Joslyn holds a bachelor's degree in Youth Development at Springfield College.
He says he will coordinate the program to provide youths in need of support — around three hours of contact time, three days a week. About 15 to 25 mentors should do the job, he said.
"I want the mentors and the kids to be like a big family," Joslyn said. "We want to get involved in their lives and help, like they were our kids."
Neal spent time reminiscing about his early years spent playing basketball at the Springfield Boys & Girls Club from age 9.
"It was a place to be, that's the important part," Neal said. " And I've got to tell you, this is the nicest club I've ever seen. The Boys & Girls Club is a brand, and it stands for quality."
On his fourth try, the congressman managed to sink a free throw, eliciting applause from the crowd.
The plans for Pittsfield's mentoring program include help with homework, lessons on subjects diverse as fatherhood to best uses for social media, athletics and more. Goals include literacy improvement, mitigating school days missed and increasing classroom participation.
Joslyn plans to match up the students with the best fit for mentors, and the mentors will then report to him on the child's progress.
"As long as my mentors are excited to give back to the community," he said. "I think we're going to have a very good program here."
Terence Hughes, executive director of Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club, described the program as "needed."
"These kids are regular members — they come in, play ball, do a little homework," he said. "But now, with a mentor, they get checked in on every day. He or she knows when they've got a test. He or she knows what's going on at home, what's going on in their lives. They're not slipping through the cracks."
Extra funding for the program is needed, however. Hughes said the organization hopes to leverage the federal dollars, which came from the Office of Justice Programs, with funding from local contributors, including the city and other local foundations.
The program begins this month and Hughes said he hopes to renew it next year.
In addition to the mentoring program, the Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club is offering Project Learn, an arts partnership with IS183 Art School of the Berkshires and summer learning loss courses for elementary school students.
Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214. email@example.com @BE_PhilD on Twitter.
Photo Gallery | U.S. Rep. Richard Neal visits Pittsfield Boys & Girls Club
La'quan Brown presents Congressman Richard Neal with a jersey bearing his name during Neal's visit to the Boys and Girls Club in Pittsfield on Friday, March 6, 2015. Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle.
D'andre Johnson, left, and Jaden Williams watch as Congressman Richard Neal takes a free-throw shot during Neal's visit to the Boys and Girls Club in Pittsfield on Friday, March 6, 2015. Stephanie Zollshan — The Berkshire Eagle.
Congressman Richard Neal speaks at the "I-90 Corridor STEM Forum" on Friday at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield. During the forum, local education, business and legislative leaders discussed how strides and support in the science, technology, engineering and math fields can help stabilize Massachusetts' economic future. (Ben Garver — The Berkshire Eagle)
“I-90 Corridor STEM Forum focuses on growing youth interest in innovation”
By Jenn Smith, The Berkshire Eagle, April 17, 2015
PITTSFIELD - On Monday, Berkshire County education and business leaders heard from state education officials about the rising need for college-educated workers in Massachusetts and how these widening workforce gaps threaten economic growth.
Despite the fact that the Massachusetts public higher education system is producing approximately 40,000 college-educated citizens and workers each year, many are not sticking around to help fill in the gaps.
On Friday, local education, business and legislative leaders gathered again, this time to hear how strides and support in the STEM fields might offer a solution to stabilizing the commonwealth's economic future.
With the leadership of U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and 1Berkshire convened at the Crowne Plaza an "I-90 Corridor STEM Forum," featuring two panel discussions to highlight facilities and programs along the I-90 corridor from Boston to Buffalo, N.Y., and their potential to grow and fuel economic development, particularly in the Albany-Berkshire region.
"There is opportunity here in the Berkshires. It's a good place to meet, being well situated with proximity to the I-90 corridor and Albany, and has all the ingredients for a successful economic story," Neal told The Eagle when asked why he chose to organize a forum on this topic.
"In reality, Berkshire County is the only part of the state that has consistently lost population, but it offers a good strong job base growth opportunity to enhance prosperity," he said. "And the best social program is a job."
Neal was joined by his New York state counterpart, U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, who also weighed in on the matter.
"We need to start early," Tonko said in terms of building engagement and creating affordable access to programs and education.
Back in February, he introduced a new bipartisan piece of legislation known as the Educating Tomorrow's Engineers Act, which is co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy III, a Massachusetts Democrat, and U.S. Reps. David McKinley, of West Virginia, and Rodney Davis, of Illinois, both Republicans.
"We're an innovation-based economy, and if we don't invest in it then we're failing our constituencies," Tonko said.
Over the course of two and a half hours, state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, the vice chairwoman of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies, led panelists and attendees in talks about what's working, what's missing and what might be effective in helping local students and residents to aspire to and be trained in today's fast-growing, high-tech and quickly diversifying job market that demands advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills.
The first panel included: Robert Coughlin, president and CEO of the Cambridge-based Massachusetts Biotechnology Council; Patrick Muraca, president and CEO of Nuclea Biotechnologies in Pittsfield; Ryan Mudawar, manager of academic and workforce programs for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in Waltham; and Hunter Richard, manager of business development for the Boston-headquartered Massachusetts Office of International Trade & Investment.
The second panel included: Bill Mulholland, vice president of community education and workforce development at Berkshire Community College; Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams; Jim Capistran, executive director of the University of Massachusetts Innovation Institute in Amherst; Claire Christopherson, director of administration and finance for the Holyoke-based Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center; and Ross Goodman, associate vice president for business development and economic outreach at the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the SUNY Polytechnic Institute in Albany.
Each panelist highlighted ways their respective organization or institution can serve or has benefited from partnerships across sectors to expand the capacity for STEM activity in the region, be it through grant funding, internships and workforce development programs.
But as various forum attendees noted, effecting an economic sea change is not without its challenges. Muraca, for example, noted the difficulty in attracting Ph.D.-level scientists to work in the Berkshires over Cambridge.
Pittsfield Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi also noted that in a city where an estimated 60 percent of children are enrolled in the federal free and reduced lunch program that there are socioeconomic barriers to supporting students to be successful in STEM fields.
Phil Dore, program director of General Dynamics' littoral combat ship program, said that despite the company's offering approximately 200 jobs and 50 internship opportunities in recent years, there is still an outstanding need to "attract and retain skills in the Berkshires and across the region."
He asked the panelists for more ideas and more support.
"We're listening," he said.
Contact Jenn Smith at 413-496-6239. firstname.lastname@example.org @JennSmith_Ink on Twitter.
New York Congressman Paul Tonko speaks at the "I-90 Corridor STEM Forum." "We need to start early" in engaging young people in STEM and creating affordable access to programs and education. (Ben Garver — The Berkshire Eagle)
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, listens during a panel at the "I-90 Corridor STEM Forum" on Friday at the Crowne Plaza in Pittsfield, Cariddi led panelists and attendees in talks about what's working in STEM education and what could be effective in teaching it to today's young people. (Ben Garver — The Berkshire Eagle)
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal backs law to protect those who administer opioid antidote"
By Tony Dobrowolski, The Berkshire Eagle, April 22, 2015
PITTSFIELD - With heroin and opioid addiction at crisis levels across the region, the need for overdose treatment also has become more acute.
Opioid-reversing drugs like naloxone fill that need, but they need to be administered quickly to be effective.
So U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, has sponsored legislation that would give emergency service providers, volunteers and other so-called "Good Samaritans" more legal leeway to administer overdose-reversing drugs in life threatening situations.
"We want to be able to give relief to those who undertake the necessity of it," Neal said. "That's an argument that you can have down the road in a trial court as opposed to having it at that moment, and needing to apply it."
"The Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015" would exempt from civil liability under certain conditions the emergency administration of overdose-reversing drugs by people who prescribe or are prescribed them.
Naloxone, also known by its trade name Narcon, is an "opioid antagonist" that is used to counter the effects of overdoses from opioid-based drugs. It counteracts the life-threatening depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system by allowing an overdose victim to breathe normally, according to the Harm Reduction Coalition.
It can either be injected or sprayed up a person's nose. The drug wears off in 20 to 90 minutes, and has no potential for abuse.
Fatal overdoses from opioid-based drugs like heroin have quadrupled nationally since 1999. In the Berkshires, opioid-based drugs passed alcohol last year as the top substance abuse treatment that was requested at the Brien Center.
Health care professionals, individuals who work or volunteer at opioid overdose programs, and police and other responders would be exempt from civil liability under certain circumstances, according to the legislation.
The Springfield Democrat is sponsoring the bill with Republican representatives Frank Guinta of New Hampshire and Barbara Comstock of Virginia. U.S. Sen. Markey, D-Mass., has co-sponsored similar legislation in the U.S. Senate with Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.
Brian K. Andrews, the president of County Ambulance in Pittsfield, is in favor of the legislation due to the "epidemic of opioid overdoses" that are taking place.
He said extending liability protection is a key step because, "in this day and age that's what people worry about the most."
Andrews said the EMTs in his ambulance squad are legally authorized to administer Narcan to people who are experiencing drug overdoses. He said the legislation would apply mostly to first responders who aren't legally protected, many of whom work for volunteer ambulance squads and police and fire departments.
"I think the area of concern, why they're seeking the legislation, are for the first responders, people who are not necessarily with ambulances, like police, fire and rescue squads," Andrews said.
Jim Koperniak, the director of Becket Ambulance, said his EMTs are also legally permitted to administer Narcan.
"I do think it can be a benefit, and it can be a lifesaver especially as far out as we are from the hospitals," Koperniak said.
"Anything that exempts us from liability is a good thing," said Dalton Fire Chief Gerald Cahalan.
Jennifer Michaels, the Brien Center's medical director, said she doesn't know of anyone locally who has been subject to civil penalties for administering naloxone in drug overdose situations.
But she said naloxone isn't readily available, and it is often expensive to procure.
"Anything that will help us make Narcan more available I support," Michaels said. "If we can protect people who are overdosing I'm all for it. Anything that can save lives."
The price has become so steep that state Senate President Stan Rosenberg is in favor of having Massachusetts use its purchasing muscle to help ensure naloxone remains affordable.
Rosenberg said that he's concerned about what he called the drastic increase in the price of naloxone, adding that the drug is needed more than ever with opiate-related overdoses on the rise, according to State House News Service.
Attorney General Maura Healey has warned that a spike in the cost of the drug is making it difficult to keep first responders stocked with the lifesaving remedy.
Jason Shandell, president of California-based Amphastar Pharmaceuticals which produces naloxone, told the Associated Press in February that prices have increased because of rising costs of raw materials, energy and labor.
Rosenberg said he looks forward to working with Healey.
Neal referred to the soaring increase in the number of overdoses from opioid-based drugs as a "crisis."
According to the legislation, nationally 120 people die daily from drug overdoses related to prescription painkillers, while another 6,748 are treated in emergency departments for the misuse or abuse of drugs. More people die from drug overdoses in this country than they do from motor vehicle accidents.
At the Brien Center, 46 percent of the facility's patients were treated for heroin or opioid abuse during the first six months of 2014, 3 points more than were treated for abusing alcohol. Only 23 percent of the Brien Center's patients were treated for opioid abuse during all of 2013. Michaels said last year's trends at the Brien Center have continued.
While drugs like naloxone can save lives immediately, they don't change a person's underlying behavior, Neal said.
"Rehabilitation is equally important," Neal said.
Costs attributed to prescription opioid abuse were about $55.7 billion nationally in 2007. Of those figures, 45 percent were attributable to health care costs like substance abuse treatment, and 9 percent were attributed to criminal justice costs.
Neal said he saw first-hand the effects of drug abuse when he served as the mayor of Springfield.
"If you talk to the sheriffs, the incarceration rate in some instances is better than 80 percent for those that have drug or drink problems," he said. "So we have a long-term challenge in front of us here, and getting some rehabilitation has to be part of the equation."
Contact Tony Dobrowolski at 413-496-6224. email@example.com @TonyDobrow on Twitter.
“Neal should back treaty with Iran”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, August 27, 2015
While Representative Richard Neal should be respected for doing his homework on the White House's deal with Iran, the issue isn't that complex. And the good alternatives are non-existent.
Demonstrators have gathered outside the Pittsfield office of the Springfield Democrat to request that he endorse the agreement, as have eight of the 11 members of the state's congressional delegation (Eagle, August 27). A statement given demonstrators by a Neal staffer indicated he was still studying the issue.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran will not be able to produce an atomic weapon for at least a decade. In exchange, economic sanctions against Iran will be withdrawn, sanctions that were disappearing anyway as Europe is eager to trade with Iran. Republicans are opposed to the deal even though they offer no alternative that would prevent Iran from developing an atomic bomb in the months ahead.
Tom Leamon of Williamstown, who unlike most politicians has actually been to Iran, told The Eagle's Phil Demers that the Iranian people are friendly and not anti-West. It is the ayatollahs who — like the Republicans — oppose the nuclear arms agreement. This agreement provides a real chance at peace among people who do not have to be enemies, and we urge Representative Neal to enthusiastically support it.
“Why is Neal supporting corporate loophole?”
By Nathan Proctor, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, August 29, 2015
BOSTON - It probably won't surprise you that many of the biggest multinational companies pay much lower tax rates than Main Street Massachusetts businesses. In fact some of the world's most profitable companies pay no corporate income tax at all. We've heard about how Apple, Google, Verizon and General Electric use complicated tax dodging schemes to avoid paying their fair share.
What is a bit surprising is that Rep. Richard Neal has co-sponsored a measure that opens up a new loophole in our tax code that would make the problem worse.
ANOTHER TAX DODGE
Rep. Neal, a Springfield Democrat, has co-sponsored legislation, introduced by Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.), to tax profits earned by "intellectual property" — like patents, copyrights and trade secrets — at a far lower rate than other kinds of profits. House Budget Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan celebrated the move, and has long support this kind of policy, adding "I applaud Charles and Richie."
One way that companies dodge taxes now is by relocating their intellectual property and its income to a subsidiary in a country that levies little to no income tax, like the Caymans Islands. Even when their product is sold in Pittsfield, a company can claim that profit was earned offshore by a zero-employee subsidiary who owns the copyrights involved.
That's why companies with a lot of intellectual property — such as tech companies and pharmaceutical companies — tend to be some of the most aggressive about offshore tax dodging: They can pretend that costs are located elsewhere merely by registering patents or licenses overseas.
At best, innovation boxes will give tax breaks on profits from research that has long since been done. At worst, they create a new way for companies to dodge taxes by pretending that most of their income comes from intellectual property.
Local businesses in Massachusetts don't play these tax shell games to dodge taxes, they are paying what they owe. Everyone should play by the same rules.
Even the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, thinks the innovation box is a bad idea. "It is unfair to force those businesses left out of the box to pay an uncompetitive amount of tax while allowing businesses that happen to be in a congressionally favored industry to enjoy the benefits of lower taxes," wrote Curtis Dubay, a tax research fellow. "All business income should be taxed at the same rate."
SAME RULES FOR ALL
Frankly, I just don't understand why Rep. Neal thinks we need new loopholes in the tax code.
Congress should be in the business of making sure that everyone plays by the same rules. We need laws that will close the loopholes that let these big companies to avoid paying their taxes so we can invest in an economy that works for everyone.
I hope Rep. Neal will reconsider his support.
Nathan Proctor is state director of Massachusetts Fair Share.
“Bianchi has earned re-election as mayor”
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, October 25, 2015
To the editor:
As the people of Pittsfield prepare to go to the polls to vote for mayor, I would like to take this opportunity to endorse Dan Bianchi for re-election on Tuesday, Nov. 3.
I've known Dan for several years and consider him to be a good friend. He is an honest and sincere public servant who truly has the best interests of the City of Pittsfield in mind. When he was elected mayor in 2011, he said his administration would be open and inclusive, and he has fulfilled that promise. He's been accessible in the neighborhoods, supportive of local businesses, and determined that Pittsfield continue to get its fair share of state and federal resources. As a former mayor, I know how difficult the job can be. But Dan has been a fair and tireless leader who I believe deserves another term.
Economic development, public safety and education have been his top priorities, and he has made progress on all three fronts. Pittsfield's downtown revival has continued under his watch and a nearly $10 billion center for manufacturing and innovation is set to break ground this year.
His support of law enforcement is well known, and he is genuinely committed to making Pittsfield a safer place to live, work and raise a family. A new high school is ready for construction that has the potential to be a game changer for the community. In my opinion, Dan Bianchi has a proven record that speaks for itself. And that is why I am enthusiastically supporting his candidacy.
When voters go to the polls in November, I urge them to vote for Dan Bianchi for mayor. No one works harder for the people of Pittsfield that Dan. He and his wife Theresa are a terrific team who care deeply about the city's future. I am forever grateful for their friendship and kindness. And I would like to see Dan continue to serve as your mayor for the next four years.
Rep. Richard E. Neal, Springfield
Congressman Neal represents the First Congressional District of Massachusetts.
Representative Richard Neal’s bill is less strict that the requirements in the Obama administration’s reform plan. Jessica Hill/Associated Press/File 2011.
“Springfield congressman draws fire for bill on investing”
By Christopher Rowland, Boston Globe Staff, January 5, 2016
WASHINGTON — The MassMutual office tower looms large over Springfield, a symbol of the powerful role the insurance company plays in the home district of Representative Richard Neal.
Now Neal is coming under fire for sponsoring legislation that would protect MassMutual — which is the veteran lawmaker’s biggest source of campaign money — and other insurance and financial services companies from regulations proposed by the Obama administration.
Neal and his cosponsors have introduced a watered-down version of the Obama administration’s plan to curb investment industry practices that critics say take an unfair bite out Americans’ retirement nest eggs.
The Obama administration is taking aim at a conflict of interest for some brokers, who win hefty commissions to steer people with individual retirement accounts into complex investments with high fees and substandard returns. The White House estimates that Americans collectively lose $17 billion a year because they receive “conflicted advice” and wind up getting about 1 percent less in annual returns in their IRAs than they should.
But the reforms proposed by Obama’s Department of Labor have been fiercely opposed by insurance and mutual fund companies — including MassMutual, Fidelity Investments, and other major Massachusetts firms — that manage trillions of dollars in individual retirement accounts.
The lobbying fight has spilled onto Capitol Hill, where the Department of Labor has been criticized by members of both parties. Neal’s bill, which he filed with Republican Representative Peter Roskam of Illinois, is supported by the industry and is touted as a bipartisan compromise.
Neal acknowledged in an interview Monday that having a hometown constituent, MassMutual, which manages $155 billion in customer retirement accounts, was part of his motivation for wading into the debate. But he pointed out that he has been working on retirement issues for decades and that his interests are far broader than a single company in his district.
He said he would be pleased if the introduction of his legislation prodded the Department of Labor to scale back its “unworkable’’ rules.
“I want the Labor Department to come up with a rule that’s workable,” Neal said. Its current draft, years in the making, “is cumbersome and overly complicated and is going to drive people away from retirement advice that need it.”
Neal’s legislation contains the same stated goal as the Obama administration reform plan: requiring that brokers keep the “best interest” of their clients at heart when offering retirement investment advice. It also forces brokers to disclose commissions they receive from insurance and investment companies for signing clients up for particular investments.
But the Roskam-Neal bill lacks many of the strictest requirements for transactions between broker and client, such as a written contract between broker and client and a list of preapproved investments that brokers can discuss. Moreover, its passage would be a virtual death sentence on the Obama administration rules because it would require the Republican-controlled Congress to affirmatively approve the Department of Labor regulations — which is as close to a political impossibility as you can get.
Investor advocates are calling foul.
“It’s an industry wish list,” Barbara Roper, a consumer watchdog in Washington who closely follows financial industry regulations, said of the Roskam-Neal legislation. “It makes things worse than they are. This keeps the loopholes and lowers the standard.”
Dennis Kelleher, chief executive of Better Markets, a nonprofit advocacy group in Washington, was similarly critical: “The bill is just the latest industry attempt to delay and kill the very simple rule that requires investment advisers to put their clients’ interests first.”
Neal’s legislation puts him on the opposite side of the issue from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who supports the administration’s proposals. Warren recently conducted a survey of investment companies that sell annuities, a form of investment often associated with high fees. She found that top-selling brokers, in addition to commissions, are rewarded with “kickbacks” in the form of free trips to places like Aruba and California wine country.
Disclosures of these incentives, according to Warren’s report on her findings, “are buried deep within prospectuses in complex legalese, rather than being provided in an easily available and understandable fashion.”
Having represented his district in Congress for nearly 28 years, Neal, a former mayor of Springfield, is the longest-serving member of the Massachusetts House delegation. He has held a seat on the Ways and Means Committee since 1993, making him an expert in the US tax code and the arcane details of investment products such as 401(k) plans.
He is an old-school practitioner of Washington politics, shunning harsh partisan combat in favor of quiet relationship-building.
Neal’s top 10 list of career campaign supporters is heavy with insurance and financial services companies. MassMutual tops his list of career sources of political money with nearly $350,000 from its employees and political committees. FMR (the umbrella company of Fidelity Investments), the Boston-based mutual fund giant, is second, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan organization that tracks political contributions.
Neal said that campaign contributions had “no bearing” on legislation he files and that his contributors are reflective of the mix of businesses in his district. He added he wants to move past the stark positions that have divided Washington.
“These arguments become ‘either/or’ and we’re supposed to be boxed in by advocacy groups on both sides,” he said. “This is making sure that middle-class men and women get decent advice on what to do in their retirement savings.”
By joining the heated battle over broker rules, Neal has waded into one of the longest-running fights of the Obama era. IRAs, like employer-sponsored 401(k) plans, are more crucial than ever with the decline of fixed-benefit pensions for American workers. Administration officials say IRAs need to be protected from exploitation by brokers pushing costly mutual funds or highly complex annuities on unsophisticated investors.
The current professional standard for broker advice is whether an investment is “suitable” for a client. The Department of Labor rules would change that to a “best interest” standard for IRAs — a move intended to require that any recommendation benefits the client first and foremost. The rules also would set detailed compliance requirements on that “best interest” standard — and those details are what have drawn howls from the industry.
Powerful industry associations are fully mobilized in Washington and Massachusetts. The advocacy of the Boston Asset Management Association, a collection of mutual fund powerhouses, is coordinated by James Segel, a registered lobbyist who was former representative Barney Frank’s chief counsel and helped write the Dodd-Frank reform legislation. Segel said the danger is insurance and mutual fund companies will stop offering free retirement advice to middle- and low-income investors because the rules would be so burdensome.
A crucial moment for investment advice occurs when someone rolls over a 401(k) from a former employer and opens an IRA. The industry argues that these conversations are crucial to getting people to save.
Fidelity 401k customers, for instance, “are three times less likely to cash out of their plans if they have had a conversation with a representative,” Fidelity spokesman Steve Austin said. “We support the bipartisan Neal-Roskam legislation because it ensures that middle class savers and small businesses get the critical help they need and desire, and that it is in their best interests.”
In a statement e-mailed to the Globe, MassMutual said the Department of Labor regulations are “overly broad and ambiguous and will result in fewer Americans saving for retirement.”
But Roper, at the Consumer Federation of America, does not believe America’s investment industry will abandon IRA clients. She contends the industry is using scare tactics to sway the political debate.
“There is no way they are walking away from the multitrillion-dollar rollover market,” she said. “It is the most significant source of funds in average investor accounts.”
Christopher Rowland can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeRowland.
Our Opinion: “Neal efforts are too tailored to corporate giants”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, January 7, 2016
President Obama is pushing legislation that addresses practices within the investment industry that pose a conflict of interest. It is disappointing to see First District Congressman Richard Neal in opposition.
The White House wants to address the issue of brokers steering people with individual retirement accounts (IRAs) into complicated investment programs with high fees and low returns so they can earn hefty commissions. The administration asserts that this practice is costing Americans $17 billion annually because the advice they are receiving is tainted by a conflict caused by the broker's desire to make a large profit.
The president has brought forth a reform plan requiring brokers to act in the "best interest" of clients and disclose all commissions they receive for steering clients into particular investments. Representative Neal, a Springfield Democrat, has responded with legislation co-sponsored by Illinois Republican Peter Roskam, that would among other things eliminate the requirement for a written contract between the broker and a client and would require the Republican-controlled House to approve the new regulations. The latter would guarantee the failure of the White House initiative because House Republicans in particular refuse to pass any Obama initiatives out of spite, which surely Representative Neal knows.
Representative Neal told The Boston Globe that the administration's legislation, to be enforced by the Department of Labor, is cumbersome and complicated and will dissuade Americans from saving for retirement and seeking retirement advice. This is also what the investment industry, which backs the Neal-Roskam bill, is claiming. Americans, however, know they need to save for retirement and won't stop doing so, and the investment companies aren't going to walk away from a billion dollar market. The industry can live with legislation that only requires it to be more open about its practices so clients can determine if they are potentially being fleeced.
Among those opposing the president's legislation is Springfield-based Mass Mutual Life Insurance, which manages $155 billion in retirement accounts. Representative Neal denied to The Globe that campaign contributions affect the legislation he files, but Mass Mutual tops his donor list and the top 10 contains several life insurance and financial services companies.
Representative Neal has also co-sponsored legislation creating an "innovation box" to ostensibly reward companies for pioneering research. Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, whose bona fides on financial issues couldn't be much stronger, criticizes the bill for lacking enforcement measures preventing companies from claiming the innovation tax credit to increase their profit margins without actually proving they earned it. The senator also supports the Obama administration investment reform measures without the watering down of the Neal-Roskam bill.
This legislation would also allow companies to pay lower taxes on their "intellectual property." This would enable corporations like General Electric, a prominent Neal donor and a company that employs a variety of schemes to avoid paying taxes, to further lower its tax rate and artificially increase its profit margin.
Representative Neal, who is the senior member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, understandably prides himself for working across party lines. However, bipartisanship should not be in the service of Republican-style bills catering to the specific interests of wealthy companies.
The congressman also touts his long experience in Washington on financial matters, and there is no doubting his expertise. However, that expertise is better employed in protecting the financial interests of his constituents, as is clearly the goal of Senator Warren, than in benefiting giant corporations that have already proven efficient at raking in huge profits and/or cynically reducing their tax obligations.
US Rep. Richard Neal: “Retirement investment proposals seek to protect consumers, not about MassMutual”
By Shannon Young | email@example.com – The (Springfield) Republican, January 7, 2016
SPRINGFIELD ‒ Stressing that he wants to ensure Americans can easily receive financial advice for retirement, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, beat back suggestions Thursday that legislation he's co-sponsored aims to protect companies like MassMutual.
The veteran lawmaker, who introduced the two measures with Illinois Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, Connecticut Democrat Rep. John Larson and Tennessee Republican Phil Roe in late-December, said they come in response to retirement investment advice reforms proposed by the U.S. Department of Labor.
The legislation, which the Democrat said would only be triggered by an onerous or "overly complicated" DOL rule, however, has come under fire from some as being an "industry wish list" and making things worse by keeping loopholes and lowering standards.
Neal's interest in such bills has also received criticism, with the Boston Globe reporting that it "would protect MassMutual — which is the veteran lawmaker's biggest source of campaign money — and other insurance and financial services companies from regulations proposed by the Obama administration."
Neal's career campaign supporters, the newspaper said, are heavy with insurance and financial services companies, including MassMutual which has contributed nearly $350,000 from its employees and political committees.
While the congressman acknowledged the role the retirement savings industry plays in his district and places like Hartford, Conn. where some constituents may commute for work, he argued that the proposal "is entirely consumer driven."
"The idea this is just about MassMutual is ridiculous," he said in an interview.
Stressing that he has worked on retirement-related issues throughout his political career, Neal took issue with the suggestion that he could have a questionable motive.
The congressman also questioned comparisons drawn between his measures and those discussed by the Obama administration, saying the final DOL rule language has not yet been proposed.
"When and if it's published, there's still a period of comment and this proposal already has drawn tens of thousands of comments from people across the country," he said, adding that nearly 100 congressional lawmakers - including six from Massachusetts - have offered concerns on it.
Upon introducing the bills, sponsors said they reflect a set of bipartisan principles members put forth in response to the DOL regulatory proposal, which "many fear will reduce access to financial advice for low- and middle-income families." The bills, they added, represent a compromise to protect consumers.
According to Neal, the principle behind the legislation he's co-sponsored is: "How do we make sure that we have a rule that allows middle class people to gain access to financial advice without onerous restrictions."
He added that there's broad agreement that the client comes first, there should be transparency and that bad actors should be removed.
According to the Globe, while the congressman's proposal contains some similarities to the Obama administration's plan to curb investment industry practices, like forcing brokers to disclose certain commissions and keeping clients' best interests at heart, it "lacks many of the strictest requirements for transactions between broker and client, such as a written contract between broker and client and a list of preapproved investments that brokers can discuss."
It would also require the Republican-controlled Congress to approve the DOL regulations - something which the newspaper said is unlikely to happen.
Sponsors noted that under the legislation, if Congress fails to approve the agency's regulatory proposal, a new fiduciary standard would take effect that, among many things: requires advisors to clearly communicate key information to ensure investors are well-informed; and ensures those saving for retirement have access to advice and investment options that meet their needs.
"Neal has right idea in pushing back at Obama proposal"
The Boston Globe, Letters, January 8, 2016
THE OBAMA administration’s proposed best-interest regulation for financial professionals would harm many Americans who need help saving for retirement (“Springfield’s Neal draws fire for bill on investing,” Page A1, Jan. 5). This is something Representative Richard Neal understands. The bill he has introduced, with bipartisan support, offers an alternative that would benefit consumers.
The administration’s regulation fills 115 pages in the Federal Register. It is complicated, confusing, and ultimately unworkable. Saying it would simply require advisers to work in clients’ best interests is an easy sound bite, but there is much more to it.
It would disrupt relationships my clients and I have worked hard over many years to build. It would make it impossible for me to fully inform my clients about their retirement plan options, and would reduce consumers’ choices.
I wish the administration’s proposal were as simple as requiring me to work in my clients’ best interests. I have done that my entire career as a financial adviser. I am glad that Neal and dozens of other Democrats and Republicans in Congress have raised concerns about the administration’s proposal and are looking out for my clients’ interests too.
Jules O. Gaudreau
The writer is president of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors and a MassMutual financial adviser.
"Neal must step up for his constituents"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, January 14, 2016
To the editor:
It's concerning to me that The Eagle found that Rep. Richard Neal has been "catering to the specific interests of wealthy companies," especially given his unique role on Capitol Hill ("Our Opinion: Neal efforts are too tailored to corporate giants," Jan. 7).
Rep. Neal is a senior Democrat on the tax writing committee in the House of Representatives. That means he has more ability than most other Democrats in Congress to help make sure tax policy works for regular people here in Western Massachusetts, and not just corporate lobbyists in D.C.
Over the last two years, 80 percent of Rep. Neal's campaign funds have come from political action committees, by far the largest share of any member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation. Neal seems to have plenty of time for his corporate donors but since becoming my congressman, he has held no district office hours or had any tele-town halls for constituents to have face time.
From Apple's famous tax-dodging recently featured on "60 Minutes," to Pfizer's plan to desert the U.S. for tax purposes by changing its address to a tax haven, I am sick of hearing about how the tax system is rigged on behalf of the biggest companies in the world.
It's time for Rep. Neal to use his unique role to start standing up for us.
Matt L. Barron, Chesterfield
"Richie Neal not responsive to needs of western Massachusetts"
Daily Hampshire Gazette, Letter, July 17, 2016
Kudos to the Gazette and The Recorder for their recent excellent coverage of our inaccessible congressman, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal.
I must take issue with some points made by the gentleman from Springfield. Neal claims he has been supportive of rural issues, but this is not the case. In 2014, he voted against the omnibus Farm Bill which reauthorized a host of critical rural development programs for four years including grants and loans for rural broadband, rural housing, community facilities and water and sewer projects for small towns.
The bill also boosts agricultural research and Cooperative Extension Service programs at UMass/Amherst and farm credit and conservation programs.
More recently, Neal was not one of the 102 House members who signed a June 10 letter to Labor Secretary Perez asking that DOL speed up the processing of applications to the H-2A agricultural labor program.
Farmers and growers here in western Massachusetts depend on this program to harvest their crops each year. U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern of Worcester did sign the letter. When I was on the district staff of U.S. Rep. John Olver, I worked on many H-2A cases for area fruit growers to expedite the red tape in getting them pickers.
Amazingly, during the 2015 August congressional recess, Neal had no public events across the district and he holds no constituent office hours or tele-town halls. Several letters I’ve written to his office asking about his positions on trade policy have gone unanswered.
Neal may not have time to show up in Hampshire and Franklin counties, but he has plenty of time for fundraising. Whether it’s at posh resorts on Cape Cod, luxury boxes at Fenway Park or tony restaurants in Washington, D.C., Neal makes time to shake the money tree for his campaign committee and leadership PAC.
During the 2013-14 election cycle, Neal raised $1,809,130 (with 80 percent from PACs) which was the most of the nine-member Massachusetts delegation in total receipts and percentage from political action committees. In 2011, 76 percent of Neal’s campaign cash was from PACs and he raises almost no money from within his district.
Matt L. Barron, Chesterfield
“Governor’s Council is wasteful, anachronistic”
The Daily Hampshire Gazette, Letter, August 31, 2016
I hope that I live long enough to see the abolition of that colonial anachronism known as the Governor’s Council. After all, the judicial systems in 48 other states seem to get along quite well without this layer of bureaucracy.
The half million dollars that we pay to run this part-time body could be better spent on many other things.
But since we must elect somebody to fill the open seat in the 8th District, which covers almost all of western Massachusetts, I’m going with Jeff Morneau.
As a political outsider, Morneau has distinguished himself as president of the Hampden County Bar Association and has dedicated his 18 years of legal experience to fighting for consumers and workers who have been victims of insurance companies and businesses that have discriminated or engaged in unfair and deceptive practices.
Next year, Gov. Charlie Baker will nominate two more candidates for vacancies on the Supreme Judicial Court. To provide regional diversity, these seats must go to jurists from the four western counties, since the three new SJC judges confirmed this year are all from the eastern part of the state.
Having Morneau as our governor’s councilor will ensure that our area has a voice on the state’s highest court.
Matt L. Barron, Chesterfield
Our Opinion: "Elect Jeffrey Morneau to Governor's Council"
The Berkshire Eagle, 9/2/2016
A vestige of the formative days of state government, Governor's Council is generally a low-profile board. But it is an important one.
It has an impact on pardons and commutations and, most significantly, judicial appointments. Berkshire residents were reminded of the latter three years ago when the Council rejected the nomination of local attorney Michael McCarthy for a Berkshire District Court judgeship. The Council, which should be the epitome of an apolitical board, has for some time been tainted by political considerations.
The decision of District 8 (Western Massachusetts) councilor Michael Albano to not run for re-election has persuaded attorney Jeffrey Morneau and former judge Mary Hurley to run for the Democratic nomination. As no Republican or unenrolled candidate emerged, the winner of the party primary on Thursday, September 8 will become the new governor's councilor for the district in 2017.
Mr. Morneau, the president of the Hampden County Bar Association, is campaigning in part on a platform of ridding the Governor's Council of politics, and he has made efforts to make the judicial nomination process more apolitical. He serves on the Joint Bar Committee that reviews and reports to the Governor's Council on judicial nominees. Mr. Morneau has reached out to the Berkshire Bar Association to find good judicial candidates and opened up the nomination process through public hearings. In a visit to The Eagle, he promised to work to fill judicial vacancies in the region, in part by the elimination of "political grandstanding."
Ms. Hurley also promised The Eagle that she would work to eliminate politics from the Council and fill regional judicial vacancies. The mayor of Springfield before she became a district court judge for two decades (she is now retired), Ms. Hurley offers experience and insight into the inner workings of government and of the judicial system.
While Ms. Hurley promises she will be an apolitical councilor, Mr. Morneau's apolitical background has genuine appeal. In working to prepare potential nominees for judgeships he has been gaining insight into the Governor's Council and its procedures and by working with the Berkshire bar he is already involved in assisting local candidates to negotiate the judicial nomination process. He will be able to hit the ground running if elected. The Eagle endorses Jeffrey Morneau for Governor's Council from the Western District.
Letter: “Neal shouldn't duck 'sole focus' voters”
The Berkshire Eagle, August 4, 2017
To the editor:
It is nice to see U.S. Rep. Richard Neal finally scheduling a town hall meeting for constituents in Pittsfield on September 15. However, I have to take issue with several of the congressman's statements in The Eagle article of August 1.
Regarding the Four Freedoms Coalition March, my understanding is that originally, Rep. Neal was not an invited speaker but he showed up anyway. The January 4 article touting the event in iBerkshires.com does not list Neal as a speaker, nor does the event's Facebook page.
Neal's Chicopee town hall on March 11 was advertised by his campaign committee, not his congressional office with one day's notice. That is not ample time for persons wanting to attend. But that town hall at Elms College was limited to a single topic, the Affordable Care Act. And while health care is an important and timely issue, there are many other federal issues on the minds of voters and residents that they would like to discuss with their congressman.
Which brings me to my last point. In The Eagle article of August 1, Neal complained that "I did them (town halls) frequently in my early career," the representative said. "But when people show up with a sole focus, that's not my view of a productive meeting."
What if a veteran shows up on September 15 and his or her "sole focus" is issues related to the Veterans Administration, or a farmer shows up wanting to ask about agriculture programs?
Rep. Neal is the most thin-skinned politician in the state if he cannot stand before his constituents and answer their concerns directly without accusing people of having "an agenda."
He makes plenty of face time available for well-heeled lobbyists and corporate political action committee directors bearing large donations to his campaign committee and leadership PAC but not enough time at district office hours or tele-town halls for his constituents.
Matt L. Barron,
“New rules set to make retirement industry more accountable”
By Deirdre Fernandes, Boston Globe Staff, April 6, 2016
The $14 trillion retirement industry is about to undergo a major overhaul: Brokers for the first time will be forced to consider the best interest of their clients — rather than the brokers’ own fees — in recommending investments.
The US Department of Labor announced the new rules, the first in decades, on Wednesday, after banks, insurance firms, and mutual fund companies spent millions furiously lobbying against them.
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who pledged her support for the tighter rules more than a year ago and joined President Obama in drumming up support for them among consumer groups, called it an “enormous victory” for working families.
It’s also a victory for the Democratic senator, a firebrand on financial regulation who has aimed her substantial political voice at banks, investment houses, and now financial advisory firms.
“Hard-working Americans need every dollar to work for them, not to lose billions of dollars to investment advisers who are watching out for themselves instead of for their clients,” Warren said. “Today the rules begin to change.”
The rules will legally require companies and financial advisers to act in their customers’ best financial interest, potentially saving them money in fees. The rules will be phased in, starting next April, federal officials said, and fully implemented by January 2018.
For consumers, the most immediate change may come when they decide to roll over their 401(k)s into IRAs. An adviser would need to provide information and disclosures about the types of investments he or she is recommending, as well as any commissions or perks tied to the recommendation, said Alicia Munnell, the director of Boston College’s retirement center.
Ultimately, it will discourage advisers from pushing those higher-cost products, Munnell said.
“It really changes the nature of the conversation,” she said.
The retirement landscape has changed over the last decades, with company pensions disappearing and more people responsible for building their own retirement savings. As a result, stricter standards are needed to provide a greater measure of retirement security, US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said during a press conference Wednesday.
Combined, 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts hold $14 trillion in private retirement assets, compared to about $3 trillion in traditional pensions, according to the Investment Company Institute.
“When your doctor and when your lawyer are talking to you, they’re obligated to look out for your best interest and despite what most working people assume, that’s not necessarily the case for financial advisers,” US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said during a press conference Wednesday.
In unveiling the final version of the rules, regulators made several concessions to the financial services industry, including more time to implement the regulations and fewer restrictions on the investments they can sell.
Companies will have to make fewer disclosures than originally proposed in earlier versions of the regulations; advisers won’t be penalized for pushing their company’s own mutual funds; and firms can sell a broader range of investments, including certain real estate trusts.
Also left out of the final version of the rules is any requirement that advisers provide performance projections for one-, five-, and 10-year periods. And advisers to businesses that provide 401(k) plans with less than $50 million in assets have also received a carve-out to the tighter rules.
“We feel comfortable that this is something that is a workable,” said Mark Casady, chief executive officer of Boston-based LPL Financial LLC, one of the nation’s largest financial advisory companies. “They have made a lot of modifications that we thought needed to happen.”
Even with the concessions, the changes will help consumers, said Dennis Kelleher, president of the Washington-based Better Markets Inc., a nonprofit, nonpartisan financial reform group.
“That is a dramatic and incredibly important change to millions of Americans,” Kelleher said.
Regulators and consumer advocates have been concerned that investors were being steered into high-fee or high-risk funds that eat into their retirement savings because brokers are paid commissions and earn perks, such as Caribbean vacations, for selling these products. The advocates argue that investors are placed in high-cost investments even when less expensive options are available, because the brokers earn more. The Labor Department estimates that consumers lose $17 billion a year due to excessive fees.
The new requirements will have an impact on some of the largest financial services firms in Massachusetts, including Boston-based Fidelity Investments and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. in Springfield.
In a statement Wednesday, MassMutual said it’s concerned about the unintended consequences of the rule. Some in the industry have argued that brokers might abandon moderate-income customers for fear of lawsuits from unhappy clients as a result of the regulations.
“It will hurt Americans at the worst possible time — a time when they need to take more accountability than ever for their financial future,” MassMutual said.
Brokers and financial firms have also argued that they already put their clients into low-cost investments and that these regulations create burdensome paperwork and make it more difficult to provide simple and routine help to investors.
Fidelity is reviewing the finalized rules, said Steve Austin, a company spokesman. It did not take a firm position on the final version Wednesday.
“We support rules that protect and don’t hinder workers saving for retirement,” Austin said.
Rokhaya Cisse, an analyst with Moody’s Investor Services, said that under the new rules, brokers will likely charge fees, instead of relying on commissions pegged to their sales of the investment products, although it’s unclear if that could end up costing consumers more. Commissions and revenue-sharing payments will still be allowed, but the adviser has to sign a legal contract with the investor disclosing potential conflicts and committing to putting the client’s best interest first.
As companies and investors look to shave costs, analysts also expect robo-advisory services, where an algorithm helps guide investments based on a consumer’s risk appetite and goals, to grow. The robo-advisers can be a lower-cost option for consumers and firms and many money managers are investing in the technology.
Last week, Fidelity announced that it had launched a pilot of its online investing platform for smaller investors that charges annual fees of 0.35 percent of an IRA account.
While these new rules come with some additional costs initially, larger firms are likely able to absorb them and are already shifting their focus and products to meet the new requirements, Cisse said.
Deirdre Fernandes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @fernandesglobe.
“Finally, fee relief is on the way for retirement investors”
The Boston Globe, Editorial, April 9, 2016
The announcementby the Labor Department Wednesday that it will require retirement-money professionals to act in the best interests of their clients prompted many people to ask the same question: You mean they weren’t already? Well, they didn’t have to, which led to a $17 billion problem that should have been solved long ago. That’s how much the government estimates consumers have been paying annually in unwarranted commission fees that are buried in retirement accounts, virtually invisible to anyone who isn’t a financial expert. The new regulations — scheduled to be phased in starting next April — mark a fundamental change in the way retirement advice is dispensed, and will benefit millions of Americans, who collectively hold about $14 trillion in retirement savings. The revisions also could have a broader impact by promoting more disclosure throughout the financial industry — in other words, greater transparency in a business known for being impenetrable. “Most people have no idea of what they’re getting, and they certainly have no idea of what they’re paying for,” said Michael D. McNiven, managing director at Cumberland Advisors in Sarasota, Fla. McNiven likened the new rules’ importance to the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which set special protections for retirement funds.
As with anything that invokes the phrase “fiduciary responsibility,” the revamped regulations involve a thick pile of details that don’t easily translate into English. The overarching intent is a noble one: to ensure that brokers and financial specialists who advise investors on tax-deferred individual retirement accounts and 401(k) rollovers don’t steer money to funds that pay higher commissions, give advisers perks like free vacations, and carry unnecessarily high risks. It accomplishes that, in part, by requiring them to reveal more information about commissions and potential conflicts of interest. That’s likely to make commission-based advice less attractive and increase the popularity of arrangements that pay advisers straight fees tied to the cumulative value of the portfolios they manage. Such advice works to the advantage of most small investors — it motivates advisers to grow their clients’ balances. The new rules also could boost so-called robo-advisers — services that use computer algorithms to balance investment mixes. They’re cheaper than consulting with a human, and often just as effective.
In their advertising, investment firms and independent brokers portray themselves as unfailingly trustworthy, focused solely on securing the best possible returns for customers. But, amazingly, they have not been legally obligated to adhere to that righteous standard. Under the existing regulations, an adviser only has to recommend “suitable” investments. US Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said the new rules mean that “putting the clients first is no longer a marketing slogan. It’s now the law.”
Not quite. Bowing to intense lobbying by the financial industry, a proposed eight-month rollout of the rules was unfortunately elongated, with full compliance delayed until 2018. There were other concessions, too — for instance, advisers who work for mutual fund companies will be permitted to promote their own firms’ offerings.
Still, the changes represent a major victory for workers and retirees, especially those in the middle class. With company pensions becoming a rarity, and the long-term viability of Social Security in question, more and more people are counting on IRAs and 401(k)s to provide them some semblance of stability. At the least, the new rules will make it easier for them to determine whether the numbers add up.
"U.S. Rep. Richard Neal greets Mayor Tyer, others at City Hall"
The Berkshire Eagle, 1/28/2016
PITTSFIELD - U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal, D-Springfield, met with Mayor Linda M. Tyer, elected city officials, and staff members at City Hall to offer an official welcome and engage in a discussion that highlighted key issues, according to a press release.
Attendees included state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier; City Council President Peter Marchetti; Ward 6 City Councilor John Krol; Matt Kerwood, director of finance; and Roberta McCulloch-Dews, director of administrative services.
Topics included workforce development, job creation, General Electric's relocation to the commonwealth in Boston and the opioid epidemic in the state.
"I had a very good and productive meeting with Mayor Tyer today on her vision for Pittsfield for the next four years," Neal said in the release. "She clearly has a strategic plan that focuses on economic development, job creation and reducing crime in the largest city in the Berkshires."
Tyer thanked the congressman for the collaboration.
"I deeply appreciate Congressman Neal's visit today," she said. "I believe it signifies the beginning of a thoughtful, working relationship ahead, and I look forward to the congressman's support as we work to build a better Pittsfield."
"Rep. Neal Says Final Fiduciary Rule Resolves Concerns Raised by Democrats"
By Ryan Rainey, Morning Consult, April 28, 2016
The Labor Department crafted a final retirement advice rule that’s worthy of Democratic support, according to Rep. Richard Neal, one of 96 House Democrats who last year raised concerns about the proposed version of the regulation.
“The response of the Labor Department was satisfactory,” Neal (Mass.) said Thursday at a press conference on Capitol Hill, adding that the final rule largely reflects his priorities. He cited the language on best interest contract exemptions as a positive development compared with the concerns Democratic lawmakers raised in a September letter to Labor Secretary Tom Perez.
“For the moment, I think that all of the questions that we raised — 96 Democrats signed the letter — by and large, they’ve been satisfied,” said Neal, who spoke alongside House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Perez.
Before the DOL finalized the rule, Neal supported a bill introduced by Rep. Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) that set out a congressional “best interest” standard for retirement advice and would have required an up-or-down vote on the rule after its completion. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has pointed to that bill, H.R. 4924, as a possible congressional response to the fiduciary rule.
Today, Neal said he wouldn’t vote for the measure if Ryan brought it to the floor.
Democrats at the press conference criticized House Republicans for bringing up a disapproval resolution for the rule, H.J. Res. 88, which the House is expected to pass along party lines before the end of the week.
Ryan covers financial regulation for Morning Consult. You can reach him via email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryan_rainey.
Fritz Mayock is running an independent campaign against Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) in the state's 1st Congressional District. credit: Dan Glaun.
Fritz Mayock talking with Moses Boggus. credit: Dan Glaun.
“Fritz Mayock puts casinos, tax reform on agenda in independent campaign to unseat Rep. Richard Neal”
By Dan Glaun | firstname.lastname@example.org - August 12, 2016
By the time Fritz Mayock began his campaign kick-off in Springfield's Center Square Thursday evening, he had already convinced one voter: Moses Boggus, a homeless man sitting on a nearby park bench, with whom Mayock held a free-wheeling discussion of the party system and the failures of trickle-down economics.
"The people [in the shelters] need someone like you to come around and talk to them," Boggus said.
The audience for Mayock's press conference announcing his independent bid to challenge Democratic Rep. Richard Neal for the state's 1st Congressional District consisted of four people: Boggus, the candidate, campaign manager Bob Robinson and a reporter.
He had sent invitations to a slew of Western Mass. television and print media outlets, but they did not respond -- an illustration of the uphill battle facing candidates with no party support and no means of raising the average $1.2 million it costs to run a winning campaign for the House of Representatives.
But what he does have, Mayock says, is ideas -- chief of which would be a restructuring of the tax code to benefit middle-income workers. He advocates eliminating income and payroll taxes for the first $40,000 of earnings, and funding that cut by raising capital gains tax to 40 percent and eliminating tax deductions that benefit the highest earners.
"The guy making 12 bucks an hour, especially if he's self employed, is paying a significantly higher tax percentage than Warren Buffet, Mitt Romney, anybody making $1 million a year or more, and certainly over $5 million a year," Mayock said. "And Congress will never get real about that until people like me start running."
He is also a critic of the Affordable Care Act, saying it benefits the very poor on the backs of middle class workers, and is opposed to casino developments, including the ongoing MGM Springfield project. Asked about MGM's commitment to create 3,000 jobs and prioritize local hiring, Mayock said he was skeptical the company would keep its promises.
"I am completely opposed to that and would do whatever I could to get rid of it or delay it because it brings in so much crime," Mayock said. "They're not generators for the economy. They're vacuums. They suck up all the money."
Mayock also supports the reinstatement of the Glass Steagall Act, the post-Great Depression financial regulation whose 1999 defanging has been identified by critics like Sen. Elizabeth Warren as a factor behind the 2008 financial crisis.
In response to Mayock's candidacy, Neal's office released a statement describing him as a "strong and effective voice" for Massachusetts.
"He will continue to fight for good paying jobs; be a leader in the effort to preserve and protect Social Security; and be an outspoken advocate to make the tax code more simple and fair for every American," Neal spokesman William Tranghese said. "He will keep having a conversation with the voters of the 1st Congressional District about his progressive record, and looks forward to sharing his Democratic beliefs and values with the men and women of western and central Massachusetts."
Mayock, a 40-year-old Forest Park resident, works at the Children's Study home in Springfield as a math teacher and at the Center for Human Development in Chicopee as a direct care provider. He has never held elected office, but did file paperwork to run for the state's 1st Congressional District in 2014, according to the Federal Election Commission.
He grew up in Longmeadow and has a degree in economics from the University of Massachusetts. He does not have the money to self-fund a campaign, he said; he currently lives with his mother in the Georgetown Condominiums.
"If the economy was working well enough to where I could feed a family, I probably would not be doing this," he said.
Neal has held office since 1988 and his last contested election was in 2010, when he defeated Republican Tom Wesley by a 57 percent to 42 percent margin. Neal has deep political and personal ties in Springfield, where he served as mayor and on the city council prior to his election to Congress.
Mayock is embracing the underdog nature of his campaign. In a campaign press release and a personal Facebook post, he said he was in favor of term limits and criticized Neal's lack of electoral competition.
"Is that democracy? Only having one choice?" Mayock wrote on Facebook. "Even if I lose, our Congressman will be forced to realize that his position is not inherited every two years."
Mayock supports the reinstatement of the Glass-Steagal financial regulation act and opposes carbon taxes, high speed rail developments, minimum wage increases, casino development and the Affordable Care Act, according to a graphic he posted on his Facebook page.
Greenfield Community College professor Thom Simmons has also filed with the FEC to run as a Libertarian in the race.
The 1st Congressional District includes the Berkshires, Hampden County and part of Hampshire County as well as parts of southern Central Mass. including Charlton and Southbridge.
Correction: This story has been updated to note that Neal's opponent in 2010 was Tom Wesley, not William. L. Gunn, Jr.
"Shelburne Falls resident, GCC professor to run for Congress"
Recorder Staff, August 16, 2016
SHELBURNE FALLS — Thomas Simmons, a longtime professor of business and economics at Greenfield Community College, has announced he will run for Congress, appearing on the ballot as the Libertarian Party candidate challenging incumbent Congressman Richard Neal in November.
Simmons, 56, of Shelburne Falls, filed more than the required number of valid signatures from voters in 80 cities and towns with the Secretary of the Commonwealth Tuesday to appear on the ballot as the Libertarian Party candidate challenging Neal. The district covers all of Berkshire and Hampden Counties, and parts of Franklin, Hampshire and Worcester.
“From my discussions with voters at Farmer’s Markets, Sportsmen’s Clubs, Supermarkets and other community events, one theme has universally emerged, and that is the lack of attention to issues pressing to western Massachusetts by the current incumbent,” Simmons said in a statement. “From a lack of leadership on the pipeline issue, to the contamination of the Hoosic watershed, to responding to town requests, western Massachusetts needs fresh perspective and energy.”
Simmons initially entered the race due to strong opposition to Common Core, a federal educational initiative which he says has “tied the hands of teachers and dumbed-down the education of our students.” Schools and teachers, he said, are spending more resources each year creating meaningless reports and data, and less and less time helping students at critical thinking.
The result, he said, is that politicians claim they are addressing education issues, when in reality 60 percent of students enter the community college system at lower than college-ready aptitude in basic English and math skills.
Simmons is also a critic of the 20-trillion-dollar federal debt, and said that the nation currently spends five times more on the interest on the national debt than it does on bridges and roads, and pointed to the voting record of 27-year incumbent Richard Neal as a primary example of this problem.
On his website, simmons4congress.com, Simmons has also proposed that companies be given a $1.15 direct income tax credit for every dollar they give to employees in the form of profit sharing. He claims that not only will this save companies tens of millions of dollars each year for reinvestment, but would also raise workers’ salaries by $7,000 to $9,000 annually.
Simmons was an initial member of the Springfield-based Grinspoon Entrepreneurship Initiative’s Faculty Advisory Committee, a past member of the Shelburne Conservation Commission and currently serves in the Holyoke Flotilla of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. He is the author of the Commonwealth’s homeowner septic system upgrade revolving loan program process.
Voters wishing to learn more about Simmons’ candidacy can go to his website at Simmons4Congress.com or his official Facebook campaign page at Simmons4Congress.
“Rep. Neal says drug companies' donations haven't swayed his attention to opioid abuse”
By Adam Shanks, The Berkshire Eagle, 9/18/2016
NORTH ADAMS - While touring Pittsfield's addiction treatment facilities in July, Rep. Richard Neal told the story of a police officer who became addicted to prescription pain medication before eventually turning to heroin.
But since 2006, Neal has accepted more than $220,000 in campaign donations from pharmaceutical companies and their allies — by far more than any other representative in Massachusetts.
The companies that manufacture prescription painkillers, and the doctors who prescribe them, have come under increased scrutiny throughout the country as the number of overdose deaths attributed to prescription opioids more than quadrupled between 1999 and 2012.
The group of companies and advocacy groups selected for this analysis by the Associated Press and Center for Public Integrity are known as the Pain Care Forum. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in an effort to gain influence at the state and federal level, the analysis found.
Neal has accepted campaign donations from 18 of these companies and groups, ranging from Pfizer Inc. to Boston Scientific Corp.
Neal's acceptance of $220,500 in campaign donations from Pain Care Forum members from 2006 to 2015 is well beyond what his peers in Massachusetts took in. In that same span, Pain Care Forum member donations to Massachusetts congressmen, both current and those no longer serving, totaled $234,950.
By comparison, Rep. Jim McGovern, a fellow Massachusetts Democrat who has served since 1997, accepted $29,000 in donations from Pain Care Forum members during that time frame.
In an emailed statement to The Eagle, Neal noted that he is the top Democrat on the House's Ways and Means Committee — which has jurisdiction on health care policy — and said that he has "consistently supported legislation that gives millions of Americans better access to quality and affordable health care." Neal, who is currently running for a 15th term in office, also stated that only 3 percent of the campaign donations throughout his career have come from pharmaceutical companies.
"Campaign contributions have no bearing on my legislative agenda or my work on any issue before the Congress. This political support simply reflects the business interests in my district, state and region," Neal said.
Massachusetts became one of only four states to pass a law in an effort to limit the flow of opioid painkillers — which have been linked to a rise in heroin addiction — from prescription pad to patient earlier this year. The others are its neighbors, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island.
But federally, a bill aimed at combatting the addiction epidemic did not include similar limitations on opioid prescriptions. As part of a compromise between the House and Senate, a piece of the original Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act was removed that would have mandated states utilize prescription monitoring databases in order to qualify for grant funding.
A spokesman for Neal said he "already does support restrictions and limits" on opioid prescriptions, and noted that he signed onto a letter sent by more than 30 lawmakers to the Drug Enforcement Agency in 2015 requesting it permit partial filling of opioid prescriptions in an effort to "limit the number of unused pills, reduce the diversion of these drugs, and stem the tide of fatal overdose."
The congressman noted his work with local, state, and federal leaders to address addiction, and that he is a member of the House's Bipartisan Task Force to Combat the Heroin Epidemic. Last year, Neal touted and sponsored the Opioid Overdose Reduction Act of 2015, a bill largely aimed at shielding first responders from potential civil liability when administering overdose-reversal drugs to patients. The bill has not made it out of committee.
The pharmaceutical industry and its allies have spent more than $600 million lobbying at the federal level and given more than $75 million in campaign donations to federal candidates between 2006 and 2015, according to the Associated Press. Overdose deaths, most of which were due to prescription opioid or heroin use, increased 37 percent nationally between 2006 and 2014.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376. email@example.com @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter.
"Dems look inward"
Boston Herald Staff, Editorial, November 12, 2016
So now it's the Democrats' turn to do some soul searching.
It’s not just that their presidential candidate, who was supposed to be a shoo-in to keep the White House in Democratic hands, lost so spectacularly — it’s where she lost. When once reliably blue states like Wisconsin and Michigan turn red, well, it is high time Democrats ask themselves what went wrong.
And they can’t put it all on Hillary Clinton and her inability to connect with voters or even on FBI Director James Comey — although, heaven knows many Democrats tried.
Sure, Hillary was not Bill. She didn’t have the charm, the charisma or the centrist ideology that he rode to political stardom. Back then Bill Clinton rescued the party of George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale and Mike Dukakis from the wilderness by moving it toward a sensible center.
Today it remains the party of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders - and while there are those who think Massachusetts and Vermont are the hub of the political universe, well, the vote tallies Tuesday tell a very different story.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) shared some of his thoughts on what Democrats need to do in the days ahead to regroup and to reach out to those who found the Trump message so compelling.
“When I look at our messaging, I often wonder what is in it for our former supporters. I think on the economic side we’ve become more hostile to growth,” Neal told the New England Council Thursday. “I thought that during the [Clinton] campaign that there was more pushback that was coming from the people that used to see us as their voice of aspiration.”
Trump, he said, was savvy enough to see the “great sense of anxiety” across the nation — much of that over the economy — and to speak to that anxiety.
And Neal spoke one other unalterable truth, that the Democratic Party has become a party beholden to elites.
“It’s no secret that we’re more dependent on big donors from California and places like that. Simultaneously as we’re dependent on big donors we’ve become more and more the party of the very wealthy,” Neal said.
Even in solidly blue Massachusetts, a wide swath of the state’s mid-section went for Trump — including 26 communities in Neal’s own district (up from 14 that voted for Mitt Romney in 2012). Overall Trump won 94 communities.
Yes, Democrats have some serious work ahead — which will be made easier if they reject the rantings of false prophets like Warren, and return to their more moderate roots.
Representative Richard Neal, D-Springfield. AP Photo/Jessica Hill.
"Richard Neal’s moment has arrived"
By Scot Lehigh, The Boston Globe, January 6, 2017
Richard Neal is about to emerge from the congressional shadows into the national spotlight.
A low-key, behind-the-scenes, let’s-get-a-deal-done type, the Springfield lawmaker is now the ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, which means he will be one of the minority party’s point people in critiquing Republican proposals and arguing for Democratic alternatives.
As Republicans prepare to repeal Obamacare, Neal frames things this way: “The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security are all linked,” and all essential to the middle class.
Here’s why: The ACA’s financial arrangements have extended the projected life of the Medicare trust fund by more than a decade. Although thought of as health care for the poor, Medicaid now spends a large chunk of its dollars — about $140 billion — on nursing-home care and other long-term care costs. If you include care for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients, “it’s headed toward half of the . . . middle class receiving benefits” from Medicaid, Neal says. And if, as Republicans hope, Medicaid becomes a block grant administered by the states? Well, experience teaches it will be one of the first places governors turn to make cuts in tough budgetary times.
Neal’s effort to pull Social Security into the mix is more of a stretch: If Republicans succeed in repealing the ACA, block-granting Medicaid, and privatizing Medicare, Social Security will be next — and the combination of all those social support systems “is the reason Mom and Dad aren’t living in your attic.”
Although the GOP is obviously in Washington’s catbird seat, Neal doesn’t see a unified governing party. “There are three different parties: The House Republicans, the Senate Republicans, and Donald Trump,” he says. House Speaker Paul Ryan wants to move forward aggressively with a sweeping conservative agenda, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell is worried about overreach, and Trump is . . . well, hard to gauge.
“You can always deal with the predictable Republicans,” Neal says. “The challenge for me is how to deal with an unpredictable one.” Still, he sees this bright spot: Trump pledged during the campaign not to cut Social Security or Medicare benefits. Look for that commitment to be a favorite arrow in the Democratic quiver.
Neal, 67, also plans to highlight the hugely top-heavy nature of the tax cut Trump has proposed — and to use his long experience on Ways and Means to debunk the notion, so dear to hard-core supply-siders, that tax cuts pay for themselves. That’s theology not economics, he says, noting that “there is no economic data that supports that theory.”
Yet Neal, who supports a tax cut for the middle class, knows it will be a struggle to block a big tax treat for upper earners. He recalls meeting with George W. Bush and Dick Cheney early in 2001, when the budget was in surplus and the United States was actually chipping away at the national debt.
“I said, ‘Why don’t we continue to pay down the debt and just do a middle-class tax cut?,’ ” he recalls. “They were not charmed.” No, indeed. Instead, big tax cuts skewed toward upper earners helped push the national ledger back into the red. This time around, he says, Democrats must make the consequences of huge tax cuts clear.
“We have to be careful not to let them offer a big tax cut that is slanted toward those at the top, and then come back and say, the [resulting] deficit proves that you have to cut Medicaid or Medicare or Social Security,” he says.
It’s a daunting task that lies ahead, and a decidedly different role for Neal. But at a time when Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats regularly find themselves denounced as elitists, the unassuming everyday guy from Western Massachusetts could prove to be just what the party needs.
Scot Lehigh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeScotLehigh.
U.S. Congressman Richard Neal at Berkshire Eagle Editorial Board on March 28, 2014. Ben Garver – The Berkshire Eagle.
THE PEACEFUL AND ORDERLY TRANSFER OF POWER
“Neal to attend inauguration out of respect for office”
By Eoin Higgins, The Berkshire Eagle, January 16, 2017
Displaying his respect for the office of the presidency, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal will attend Donald Trump's inauguration on Friday.
"Congressman Neal believes in the peaceful and orderly transfer of power," said William Tranghese, Neal's chief of staff, in an email on Monday.
The Springfield Democrat, who has served in Congress for 28 years, represents the Berkshires in Massachusetts' 1st District, which was merged with the 2nd District in the wake of the 2010 census.
A growing number of Democrats in Congress have vowed to skip Trump's inauguration, including Katherine Clark, who represents the 5th District, encompassing suburbs to Boston's north and west.
Clark said in a statement that she would not attend the inauguration due to Trump's focus on national division since the election.
"I do not feel that I can contribute to the normalization of the president-elect's divisive rhetoric by participating in the inauguration," she said in a statement.
U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-California, was harsher on Trump, tweeting on Sunday that her refusal to attend the inauguration was part of a complete rejection of the president-elect and his agenda.
"I never ever contemplated attending the inauguration or any activities associated w/ @realDonaldTrump," she wrote. "I wouldn't waste my time."
Trump's lieutenants pushed back hard, particularly against Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., a civil rights legend who said Russian interference in Trump's election delegitimizes his presidency.
"I think it's incredibly disappointing and I think it's irresponsible for people like himself to question the legitimacy of the next United States president," incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
Trump fired back at Lewis on Saturday, tweeting that the Georgia congressman should pay more attention to his "crime-ridden" Atlanta-area district, adding that the civil rights leader was "all talk."
Neal defended Lewis in the statement provided by Tranghese.
"John Lewis has been my good friend and colleague for nearly 30 years," Neal's statement read. "I am always proud to stand with John Lewis."
Neal will be attending the inauguration to show his respect for the office, Tranghese said.
"Congressman Neal has been present for the execution of the swearing-in ceremonies of every president since being elected to Congress," Tranghese said, "and he plans on witnessing the 58th Presidential Inauguration on Jan. 20."
With the House currently not in session, Neal will be in the Berkshires on Tuesday. He will host a Q-and-A with students at Hoosac Valley Middle School in Cheshire and teach a class in government at Williams College. The trip will wrap with a visit to MCLA's Feigenbaum Center For Science and Innovation.
He will head back to Washington on Thursday in advance of the inauguration.
Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-496-6236 or email@example.com or @BE_EoinHiggins.
Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal gestures during remarks at MCLA to an audience of students, staff and the press on Tuesday [January 17, 2017]. Photo credit: Scott Stafford, The Berkshire Eagle.
“Neal vows to fight for access to health care”
By Scott Stafford, firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, January 18, 2017
NORTH ADAMS — As the incoming ranking Democratic member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Richard Neal says his goals are clear: Save Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act from marauding Republican crusaders bent on dismantling government.
During an appearance at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Tuesday [1/17/2017], Neal bemoaned the gridlock that has plagued Congress over the past six years, largely due to the Tea Party insurgents' effort to block any progressive legislation no matter the consequences for the nation.
"Congress fared much better before these crusaders came along," he said. "They came in and started claiming opinions as fact, and that's troubling."
Neal spoke in an open campus forum on Tuesday at the request of college President James Birge, who wrote a letter to the congressman asking him to talk to the students about the implications of the election results. About 50 students attended the event at the Feigenbaum Center.
He also appeared earlier in the day at Hoosac Valley Middle School in Cheshire and taught a class in government at Williams College.
Neal, who campaigned for Hillary Clinton's 2016 run for the White House, told the MCLA group that he would attend the inauguration Friday, along with the Clintons, the Bushes and the Carters.
"The institution of the presidency beckons my attendance," he said. He also praised Obama's legacy.
"Obama carried himself with great dignity," Neal said. "But Congress has been moving away from legislating and toward the Tweet and the personal insult, which I find worrying."
He explained that in the past eight years, Democrats have lost a majority of seats not just in Congress but in the statehouses and local town councils. He said the Democratic tent needs to be bigger and more inclusive, a call that had been heard about the Republican tent during the past two presidential campaigns, until they won the White House in November.
Part of the anger that swept Trump into office, Neal noted, was frustration over unemployment and underemployment, which was caused by changing economies and automation — a technologically advanced world that requires different skills, leaving many unprepared.
So the Democratic Party has to reconnect with its base.
"Reconnecting is going to take a long time, and it's going to be tedious, but it's got to happen," he said.
And when Congress comes back into session Monday, Neal noted, "the ACA is the first thing up after the inauguration. When Obama took office, 18 percent of workers did not have health insurance. When he leaves, 9 percent. So this argument (over ACA cuts) gets better for us as the debate moves forward."
He said after the House voted to repeal ACA 50 times in six years, now that they have the power to do so even some of the Republican leadership has been backtracking a bit about repealing aspects of the ACA. But as the debate unfolds, Republicans are going to have to justify the loss of health insurance for millions that will lead to higher death rates and poor health for many Americans.
"It's all about access to health care, and we're insisting that the coverage remains the same," Neal said. "In the long view we can defend that because the argument gets better for us. I just want ours to be fact-based: 20 million more people have health insurance under ACA. So we can't let them kick people out. That's our goal."
Neal also noted that when the Republicans want to cut taxes, he will insist that they should go to the middle class, not the rich.
"I think we should take assertive and responsible positions," he said.
The congressman was happy to hear that his colleague, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Georgia, will be the keynote speaker at the MCLA commencement in May.
Lewis recently announced he wouldn't be attending the inauguration because he does not believe the election of Trump was legitimate due to Russian interference. That prompted an angry Twitter response from Trump.
"I'm so happy John Lewis is coming here," Neal said. "There are some people who are the real deal — and he is the real deal."
AT A GLANCE ...
Some facts about U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield:
• Served as the mayor of the City of Springfield from 1984-88
• First elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1988
• Ranking member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee
• Dean of both the Massachusetts delegation and the New England congressional delegation
• At-large whip for the House Democrats.
• Co-chairman of the New England Congressional Caucus, where he advocates for regional interests
• Democratic leader of the Friends of Ireland Caucus
U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., testifies last week against the confirmation of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., as the next attorney general. Lewis will be the keynote speaker at the MCLA commencement in May. The Associated Press.
“John Lewis, at center of inauguration boycott, is MCLA commencement speaker”
The Berkshire Eagle, January 17, 2017
NORTH ADAMS — U.S. Rep. John Lewis, currently at the center of a dispute with President-elect Donald Trump, will be the keynote speaker at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts commencement in May.
Lewis, D-Georgia, one of the "Big Six" leaders of groups to organize the 1963 March on Washington, will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service.
In addition, Anne W. Crowley '77, a corporate executive and communications strategist who enjoyed a lengthy career in both the public and private sectors, which included serving as a senior adviser to former New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo, will receive an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters. David E. Phelps, president and CEO of Berkshire Health Systems, will receive an honorary Doctor of Public Service.
"We are honored that Congressman John Lewis, Anne Crowley and David Phelps will join us at our 118th commencement," said MCLA President James F. Birge in a statement released on Tuesday. "Their achievements and contributions will inspire the members of the Class of 2017 as they move forward to assume positions of responsibility throughout Massachusetts and beyond."
The exercises will begin at 11 a.m., in the Amsler Campus Center Gymnasium.
"We are delighted to welcome Rep. John Lewis as our keynote speaker at this year's commencement ceremony," said MCLA board of trustees Chairwoman Susan Gold. "Often called one of the most courageous people produced by the Civil Rights Movement, for his dedication to protecting human rights and securing civil liberties, John Lewis is known for the many key roles he played to end segregation in America." Gold said.
In an interview that aired on Sunday's "Meet the Press," Lewis said in light of Russia's meddling in last November's election, he doesn't view president Trump as a "legitimate president," and he said he would boycott Friday's ceremonies.
His comments drew a harsh response from Trump, who tweeted that Lewis was "All talk, talk, talk — no action or results. Sad!"
In solidarity with Lewis, more than 40 members of the House Democratic delegation have said they would boycott the inauguration.
Lewis was elected to Congress in November 1986 and has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia's 5th Congressional District since. He is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party leadership in the House, a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a member of its Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, and ranking member of its Subcommittee on Oversight.
In August 1963, at the age of 23, Lewis was an architect of and a keynote speaker at the historic March on Washington. On March 7, 1963, he led more than 600 peaceful, orderly protesters across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., to demonstrate the need for voting rights in the state.
Lewis suffered a skull fracture when marchers were confronted by Alabama state troopers in what became known as "Bloody Sunday." The incident helped hasten the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Lewis is the recipient of numerous awards from eminent national and international institutions, including the Medal of Freedom, the Lincoln Medal from the historic Ford's Theatre, and the Golden Plate Award given by the Academy of Excellence. He received the only John F. Kennedy "Profile in Courage Award" for Lifetime Achievement ever granted by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation.
Lewis is co-author of the No. 1 New York Times bestselling graphic novel memoir trilogy, MARCH. He also co-wrote Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change, the winner of the 2012 NAACP Image Award for Best Literary Work-Biography.
His biography, published in 1998, is titled "Walking with the Wind: A Memoir of the Movement." It received the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, as well as the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award.
Lewis holds a bachelor's degree in religion and philosophy from Fisk University, and is a graduate of the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, Tenn.
"We also will be pleased to recognize Anne Crowley, who specialized in crisis, reputation and issue management throughout her 35-year career, and Pittsfield native David Phelps, who has served as the president of Berkshire Health Systems and Berkshire Health Care Systems since 1993," Gold said.
Crowley is a corporate executive and communications strategist who enjoyed a lengthy career in both the public and private sectors.
During Mario M. Cuomo's third term in office as the governor of New York, Crowley served as his press secretary and director of communications. Earlier in her career, she was a journalist for several years, holding editor and reporter roles at the Times Herald-Record in Middletown, N.Y., and the Westfield Evening News in Westfield.
Crowley retired from Fidelity Investments in January 2014 after working for the company as a corporate executive and communications strategist. She joined Fidelity in 1995 as director of public affairs and, throughout her 19 years at the firm, she held several progressive leadership roles, including executive vice president.
Crowley is a 1977 alumna, and holds a bachelor's degree in English. In 1994, the college honored her with its Distinguished Alumni Award.
Phelps was appointed in 1993 as president of Berkshire Health Systems, the primary provider of health care services in Berkshire County, and Berkshire Healthcare Systems.
BHS affiliates include Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield and Fairview Hospital in Great Barrington, both national award-winning hospitals. Managed by BHS, BHCS is the largest non-profit provider of post-acute services in Massachusetts and operates 17 skilled nursing, rehabilitative care and senior housing facilities across the state, including seven in Berkshire County. BHS and BHCS employ more than 5,000 people in Berkshire County.
In the wake of the sudden closure in 2014 of North Adams Regional Hospital, Phelps led efforts to stabilize medical services in the northern Berkshires by supporting primary care practices, introducing and expanding other physician services in Williamstown, North Adams and Adams and establishing of a wide array of outpatient programs at the North Adams Campus of Berkshire Medical Center. In addition, Phelps has encouraged BHS support for many other community health care providers and service agencies in order to better address the health and wellness needs of the entire county, including the causes and consequences of the current opioid epidemic.
A Pittsfield native, Phelps attended local schools. He received a bachelor's degree from St. Mary's University of Minnesota and a master's degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York.
He currently serves on the board of the Massachusetts Council of Community Hospitals and is its former chairman. He has served multiple terms on the board of the Massachusetts Hospital Association and has served as a member of the American Hospital Association's Regional Policy Board.
He is actively involved with business leaders, government officials and numerous human service organizations throughout Berkshire County.
For information, go to www.mcla.edu/commencement.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield. (Staff-Shot)
“US Rep. Richard Neal to meet with President Donald Trump Thursday”
By Shannon Young | email@example.com - February 1, 2017
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, and a handful of congressional colleagues will visit the White House Thursday for a meeting with President Donald Trump, officials announced Wednesday.
Neal, the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, will join Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas; as well as Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch, R-Utah; and Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, for the morning huddle, officials confirmed.
Although the focus of the meeting has yet to be announced, the attendance of Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committee leaders suggests it may revolve around the president's tax overhaul plans.
Throughout his White House run, Trump called for revisions to the individual and corporate tax codes.
His plan, among many things, proposed: collapsing the current seven individual income tax brackets to three; increasing the standard deduction for joint filers from $12,600 to $30,000; lowering the business tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent; and eliminating the corporate alternative minimum tax.
Neal, in January remarks at the National Press Club, stressed that any discussion on tax overhaul should begin with the focus of improving the quality of life for all Americans, adding that there could be appetite for finding common ground between Democrats and Republicans on the issue.
"I understand the rule that conflict plays in legislative life, but on the tax front, we all agree that the current system is underproductive and inefficient," he said. "And I'm hopeful that in a global economy, that we can meet the challenge of changing the American tax code -- it's stuck in the 80s, it's a rotary phone in a smart phone world."
Although the congressman expressed optimism about bipartisan efforts to overhaul the tax system, he took a veiled jab at Trump, contending that "tax policy is complicated, but it's consequential, and you cannot tweet your way to a better tax system."
Aside from tax changes, the White House meeting may touch on infrastructure funding, trade policy changes, Republican-backed plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act and changes to entitlement program spending -- areas of focus for the House Way and Means and Senate Finance Committees.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.
Congressman Richard Neal challenged Republicans Thursday to work with Democrats to fix issues with the Affordable Care Act, contending that they will be hard-pressed to come up with a more successful alternative to the health care law known as Obamacare.
Nathan Proctor: “Neal on front lines of corporate tax fight”
By Nathan Proctor, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, February 13, 2017
BOSTON — Western Massachusetts has a critical role to play in the Trump era. Our own Rep. Richard Neal has risen to the top Democratic post in arguably the most powerful committee in Washington — the one that controls the purse strings, House Ways and Means.
Last week, Rep. Neal kicked off a small meeting of lawmakers with President Trump, as they talked about trade and tax policy. Rep. Neal also introduced a new measure to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit as a way to help working families. He has repeatedly said that he will not tolerate big cuts for the top when it's the middle class who's struggling.
But as the conversation continues on individual tax breaks, another storm is brewing on the tax front -- this one around corporate taxes.
Already, our loophole-ridden corporate tax code is rigged for big companies and their armies of tax lawyers, and there are some who want to make it a whole lot worse.
By stashing profits in offshore tax havens through complex accounting schemes, big multinational companies avoid paying hundreds of billions in taxes, leaving the rest of us — taxpayers and smaller businesses — to pick up the tab.
And the tab is immense. There is an estimated $2.5 trillion in profits from U.S. companies stashed offshore, which costs taxpayers nearly $718 billion in lost revenue. 66 percent of that money is held by just 30 companies. It probably won't surprise you that those same companies spend millions upon millions on lobbyists to protect and expand those same loopholes.
Meanwhile, our local businesses are paying full freight. They don't set up shell companies in the Cayman Islands to stash their money. Why shouldn't everyone play by the same rules?
Incredibly, there are some in Congress who seek to reward companies that offshore their profits and operations with another huge tax cut. At a time when corporate profits are at record highs, and middle class families are struggling, we are being told that we need to cave in to the tax-dodging companies in order to be "competitive."
This competitive argument is insulting to taxpayers and local businesses. We allow the biggest companies to compete against our local businesses while paying almost nothing in taxes. Let's start by making Main Street competitive.
There is plenty of disagreement on what the tax rate on corporate profit should be, but surely we can agree not to create targeted loopholes that let a handful of companies pay a fraction of what the rest pay.
As these debate barrels down on us, Rep. Neal will be a key voice. And, as his constituents, our voice is critical, too.
Nathan Proctor is state director of Massachusetts Fair Share, a statewide group which advocates for tax fairness as part of an economy that works for all of us.
Congressman Richard E. Neal speaks at a press conference in the United States Capitol today [February 14, 2017] calling for an independent and bipartisan investigation into the Trump administration's ties with the Russian government. He was joined by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Adam Schiff, Congressman Elijah Cummings and Congressman John Conyers. Photo provided.
Source: “Reactions to Flynn's resignation from across the Berkshires” By Eoin Higgins, firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, February 14, 2017.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, who represents the Berkshires in Congress, said he is calling for an investigation into Russian links with the Trump administration.
"Following General Flynn's resignation, the probe should now be expanded to include the Trump administration's links with Vladimir Putin and Russia," he said in a statement. "Quite simply, our national security is at stake."
Retired Gen. Michael Flynn may have violated the Logan Act, which prohibits private citizens from engaging in foreign policy on behalf of the U.S.
“Rep. Neal vows to fight Trump budget cuts”
Arts advocates assail proposal to eliminate federal arts funding
By Larry Parnass, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, March 17, 2017
Page 5 of President Donald Trump's budget this week paused to flag "highlights" in the plan.
For arts advocates in Massachusetts, and for U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, what stood out were lows: Scuppering a slew of programs and agencies to offset a $54 billion increase in military spending.
They closed the work week with calls to defend against unwise cuts, particularly when it comes to culture and the creative economy.
"I certainly intend to offer vigorous opposition to these proposed cuts," Neal said Friday from Washington, D.C., before boarding a plane back to his district.
With a stated wish to "move the nation toward fiscal responsibility," the president's budget plan would eliminate the national endowments for the arts (NEA) and humanities (NEH) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
And top agencies would face cuts, with the Environmental Protection Agency (30.5 percent), and the departments of state and USAID (28.3 percent), agriculture (20.8 percent) and labor (21.4) taking the biggest hits.
Neal, who is the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee, said the president's budget errs on many fronts, particularly with a planned $6 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health.
Because it's home to so much medical research, Massachusetts receives the highest percentage of NIH dollars of any state, Neal said.
He also faults planned cuts to the EPA, to Amtrak and to other agencies.
"I think that the cuts that he's offering in education are poor policy," he said. "I also think that we should not be privatizing the FAA."
Neal promised to fight the cuts, saying, "This budget proposal from the Trump administration is hardly conclusive."
Supporters of arts programs lamented the plan to scrap the NEA.
Anita Walker, executive director of the Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC), said this isn't the first time the NEA has been threatened, but is the first time a president proposed cutting it.
"It's the perfect storm of the political environment," Walker said. "It's a very sad day for America."
Her group receives $1 million a year in NEA funding, which it distributes to groups statewide. And the NEA makes direct grants to artists and arts organizations in the state of from $2 million to $3 million a year.
Federal funding is critical in places that cannot count on corporations and foundations to underwrite cultural offerings.
"Berkshire County is an absolutely perfect example of that," Walker said.
While some may perceive arts funding as benefiting urban sophisticates, 25 percent of the NEA's grants go to rural areas, she noted, helping to shore up cultural offerings in places that just 15 percent of the U.S. population calls home. Forty percent of NEA funding reaches areas with high rates of poverty.
"These are not gilded stereotypes," she said of arts funding recipients. "We're improving the human spirit, quite frankly."
Kate Maguire, CEO and artistic director of the Berkshire Theatre Group, said cutting the arts to back the military is a "disgrace." Her group runs the Colonial Theatre in Pittsfield and the Unicorn Theatre and Fitzpatrick Main Stage in Stockbridge.
"I think if you really want to end war, and get to a place of people speaking to each other and understanding each other, then you promote the arts," she said.
After 23 years in the theater business, Maguire said she's seen NEA funding cut continually, to the point where it plays a minimal role on her balance sheet.
"I'm speaking of the symbolism of what it means for the government to support the arts," she said.
"Even the minuscule amounts of money that arts organizations get ... is just a symbol that somewhere the government still gets the sense that this is important for our civilization," she said. "You go to a museum to understand what centuries of artists have come to understand."
She added, "To cut the arts is the height of stupidity. It agitates me to the core."
DREAD OF CUTS
At a meeting Thursday hosted by 1Berkshire, the prospect of cuts to the arts came up, according to Jen Glockner, director of the city of Pittsfield's Office of Cultural Development. A variety of arts groups attended, including Jacob's Pillow and Barrington Stage.
Glockner said that the city receives MCC support for a variety of programs, including its downtown cultural district, now up for renewal.
The NEA provided a $75,000 grant for The Mastheads, a new writers' residency program. "That's top of mind for our office because it's actually happening this year. It wouldn't have happened without the NEA," Glockner said.
Loss of NEA funding to the MCC would be felt locally, she said. "It's definitely a ripple effect throughout the state including here in Pittsfield."
"I've talked to a lot of people in the arts and cultural community in the Berkshires and this came up," Glockner said. "It's not uplifting. We have to keep fighting for the arts through our legislators. It's important to spread the word that arts and culture are important. It feels like we've been fighting forever for the arts — and that fight just continues."
Before word of cuts in public broadcasting were announced, WAMC in Albany asked its listeners to help protect its existence.
Alan Chartock, the station's president and CEO, said it was clear money for public radio was in jeopardy.
"Breitbart put out that the first thing we have to do is get rid of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting," Chartock said. "I think you have to take them at their word that they'll do it."
The station is salting away part of three fund drives to build an account that can replace federal backing.
Chartock said listeners stepped forward.
"It was astounding. This had to do with WAMC speaking truth to power, and telling the truth," he said. "This was a plan to get rid of what we had. People took it deadly seriously, and came up with the money."
Martin Miller, CEO and general manager of New England Public Radio in Springfield, could not be reached for comment.
Jennifer Tabakin, Great Barrington's town manager, said the Trump administration's apparent retreat from community investment will have big consequences.
"Federal grant dollars, whether they are to pay for programs to reduce poverty, support a cultural economy, increase affordable housing or remediate a brownfield on a development site, address critical concerns in a community and are used as the foundation for local economic development," she said in an email, in response to questions about the budget.
Lost federal money, she said, forces communities to move money around, sometimes by cutting other local spending — or raising taxes or fees.
And that is shortsighted, she suggested.
"There are many studies that measure the positive impact of an investment of federal dollars in a local economy," she said.
In other words, the benefits surpass the number of dollars put in.
But now, the federal government is poised to retreat from backing all kinds of program, and all at the same time.
"Now the question is, `What may be the broad significance of decreased federal funding?' " Tabakin asked.
Tony Mazzucco, the town administrator in Adams, said that by seeking to push responsibility for programs to the states, the federal government is not cutting taxes, it's moving them.
"It's really a tax shift, and not a tax cut," Mazzucco said.
Lindsay Koshgarian, research director for the National Priorities Project in Northampton, said that given their own financial condition, state and local governments are in no position to buffer the cuts.
"Cities and states really have no ability to pick up the slack. They can't raise taxes that high," she said. "Raising taxes is going to be a political impossibility in that period of time."
The outcome, she said, can only be "massive program cuts."
In terms of military spending, Trump's proposed increase of $54 billion is just $2 billion behind 1981 military budget gain achieved by President Ronald Reagan, using figures adjusted for inflation.
It was a 13 percent increase in 1981, but because today's military budget of roughly $618 billion is larger, Trump's 10 percent increase gets close.
"It's certainly a large increase for one year, but it's not completely unprecedented," Koshgarian said.
But in other areas, she said, the Trump budget is pushing the country into new fiscal territory.
The Northampton nonprofit's mission is to help people understand federal spending, by providing a sense of how money could be used otherwise. It was founded during the Reagan years to measure the impact of increased military spending on community needs.
This week, Koshgarian said the project calculated that the federal government's $7 million contribution to Meals on Wheels programs — also on the chopping block — could be covered for 7,000 years by the proposed increase in military spending.
Reach staff writer Larry Parnass at 413-496-6214 or @larryparnass.
Letter: “Neal investment bill helps struggling areas”
The Berkshire Eagle, May 20, 2017
To the editor:
Survey after survey reveals a large percentage of Americans remain concerned about their economic well-being. Our research shows these anxieties are not misplaced. The U.S. economy has become less dynamic since the Great Recession — more businesses have closed than opened, the rate of new business formation remains near an all-time low, and workers are finding it more difficult to change jobs, move to other states, and earn higher wages.
Sure, the economy has grown, but this growth has been heavily concentrated in major cosmopolitan metro areas, largely bypassing the 50 million Americans living in economically distressed communities.
The good news is that First District U.S. Rep. Richard Neal is leading the charge to reverse these trends for Massachusetts residents living in distressed areas by sponsoring the Investing in Opportunity Act. This bipartisan legislation is designed to inject new life into America's economic engine through an innovative approach that connects "left behind" communities with the long-term private capital investments they desperately need. This legislation will be particularly helpful for the more than 622,000 Massachusetts residents living in economically distressed zip codes, and who continue to face economic headwinds despite years of national recovery.
At a time when the American Dream seems in doubt for many, Rep. Neal deserves credit for working to ensure every Massachusetts community has a chance to thrive.
The writers are co-founders of the Economic Innovation Group, which does research on regional economic inequality.
Letter: “Where's Richie Neal? Not in the Berkshires”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 6, 2017
To the editor:
On May 30, Congressman Richard Neal gave an hour-long interview to Joshua Miller of The Boston Globe on Miller's "Political Happy Hour." At 37 minutes into the wide-ranging interview, Miller brought up the subject of an article in The Greenfield Recorder entitled "Where's Richie Neal?". Neal laughed it off. He responded by saying that only 2 percent of the constituents in his district live in Franklin County while 19 percent live in Berkshire County. "Nobody's complaining in Berkshire County," said the congressman.
This was news to us, as we have been working since March to arrange a town hall in the Berkshires, beginning with two face-to-face encounters with Neal. Richard [Brown] spoke with him after the March 11 health care town hall in Chicopee and I [Susie Kaufman] did the same after the Four Freedoms-sponsored Act Now! civic participation workshop at BCC on April 1. In both conversations, Neal was gracious and indicated he would welcome the opportunity to dialogue with constituents at a town hall in Berkshire County.
Numerous phone calls and emails to district staff failed to advance this process. A certified letter was sent to Congressman Neal on April 12 asking for arrangements to be made for the meeting. The letter was followed by dozens of calls from constituents expressing dismay that their legitimate concerns were not being heard.
At a time when residents of Massachusetts are under siege by a government in Washington that does not represent our interests or our values, we need a representative in Congress who will meet with us, listen to us and strengthen our resolve. Read your mail, Congressman Neal. People in Berkshire County have been complaining for three months.
Letter: “Given up on Rep. Neal and his staffers”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 8, 2017
To the editor:
I agree with the letter to the editor written by Susie Kaufman and Richard Brown on June 7 regarding Congressman Richard Neal being unresponsive.
Last year I contacted Rep. Neal's offices in Pittsfield, Springfield, and Washington by phone four times about an issue that I have been very concerned about. It is both a local and national issue that negatively effects every person who ever uses a telephone.
Each time the person who answered the phone listened to what I had to say and assured me that someone would get back to me. That never happened. After four attempts, I have given up on Neal and his staff.
There is a lemon law for cars that says if the car dealer does not remedy the problem on a car they sold you after three tries, then you get a different car. I believe it is time to elect a new representative for the First Congressional District of Massachusetts.
Our Opinion: “Berkshires want to see more of Rep. Neal”
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, June 8, 2017
U.S. First District Representative Richard Neal is under attack from some Berkshire residents, and residents in rural towns east of the Berkshires, for his inaccessibility. The promise of a Berkshire town hall in the fall is only a start in addressing those concerns.
In a letter to the editor Wednesday, Stockbridge activist Susie Kaufman and Sheffield Democratic Committee member Richard Brown spoke of their frustration in getting the congressman's staff to hold a town hall meeting in the Berkshires. This concern is shared by residents of the towns of Chesterfield, Cummington, Goshen, Huntington, Plainfield and Middlefield. The organization Indivisible Williamsburg is running ads in area media featuring a photograph of the congressman with word "Missing" written across the top asking why the Springfield Democrat hasn't met with voters in that rural section of Western Massachusetts in five years.
In a recent interview with Joshua Miller of The Boston Globe, Representative Neal responded to the concerns of Berkshire County residents that he is out of touch by saying "Nobody's complaining in Berkshire County." Plainly people are complaining in Berkshire County but their complaints aren't being heard, or being addressed if they are heard. But the congressman shouldn't wait for complaints before he shows up in the western reaches of his district. There are issues within his purview that people want to discuss — broadband access, the GE-EPA Housatonic river cleanup, the federally approved Otis State Forest pipeline plan among them — that they should be able to bring up with their congressman directly on occasion.
According to William Tranghese, the congressman's communications director, Representative Neal can't come to the Berkshires before fall because of a busy schedule in Washington. Summer recess, however, should provide the congressman opportunities to visit the Berkshires, especially considering that the Republican Congress in recent years has - through no fault of Mr. O'Neal - earned notoriety for inactivity and lack of accomplishments.
Representative Neal, who with 29 years in Congress is the dean of the Massachusetts congressional delegation, has an extremely secure seat. He rarely faces a serious electoral challenge and with about 70 percent of his constituency residing in Springfield and nearby cities he doesn't have to rely on votes from the Berkshires and other rural towns to get elected.
That of course, doesn't reduce Mr. Neal's obligations to the Berkshires, which he has represented since redistricting in 2013 following the loss of one of the state's congressional districts merged his Second District with the First District. His visibility and accessibility should be no less than that of former First District Representative John Olver, who also had a geographically sprawling district. Residents should expect to see more of the congressman — and ideally before fall.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield
“U.S. Rep. Richard Neal to hold town hall in Berkshires this fall”
By Eoin Higgins firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, June 9, 2017
Amid concerns from some constituents about his availability, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal has confirmed he will hold a town hall in the Berkshires.
The Springfield Democrat will host the event sometime in the fall, according to William Tranghese, the communications director for Neal's office, in an email to The Eagle. Details on the event have yet to be nailed down.
The announcement was welcomed by some local Democrats, who said they have been working for months to get the representative to commit to an appearance in the county.
A fall town hall would be an encouraging development, said Sheffield Democratic Committee member Richard Brown. "I certainly hope that that's the case," he said.
Tranghese emphasized the congressman already has made repeated appearances in Berkshires this year.
"He spoke at the Four Freedoms rally in Pittsfield in January and at a public forum at [Berkshire Community College] in April," Tranghese said.
Neal has represented the Berkshires since 2013 when redistricting changed the geographic layout of the state's 1st Congressional District, combining it with the 2nd District, which Neal has represented since 1989. He is the Massachusetts congressional delegation's longest-serving member.
Stockbridge activist Susie Kaufman said that's part of the problem.
"He's been in Congress for 29 years," she said. "A person gets kind of accustomed to being in that position and doesn't apparently feel the necessity of being responsive to constituents."
During an interview last month, Boston Globe reporter Joshua Miller asked Neal about ads produced by a Hampshire County group taking the congressman to task for not being present in that county.
Those ads, funded and created by Indivisible Williamsburg, ask why Neal has not held a town hall in the more far flung parts of his district for over five years.
Neal suggested those complaints were coming from a minority of his constituents.
"Nobody's complaining in Berkshire County," the representative said.
Yet some in the Berkshires say a town hall is long overdue.
"We want him to know how we feel about national issues," said Ken Terry, the publicity director for the Sheffield Democratic Committee.
Kaufman said she approached the representative after his April appearance to suggest a town hall.
"He was very accessible in person and led me to believe this was logistical," Kaufman said.
Yet she said she has had no luck trying to follow up with his office.
"Why does he believe we're a hostile audience?" she asked.
The appearance this fall is the soonest Neal can have the town hall, according to Tranghese, who cited the federal legislative calendar.
"For the next two months, Congress is scheduled to be in session with votes nearly each day during the week," he said.
Brown said he hoped Neal would make more time for the region in the future.
"We've been working hard to form a partnership with Rep. Neal," Brown said. "Many people in the Berkshires are very anxious to hear from him directly."
Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-496-6236 or @BE_EoinHiggins.
Alan Chartock | “Neal deserves our support because he works hard for us”
By Alan Chartock, Op-Ed, The Berkshire Eagle, June 16, 2017
GREAT BARRINGTON — I regularly interview all the members of Congress who represent the substantial WAMC listening area (portions of seven states) who want to be on the radio.
My favorite is U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, who happens to be my congressman. He is brilliant, articulate, concerned and one of the most powerful persons in the House of Representatives. He also happens to be dean (longest serving) of the Massachusetts delegation.
I have never had a single tough moment getting him on the air, either in the studio or by phone because he makes himself readily available. Neal is a born teacher. He can take a really complicated concept and make it accessible to the lay person.
He understands the convoluted rules of the House of Representatives and knows how to use them to help all of us. He sits next to the fabled civil rights icon John Lewis who, incidentally, told me how much he admires Richie Neal.
Richie Neal knows more about Irish affairs than anyone I know. He played an instrumental role in the Irish peace accords. As the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, he is in a really good position to bring home the bacon for his district and has done exactly that. It would be hard to list it all, so I won't. I only get 650 words in this column.
Former Mayor John Barrett III of North Adams says he may be the only public official who worked closely with the last three congressmen from the 1st District — Silvio Conte, John Olver and now Richie Neal. Barrett says that they all worked very hard and paid attention to detail.
"I have seen firsthand Richie Neal in the district without fanfare, just simply doing his job and that is talking to the people of the district," Barrett said. "He just showed up in the winter class I taught at Williams last year and that was the week of the inauguration. He took the time to show up and then to fly back. Then he scheduled a visit to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts right after that."
My friend state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, noted that Neal has been in the district on multiple occasions and most times without a lot off fanfare. Smitty said Neal recognizes that it's the creative economy that is driving the Berkshires, and that's unlike the economy of Springfield, his hometown. "That's why I feel we are blessed to having such a hard working congressman in our district who recognizes the diversity of his own district and embraces it all for the greater good," he said.
Smitty made the point that Neal's staff has been wonderful and incredibly accessible. Let's remember that staff does much of the work. Benjamin B. Downing, one of his former staff members, went on to be state Sen. Benjamin Downing.
According to Downing, "Anytime I've picked up the phone in my capacity as state senator, Richie Neal asked, `What can I do to help the Berkshires?' As a former staffer in Neal's office, I saw him pick up the phone time and again and treat people with respect no matter what their station in life."
When I called Neal's office to find out how often he has visited the Berkshires part of the district, they told me he's been here an amazing 95 times since January 2013. Think about that!
One of the things that makes me nuts is the unwarranted transfer of the anti-Trump passion that makes some otherwise stable people start to attack their true allies. At a time when we all ought to be standing tall against Trump, a real ogre, there are still some who waste their fire on true liberal allies.
Richie Neal is so impressive because he has really walked the walk himself, first as a city councilor, next as a successful mayor of Springfield and now as an incredibly accomplished Congressman.
When you've done those jobs, you know how to help.
Alan Chartock, a Great Barrington resident, is president and CEO of WAMC Northeast Public Radio and a professor emeritus of communications at SUNY-Albany. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.
June 17, 2017
Dear Alan Chartock,
I support Congressman Richie Neal. He is an advocate for Social Security, Veterans, and many other progressive and important causes.
For the most part, I admire your work in news journalism and communication. At times, I have openly disagreed with some of your selective praise and criticisms of a few Western Massachusetts politicians. You seem to favor the political establishment over grassroots political activists who want change.
Some my criticisms of Rep. Neal are that he is a career politician who runs in non-competitive “elections” every 2 years. Moreover, he collects millions of special interests, PAC, or lobbyist contributions, and he is very favorable to the financial institutions that run Boston/northeast politics.
Like many politically connected people, Rep. Neal receives lucrative taxpayer-funded benefits and compensation, which will include a big public pension when he retires if he doesn’t die in political office like Silvio Conte and Ted Kennedy.
As for Rep. Neal understanding Berkshire County’s creative economy, does that include the large numbers of population and job losses, including an aging residential base, high per capita welfare caseloads, including thousands of public school children receiving free school lunches due to widespread poverty, and many young adults moving away from the Berkshires just to find a living wage job?
Your column praising Richie Neal cited three politically connected, career politicians: Former Mayor John Barrett III, former State Senator Ben Downing, and 8-term Lenox State Representative “Smitty” Pignatelli. You did not cite any common citizen who feels marginalized by the many problems and issues facing Berkshire County. There were many letters to the editor expressing the people’s frustration with their Congressman being out of touch and not accessible.
It is tough out there for the common people who live in the real world. It must be nice to be a politically connected, career politician! They seem to take care of themselves.
- Jonathan Melle
Letter: “Rep. Neal is dedicated in tradition of Conte”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 17, 2017
To the editor:
A recent Eagle editorial took Congressman Richard Neal to task for not paying attention to Berkshire County residents. The editorial stated, "His visibility and accessibility should be no less than that of former Congressman John Olver."
As the former mayor of North Adams for 26 years, I worked with Congressmen Neal, Olver, and Conte. Despite the editor not mentioning him in the editorial, Sil Conte was perhaps one of the most effective and powerful congressmen of his time. He set the gold standard for which all elected officials should strive to achieve when it comes to being an effective legislator. Congressmen Olver and Neal knew full well that Conte has set the bar high and both worked diligently in meeting the level of representation that the late Congressman had established.
As one of the few former elected officials left in Western Massachusetts who worked with all three, I can speak with confidence: Congressman Richard Neal has maintained the same level of visibility and commitment as his predecessors. While Berkshire County no longer has the political clout it once did, Congressman Neal has maintained the same commitment to the residents as Congressmen Conte and Olver.
The editorial further states "...with 70 percent of his constituency residing in Springfield and nearby cities, he doesn't have to rely on votes from the Berkshires and other rural areas to get elected." That may be true, but anyone who has been around politics for any length of time knows that any elected official with this mindset will have a short career in politics. From the day the new re-redistricting plan was announced, Congressman Neal has been in Berkshire County meeting with residents and elected officials, and not just at election time. Neal, Conte, and Olver had an important common thread: a commitment to improve the lives of the people they represent. This, and not where the most voters live, is what drove Conte and Olver and now drives Congressman Neal to be an effective representative for the people of the district.
The editorial was not only unfair, but it simply wasn't factual. I have known Richie Neal for over 33 years and he is one of the most knowledgeable and effective elected officials I have known. The First Congressional District is fortunate to have such a well-respected and experienced congressman representing them in Washington.
John Barrett III,
“Summer looks good for Neal town halls”
The Berkshire Eagle, Letter to the Editor, June 19, 2017
To the editor:
I would like to underscore a recent suggestion on the editorial page of The Berkshire Eagle that Rep. Neal not wait until the fall to meet with his rural constituents in Hampshire, Berkshire, and Franklin counties.
The article reported that Neal can't meet with us because of a busy schedule in Washington. However, looking at the house calendar, the whole month of August is unscheduled, and there is also a fat week around the 4th of July with nothing booked! Actually, once September arrives is when things start getting busy.
I urge Rep. Neal not to procrastinate any longer, but to respond now to the many requests from residents of Williamsburg and the neighboring hilltowns by scheduling a town hall meeting with them at the earliest possible time.
Letter: “An active legislator for Berkshire voters”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 23, 2017
To the editor:
I take genuine pride being able to represent Berkshire County in the U.S. Congress. It is a great place to live, work and raise a family. From the peak of Mount Greylock to the Housatonic River Valley, the county is one of America's great scenic treasures. And its art, culture and education put it on the world stage.
For the past five years, I have spent time getting to know the people in all 32 cities and towns. I have been to your homes, taught in your classrooms, marched in your parades, and visited you at work. Last week, I traveled to Great Barrington, Williamstown and North Adams to announce $1.2 million in federal grants for new firefighting equipment and environmental programs. I look forward to celebrating the 4th of July at Tanglewood. My visits to the county have been rewarding experiences and have given me a better understanding of the region's priorities and concerns. I've also made a lot of good friends along the way.
Given this, I was quite surprised to read the recent editorial in the Eagle suggesting that I was not "visible or accessible" in the Berkshires. Any objective examination of my public schedule, which is made available to local media, would suggest otherwise.
Since 2012, I have held roughly 175 events in nearly every corner of Berkshire County. While representing a congressional district that includes 87 cities and towns across 5 counties, and with votes in Washington nearly every week, I spend time in Berkshire County on virtually a monthly basis. You can find me having lunch with supporters at Del Gallo's in Pittsfield, launching a new broadband network in Otis, and presenting a grant to Jacob's Pillow in Becket. I have spoken to rotary clubs, labor unions and the Chamber of Commerce. Each year, my office Christmas party is held at the Red Lion Inn. To say I have not been a consistent presence locally is misinformed.
As an elected official, I understand that sometimes people are going to disagree with me. That's what a representative democracy is all about. But the editorial made me think of the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who said that "everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not to their own facts."
When redistricting occurred in 2012, I began the process of introducing myself to the voters of Berkshire County. With more visits planned, including a Town Hall meeting this fall, the number of events I've held in this corner of western Massachusetts will soon exceed 200. I look forward to reaching that significant milestone. It would be a good reason to write another editorial.
Rep. Richard E. Neal,
Congressman Richard E. Neal represents the First Berkshire District.
“Neal to hold town hall event at Berkshire Community College on Sept. 15”
By Eoin Higgins, email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, August 1, 2017
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire residents will have another opportunity to talk to one of their federal representatives this fall.
Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield, will hold a town hall at the Robert Boland Theatre in the Koussevitzky Arts Center at the Pittsfield campus of Berkshire Community College.
"We indicated all along that we would do one," in the Berkshires, Neal told The Eagle. "We were waiting for scheduling."
On Tuesday morning, the representative's office was notified that the college theater was available.
The theater was the site of a town hall for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., on July 8.
Neal, who represents the Berkshires as part of the Massachusetts 1st District, came under fire earlier in the year from Indivisible Williamsburg, a political activist group in Hampshire County. The group took out ads in local papers accusing the representative of not giving the more far-flung parts of his district the same attention he gave the more urban population centers to the east of the district — in particular, they alleged, Neal had not held a town hall in the rural parts of the district for five years.
But Neal said he thinks that the criticism is unfair.
"We did a large event in Pittsfield earlier in the year," Neal said, referring to the Four Freedoms Coalition March and Rally on January 7. "And I hung around answered questions for most of afternoon."
Neal also pointed to frequent visits to the Berkshires — including to Stockbridge and Lee on Tuesday. The congressman has visited the region over 150 times in the past five years, he said. And next month's town hall is the natural next step.
"I did a town hall in Chicopee [on March 11]," Neal said. "In terms of sequencing, Pittsfield is the next step."
The congressman said that he understands that emotions are high in the district right now. The election of President Donald Trump and the first six and a half months of Trump's administration have people fired up.
But Neal added that he hopes the conversation can remain civil.
"The town hall meeting in the United States and particularly in New England is a hallmark of representative democracy," said Neal. "It's an opportunity to give and take information."
Neal said that the debate around the Affordable Care Act in 2009-2010 gave the town hall a bad name. People would show up "with an agenda," the congressman said, and "hijack" the meeting. That set what Neal described as a bad standard.
"I did them frequently in my early career," the representative said. "But when people show up with a sole focus, that's not my view of a productive meeting."
That's not stopping him from hosting the Pittsfield event, though — and he said his experience earlier in the year in Chicopee in the spring made him sure the Berkshires would give him a warm reception.
"There was some back and forth," Neal said, "but it was very respectful."
The event will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Friday Sept. 15.
Reach staff writer Eoin Higgins at 413-464-4872 or @BE_EoinHiggins.
Letter: “Don't vote for Neal until he does better”
The Berkshire Eagle, August 14, 2017
To the editor:
You can add my voice to those expressing dissatisfaction with Congressman Richard Neal's lack of attention to the Berkshires. Another aspect of his indifference to our area is the quality of his constituent services. As a previous letter writer stated, it is difficult to get a call back from Neal's office.
For 50 years, we in the Berkshires enjoyed the services provided by Rep. Silvio Conte and Rep. John Olver, both of whom made it a priority to make their offices available for anyone needing assistance with a federal agency or issue. Their offices were well staffed and very responsive to inquiries. Thousands of constituents were served by these two men, who never hesitated to make the power of a congressman's office available to assist those in need.
Since Neal's political machine will ensure that he will again have little or no competition in the next election and thereafter, I advise that Berkshirites simply not vote for him until he has demonstrated that he represents our interests.
Louis Del Masto,
“US Rep. Neal heads to Berkshires Friday for tax talk in Wiliamstown, Pittsfield forum”
By Jenn Smith , firstname.lastname@example.org – The Berkshire Eagle, September 12, 2017
PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County residents and other interested constituents will be able to hold audience with U.S. Rep. Richard Neal this Friday night, and also be able to hold him accountable.
The Springfield-based Democrat represents Massachusetts' 1st Congressional District, comprising 87 cities and towns spanning Berkshire, Franklin, Hampden, Hampshire and Worcester counties, since redistricting in 2012.
Neal will host a Town Hall-style forum beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, in the Robert Boland Theatre of the Koussevitzky Arts Center at Berkshire Community College. Doors open at 5, for this free, public event.
Neal's constituents voiced concern earlier this year about the congressman's availability, which included several letters to The Editor in The Eagle and other Western Massachusetts newspapers. In response, Neal announced in June that he would host a forum in the Berkshires this fall.
Neal's last similarly styled forum in Western Massachusetts took place at Elms College in Chicopee back in March, and the discussion focused primarily on the Affordable Care Act.
Back in June, Sheffield Democratic Committee member Richard Brown told The Eagle that Neal was long overdue in hosting such an event with Berkshire constituents. "We've been working hard to form a partnership with Rep. Neal," Brown said at that time. "Many people in the Berkshires are very anxious to hear from him directly."
Neal's District Press Secretary Margaret Boyle said the congressman was pleased to be able to secure a date with Berkshire Community College hosting the event. She said Neal will "be bringing an update from Washington, with a focus on tax, trade and health care," since the congressman is a ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives.
Prior to the forum at BCC, Neal will present the program, "Why Real Tax Reform Is So Hard," at 1:30 p.m., in room 3 of Griffin Hall at Williams College, which is sponsored by the college's department of Political Science. This program is also free and open to the public, and both of Friday's events will include time for questions and answers.
Boyle said Neal will also be present at several other Berkshire events this fall, including this weekend's Hometown Parade as part of Lee's Founders Weekend, as well as the upcoming Fall Foliage Parade in North Adams and the Lenox 250th Anniversary Parade scheduled for October.
Berkshire Community College President Ellen Kennedy will be on hand at Friday evening's forum, and says she hopes — despite the fact that the timing coincides with the start of the weekend for many people — that as many people as possible attend the program.
"We want this to be very representative of every corner of the community," Kennedy said, so that Neal can learn about "what's keeping the people of Berkshire County up at night."
The college previously hosted U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren for a Saturday morning forum back on July 8, also in the Boland Theatre. The venue has a capacity for just over 500 people, and Kennedy said that Warren's event maxed out seating in the auditorium and overflow space.
Kennedy said she hopes legislators and community members alike see the college as an open space for such public discourse on the pressing issues of the day. She said that compared to less-than-civil encounters between communities and politicians across the nation, "I feel so proud that in Massachusetts, our congressman and our senator are pushing to have these kinds of events to connect with their constituents, hear what their concerns are, and have a window into the soul of our community."
Kennedy said she would personally love to hear any of Neal's insights on issues affecting the public college campus community, including rising student debt, funding levels for federal student aid, and the latest considerations for the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals policy.
Kennedy said she's also eager to listen to the issues that forum participants bring up.
"We were delighted to host Sen. Warren, and now to have Congressman Neal here in person — it can give us great perspective in what's motivating our government, what's happening at the national level, and how it affects us at the local level," she said.
If you go ...
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal visits the Berkshires.
When: This Friday. Both programs are free and open to the public.
At 1:30 p.m., Neal will present, "Why Real Tax Reform Is So Hard," in room 3 of Griffin Hall, at Williams College in Williamstown. Info: williams.edu
At 5:30 p.m., Neal will present a Town Hall forum in the Robert Boland Theatre of the Koussevitzky Arts Center at Berkshire Community College, 1350 West St., in Pittsfield. Door for the Town Hall open at 5. Info: berkshirecc.edu, 413-236-2116 or RSVP to https://goo.gl/forms/MJ2AbB2wDTUKCQBK2
“US Rep. Neal talks tax code, health care: Public forums draw questions, some answers”
By Jenn Smith , email@example.com – The Berkshire Eagle, September 16, 2017
Congressman Richard Neal, D-Springfield, gave his full attention to audiences in the Berkshires on Friday, spending more than four hours speaking with constituents attending public forums in Williamstown and Pittsfield, in addition to meeting with local delegates off-stage to hear their concerns.
In his talks, Neal made efforts to bring updates from Washington, and to field questions as they pertain to local interests.
As Ranking Member of the House of Representatives' Ways and Means Committee, tax reform was a key issue discussed both in an afternoon lecture, "Why Real Tax Reform Is So Hard," presented at Williams College with two of his staff members, and a town hall-style forum hosted in the evening at Berkshire Community College.
"We need a tax system that improves quality of life for all Americans," Neal told a Williams audience of about 60 students, faculty and interested community members.
Republican leaders on Capitol Hill plan to deliver a first-draft tax reform framework during the week of Sept. 25. Neal said that when his GOP counterparts promised "bold" reforms that will allegedly upset the wealthy, his retort was, "Six secretaries of treasury have sat in that same seat to tell me as much."
To the some 100 people gathered in the Berkshire Community College crowd Neal said, "People at the top don't need any relief. They've done fine."
What complicates a tax system overhaul, which hasn't had any major amendments since the 1980s, is that there are "4 million words in the American tax code."
"If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's making it more simple," he said.
But how to go about that — from negotiating tax rates to agreeing on permissible deductions, and determining goals for revenue and annual growth — have yet to be agreed upon on a bipartisan platform.
In talking about issues relative to Berkshire County, Neal talked about the prominence of population decline and employment gaps, noting that in New England, "18,000 precision manufacturing jobs go unanswered."
He also held up a copy of Thursday's Boston Globe that featured an article on how Berkshire County residents still struggle to make ends meet while the community continues to attract wealthy tourists and cultural investments.
"The Berkshire divide widens," he said. "The young people leave and the pinch hitters stay on."
Neal said, "you need a magnet to keep people" and noted how Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer is offering a competing bid as a site for Amazon's second North American headquarters.
When questioned about recent business closures in the Berkshires, including this week's announcement of the closing of the 60-year-old Country Curtains company, which employs some 360 staffers in Lee and Stockbridge, Neal said that "the economy is going to change regardless" and that digital commerce will continue to affect retail businesses like this. He also said increasing costs of utilities like electricity will make it harder for smaller businesses to keep their facilities running.
The congressman continued to speak on the issue of energy and renewable alternatives to fossil fuels on a national level, and how tax incentives can help push the agenda, so long as people are willing to support things like solar panels and wind turbines in their communities.
On the national topic of health care, Neal, during the BCC forum, was asked by an audience member, "What will it take for you to jump on board for Medicare for everybody?"
While his Massachusetts Congressional counterparts and several Berkshire delegates have spoken in favor of this, or at least a single-payer national health care system, Neal redirected his attention to the current Affordable Care Act, aka "Obamacare." He asked constituents to "not lose sight of the ACA," even with the development of what's known as the "Graham-Cassidy Bill" released earlier this week, as a last-minute attempt to repeal the ACA.
The bill was developed by Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, with support from Sens. Ron Johnson and Dean Heller. In essence, the senators say their proposal "repeals the structure and architecture of Obamacare and replaces it with a block grant given annually to states to help individuals pay for health care."
One other topic that constituents repeatedly questioned Neal about at both events, is his decision to co-sponsor a bill known as the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, along with 253 other representatives, including Neal's 4th District Democrat counterpart Joseph P. Kennedy III. The bill, in part, "prohibits any U.S. person engaged interstate or foreign commerce from supporting any request by a foreign country to impose any boycott against a country that is friendly to the United States" including Israel. Several citizens said they felt the bill violated first amendment rights and cited an analysis done by the American Civil Liberties Union to support their concerns.
Neal said he's awaiting a response from Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland, who helped write the language of the bill, for a clarification on whether the bill violates free speech and the right to peacefully boycott something.
Batya Sobel of the Jewish Voice for Peace Western Mass Chapter came all the way from South Hadley to voice her concerns and ask the congressman to withdraw his sponsorship. Though Neal declined to commit to doing so, he said he would reach out to the group to talk more.
"We're going to take him up on his offer," she said.
Overall, Neal's visit seemed well-received, despite criticisms expressed by Western Mass citizens earlier this year about his lack of availability. Forum attendees said Neal would be welcomed back "anytime" and Neal said his staff will gladly provide his track record of visiting his district's communities over the past five years.
Letter: “GOP tax plan fails basic fairness test”
The Berkshire Eagle, November 7, 2017
To the editor:
The House Republicans have unveiled their new tax plan and critiques are coming in from all sides, including from U.S. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield).
One thing that I find especially troubling is how this bill continues to disadvantage local, Main Street businesses against their big multinational competitors by offering a much lower rate for companies that shift profits overseas. While a local business would pay taxes at 20 percent, the maximum rate of taxation for income moved offshore will be 10 percent, and protections against big companies gaming the system to pay even less are weak. It will leave smaller, local companies paying double the tax rates as the biggest and most profitable companies. Why should large companies continue to have a tax advantage over small companies? That fails the basic fairness test.
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, will be putting forward a measure to stop this from happening, and I think it deserves support from Rep. Neal.
Nathan Proctor, Boston
The writer is state director of Massachusetts Fair Share.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud is a Springfield attorney who serves on the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women. She is running against Congressman Richard Neal to represent the 1st Congressional District. Courtesy Tahirah Amatul-Wadud
This story has been updated to include Tahirah Amatul-Wadud's party affiliation.
“Springfield attorney to challenge Neal for US congressional seat”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, December 19, 2017
PITTSFIELD — A Springfield attorney who serves on the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women announced Monday she will run against Congressman Richard Neal to represent the 1st Congressional District.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, 44, will visit the city Tuesday at 1 p.m. at Dottie's Coffee Lounge to mark her campaign's first public appearance.
Amatul-Wadud, a progressive Democrat, has served the Commission on the Status of Women for nearly four years, and in her work as an attorney fights for the civil rights of marginalized communities. In serving these roles, she said she's won an audience with thousands of residents over the past few years.
She said she'd like to address the urgent issues she's seen facing families — the opioid epidemic, housing security and unemployment among them.
"I've realized that there's a sense of apathy and hopelessness that is setting in," she told The Eagle, adding Western Massachusetts boasts a "diverse and broad" population. "The best of us hasn't been allowed to shine."
She said she'd like to deal with the lack of access to high-speed internet, which she said creates gaps in skills and wages and "hampers business growth and development" in the area.
In her work as an attorney, Amatul-Wadud specializes in domestic relations and religious persecution. She attended Elms College and Western New England University School of Law. She is married and a mother to seven children.
Amatul-Wadud says she's deeply concerned about disparities in handling of the opioid crisis, with policies surrounding Medicare and student loans and how they impact families.
"The 1st Congressional District deserves someone who is there advocating fiercely for all of our interests," she said. "Now is the best time to deliver that, right now when the country is in such political turmoil."
Reach Amanda Drane at firstname.lastname@example.org, @amandadrane on Twitter, or at 413-496-6296.
Letter: "Neal had no business visiting Catholic school"
The Berkshire Eagle, February 9, 2018
To the editor:
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal recently visited St. Mary's Catholic School in Lee during Catholic Schools Week. According to The Eagle (Feb. 1), he gave the students a lesson in "civics and civility." Why would a Catholic school invite Mr. Neal, who has a history of voting against pro-life legislation? Mr. Neal touts once teaching at a Catholic high school and identifies himself as a Roman Catholic, yet votes contrary to church teaching.
In October 2017, the House passed the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and Mr. Neal voted against it. The bill states that no unborn baby past 20 weeks gestation can be aborted, except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother. Other pro-life legislation he voted against includes the Conscience Protection Act, the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act and Women's Public Health & Safety Act, the Child Interstate Abortion Notification Act. He earned a score of 100 percent score from Planned Parenthood and NARAL, and a score of zero from the National Right to Life Committee. Mr. Neal speaks of "civility" yet has a record on the lives of the unborn that is not only uncivilized, it's barbaric.
St. Mary's web page states that it "exists to pass on the values and teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, and foster a love of learning and keeping Christ in their daily lives." Hosting a politician with an abysmal record on life hardly fosters those values.
It's the duty, not only of Catholics, but of all people to protect the most vulnerable. As a Catholic in a position of power, Mr. Neal has an even greater responsibility not to support pro-abortion laws. And we as Catholic voters have a responsibility not to vote or support pro-abortion politicians.
Rep. Richard Neal: “Ten proposals to address gun violence in America”
By Richard Neal, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, March 11, 2018
SPRINGFIELD — In the wake of the most recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida, students across the country are rising up to bring attention to school safety and gun control. In an age where social media drives the news cycle, this generation of activists is extremely well positioned to have their voices heard and influence policy.
After hundreds of students from Pittsfield High School and Taconic High School walked out of their classrooms on Tuesday, Feb. 27, I contacted school administrators and asked if I could meet with the leaders and organizers to thank the students for their activism, hear their concerns, share my views and collaborate on initiatives that I could bring back to my colleagues in Washington.
I was tremendously impressed with the students when I sat down with them on Monday, March 5. They came well-prepared with questions and our conversation was ride-ranging: we covered spotting red flags, mental illness, assault weapons ban, and raising the purchase age.
While I have always supported rights of hunters, sportsmen, and gun collectors to bear arms under the Second Amendment, I believe there are 10 sensible proposals that Democrats and Republicans should consider to prevent future mass shootings. The following is a list of common sense measures I spoke about to Pittsfield and Taconic high school students and I am proud to share them with you.
1. Federal Assault Weapons Ban — Assault weapons should only be found on battlefields, not in our neighborhoods. I was proud to support the 1994 assault weapons ban and urge my colleagues to join me in supporting another assault weapons ban.
2. Bump Stock Ban — Bump stocks, which is what the mass murderer used in last year's Las Vegas mass shooting, are for those individuals looking to do harm and must be banned.
3. Universal Background Checks — A universal background check law would ensure that people prohibited from purchasing firearms cannot do so through an unregulated sale from an unlicensed or online seller or at a gun show. Closing this background check loophole is critical to making sure criminals and other dangerous people do not have access to firearms. It is also a policy supported by 95 percent of Americans.
4. Domestic Abusers Should Not Have Access To Guns — Expand firearm prohibitions for domestic abusers to include dating partner abusers and convicted stalkers.
5. No Fly, No Buy — If an individual cannot get on a plane because of their status on the "No Fly List," then he or she should not be able to purchase a gun.
Fund gun violence research
6. Allow The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) To Fund Gun Violence Research — In order to effectively solve this public health crisis, our country must begin to fully understand it. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting funding that allows the CDC to fund gun violence research. This research is critical for policymakers to understand and recommend effective solutions for making schools and communities safer.
7. Mental Health Background Checks — For nearly 50 years, federal law has made it unlawful to provide firearms to people who have been ordered to undergo involuntary psychiatric treatment or have been ruled by a court to be a danger to self or others or unable to handle their own affairs due to severe mental illness. Federal law cannot require states to share records about prohibited individuals with the FBI's background check system and many states fail to responsibly do so. This policy must be changed so federal law enforcement has access to mental health records.
8. Do Not Arm School Teachers — A recent Quinnipiac Poll found that while 75 percent of individuals believe that Congress must do more to reduce gun violence, only 20 percent think giving educators guns is the answer. Our teachers need more funding for educational materials, curriculum support and school supplies to help our children and grandchildren succeed.
9. Impose Minimum Age Requirement To Buy Guns — The minimum age of 21 for dealers to sell handguns and state waiting period laws should apply to assault weapons as well.
10. Pass The Bipartisan Thompson-King Public Safety And Second Amendment Rights Protection Act — This bill would give states resources to help them submit information to the background checks system. It would also expand the system to cover all commercial firearm sales, closing fun show, internet, and classified ad loopholes. It currently has over 200 Democratic and Republican co-sponsors, and I am proud to be one.
These 10 policy initiatives are a starting point to solving our country's gun violence crisis and I am committed to advocating for all of them.
As a father and a grandfather, I don't think parents should have to worry about the safety of their children when they drop them off at school in the morning. I am grateful to students everywhere for their engagement and input, and I am hopeful that their activism results in substantive change to make us all safer. Their voices are the ones that will drive the national agenda and turn outrage into meaningful public policy for us all.
Richard Neal is a Democratic congressman representing the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts.
Richard Neal: “Advocating for unions that advocate for workers”
By Richard Neal, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, April 4, 2018
SPRINGFIELD — When I was mayor of the city of Springfield in the mid-to late-'80s, I participated in collective bargaining on a regular basis. In over five years as mayor, I negotiated with more than 6,000 public employees and we constantly strove to come to a fair outcome for all parties involved. This was always of utmost importance to me as I have found myself on both sides of the issue — as a head of a municipality and as a lifelong union member.
In 1967, while employed at Two Guys Department Store in Springfield, I joined the United Food and Commercial Workers Union Local 1459 and I have been a proud lifetime member ever since. As a longtime lecturer at UMass-Amherst, I am also a member of the Massachusetts Society of Professors.
Unions fight for freedoms for everyone. But currently in the Supreme Court, a case named Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 is attempting to limit those freedoms, divide working people and constrain unions' power in numbers. It also threatens to hurt the economy even further by placing downward pressure on wages.
Workers under siege
Across the country, Americans are working longer hours for less money and fewer benefits, despite being more productive than ever. Too often they have to work multiple jobs to make ends meet. No matter how hard they work, many are finding it more and more difficult to get by and provide for their families.
The last thing we need is more concentrated wealth in our country, as that only hurts these middle class individuals. However, coupled with the recent tax bill that takes away health care coverage for 13 million Americans, many of these hard-working Americans will see their taxes increase in order to give tax cuts to the rich.
Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we protect and strengthen the freedom of American workers to join together in strong unions. When working people have the opportunity to speak up together through unions, we make progress that benefits everyone. The strength in numbers that unions provide has the ability to lift up entire communities.
People in unions continue to win rights, benefits and protections not only for themselves, but also for all working people in and outside of the workplace. When nurses, firefighters, tradesmen, 911 dispatchers and EMS workers belong to strong unions, we fight for staffing levels, equipment and training that save lives. When educators join together in a union, they advocate for better learning opportunities for students by fighting for things like small class sizes and modern textbooks.
When union membership is high, entire communities enjoy wages that represent a fair return on their work and greater social and economic mobility. Unions use their collective voice to advocate for policies that benefit all working people. It is because of unions that we have a five-day/40-hour work week, affordable health care and great public schools.
Throughout my career, I have been a strong advocate for unions and their members both during their working years and into their retirement. I recently introduced legislation with Sen. Sherrod Brown that would offer underfunded multi-employer plans low interest rate loans to pay retirees' benefits. The loans would be provided through money from the private sector through the issuance of bonds. Hard-working Americans who planned their whole lives for a financially secure retirement should not have those assurances taken away through no fault of their own. These are people who year after year chose to contribute to their pensions instead of taking a wage increase.
I've also been named to the select committee on solvency of multi-employer pensions. This is a bipartisan and bicameral group of 16 members who will work together over the next few months to address this crisis. My legislation will be the starting point for these negotiations.
We know that when the freedom to join together in unions is secure, other freedoms will be, too. Like the freedom to attend a parent-teacher conference or to take off work when our kids are sick without fear of losing our jobs or pay. Or the freedom to choose where to live because high-quality public schools are available to all communities, not just to those who are wealthy. Or the freedom to retire with dignity.
Labor unions are more critical to America's success than ever. Americans know that freedom is not given, it is fought for - and it must be protected. And we're going to keep fighting to protect it.
U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat, represents the 1st Congressional District of Massachusetts.
“Congressional hopeful Amatul-Wadud says 'status quo is failing people'”
By Amanda Drane, The Berkshire Eagle, April 10, 2018
PITTSFIELD — Springfield attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud decided to run for Congress to combat a creeping sense of hopelessness, she said during an event Monday.
That resonated with residents in attendance at the Berkshire Athenaeum. Some expressed frustration with failed attempts to improve infrastructure in Western Massachusetts, while others sought solutions for engaging and keeping young people in Berkshire County.
Amatul-Wadud, a 44-year-old Democrat, said she aims to shake up the status quo and represent underserved voices and working families.
"The status quo is failing people," she said. "The system isn't designed to serve us. ... It's designed to serve the elite."
Indivisible Pittsfield hosted the event, attended by about 50 people, as part of its mission to educate voters. They've similarly held talks with the Democratic gubernatorial candidates challenging Gov. Charlie Baker, and will extend the same invitation to Amatul-Wadud's opponent, Rep. Richard Neal, D-Springfield.
Too many children in Berkshire County are growing up without access to high-speed internet, she said. This impedes their access to information as they write their research papers, and creates a learning gap that could hurt them at the college level.
"That's a quality of life issue," she said. "It's an economic prosperity issue."
One resident asked Amatul-Wadud how she'd push past political vitriol and work with others with differing opinions. She said she does that work as a lawyer, and does it well.
"A lot of times, there's commonality," she said.
Remove the emotion, she said, pointing to her temple, "and think from here."
She pointed to Neal's seniority while noting many important metrics in which the region is behind the curve, such as median income and unemployment rates. She said a quick online search shows big industry donates generously to her opponent's campaign.
"When you have fresh blood in a seat like that, you are beholden to no one but the people you serve," she said.
Amatul-Wadud said she's also passionate about expanding access to affordable health care. When her daughter needed heart surgery, the surgeon not only saved her but was careful not to leave a scar.
"I think he spent more time stitching her back up than he did on the open-heart surgery," she said. "All of our children deserve that level of care."
Amatul-Wadud said that as a congressional representative she'd make it her mission to leave no one behind.
"Everything in your life is political," she said, recalling conversations with unregistered young people. "Don't give up your right to help shape that."
Amanda Drane can be reached at email@example.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.
Letter: “Amatul-Wadud offers change in 1st District”
The Berkshire Eagle, April 21, 2018
To the editor:
One term that has been used by journalists and political commentators was a "blue wave" that would come with the midterm elections. Democrats have their eyes on attempts to take back the House and Senate. But while focus has been directed at districts that the Democratic Party could take from Republicans, there have also been challenges from within the party between the establishment and progressives. One of those is occurring in Berkshire County with Tahirah Amatul-Wadud.
Tahirah is an attorney from Springfield who is challenging First District Congressman Richard Neal in the primary. Her campaign is focused on providing economic security for poor and working class families providing quality and affordable education, and ensuring a better well-being for the constituents of the district. A major focus of Tahirah is providing quality, high-speed broadband access to rural communities. In an interview on "Connecting Point," Wadud talks about how doing this can "move jobs into our (rural) communities" and boost education in the inner city.
I am a student at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and have seen how the Berkshires have been practically neglected compared to the rest of Massachusetts. The closure of the North Adams Regional Hospital, growing poverty and the opioid crisis showed me the importance of legislators who will go above and beyond to bring necessary change.
Congressman Neal has represented the Berkshires on Capitol Hill since 2013; and has been in the House since 1989. With all due respect to the work that he has done, there needs to be a change in North Adams, as well as the Berkshires. New leadership is imperative. With that in mind, Tahirah has proven to be the right candidate to bring the concerns of the Berkshires to Capitol Hill.
Alexander Stewart, North Adams
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud: “Championing rural broadband will require a new rep. in Congress”
By Tahirah Amatul-Wadud, op-ed, The Berkshire Eagle, April 20, 2018
CHICOPEE — In regard to Sandisfield's bid to secure federal grants to complete its "last-mile" high-speed Internet network ("Crocker to seek federal grants for Sandisfield broadband build — with no hit to taxpayers," April 18), this will require a congressperson fully committed to supporting rural broadband. Rep. Richard Neal (D-Springfield) is not that person. Not only has Mr. Neal proved himself to be thoroughly uninformed on federal broadband programs, he has a history of voting against them. Our community has been failed.
Here are the facts:
At his Sept. 15, 2017 town hall meeting at Berkshire Community College, Mr. Neal was asked by a New Marlborough resident about how he could help speed the deployment of rural broadband to the unserved towns in his district. Mr. Neal noted that the large telecommunications firms will not provide service because it is not in their business model. He then incorrectly added, "and we don't have a provider at the federal level." Actually, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Rural Utilities Service (RUS) is that provider, and it is the agency that Sandisfield will be applying to. RUS's roots date back to the Rural Electrification Act of 1936, one of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's greatest legislative victories on behalf of rural America.
Top threat to development
The RUS rural broadband programs are all authorized through Sept. 30, 2018, by the Farm Bill, and Rep. Neal voted against the most recent one twice on July 11, 2013, (the House bill) and again on Jan. 29, 2014, (the conference committee report). In June 2011, when the House debated the Fiscal 2012 USDA spending bill, Mr. Neal did not vote on an amendment by former Congressman Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.) to increase funding for rural broadband loans by $6 million.
The digital divide has been described as the number one threat to community and economic development in the 21st century. In 2017, South Korea led the world with the fastest internet speed at 28.2 Megabits per second (Mbps), while the United States ranked nine nations behind at 18.7 Mbps, according to fastmetrics. Closer to home, the Federal Communications Commission's 2016 Broadband Progress Report found that in Berkshire County, 43 percent of the rural population lacked access to 25 Mbps (megabits per second download) /3 Mbps (megabits per second upload) rural broadband — more than 17,000 residents.
In Franklin County, almost 14,300 people, or 39 percent of the rural population, lacked rural broadband service. In Hampden and Hampshire counties, more than 10,200 still do not have access to broadband at the speeds necessary to meet the demands for jobs, education, and civic engagement. This is unacceptable.
I strongly believe that children who grow up without access to the Internet may never truly recover from the skills and knowledge gap between them and their peers across the nation. A recurring complaint I hear every day on the campaign trail from numerous educators, property owners, employees, and business owners, is that they feel cheated by their lack of access to fast and affordable broadband. Every citizen in our district deserves to be brought into the 21st-century.
As your representative I will back the following measures to speed deployment of rural broadband to our district and nation:
* Push for robust funding in the annual Agriculture Appropriations bill for USDA/Rural Utilities Service programs including: Community Connect Grants, Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants, Broadband Loans and Loan Guarantees, and Telecommunications Infrastructure Loans and Guarantees.
* Support an amendment to the 2018 Farm Bill that would require that the minimum broadband speed standard for USDA programs be the same as FCC guidelines. The amendment would raise the minimum rate of data transmission for the Rural Utilities Service, part of USDA's Rural Development agency, to 25 megabits per second download and 3 megabits per second upload — up from the current legal baseline of 4 Mbps download and 1 Mbps upload.
* Support H.R. 1814, the Rural Spectrum Accessibility Act, to expand wireless coverage in rural communities. This bipartisan effort would provide incentives for wireless carriers to make unused spectrum available for rural use and for smaller carriers. This legislation would direct the FCC to establish a program that would provide a 3-year extension of the spectrum license to wireless carriers that lease unused spectrum to rural and smaller carriers, encouraging collaboration between companies to bridge service gaps in rural areas.
* I will join the House Rural Broadband Caucus to work in a bipartisan way to address issues of broadband access and spectrum issues, problems with rural call completion, and support the Universal Service Fund and Connect America Fund.
Tahirah Amatul-Wadud is a Democratic candidate for U.S. representative in the First District of Massachusetts.
Letter: “Amadul-Wadud offers a breath of fresh air”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 1, 2018
To the editor:
In reference to the editorial regarding the upcoming Democratic primaries in the state and nation (Eagle, May 27) it should not be assumed that an incumbent, due to seniority and "moderate" views, is the best choice. In the case of the 1st Congressional District, those of us who try to get Rep. Neal's attention to make known our needs and concerns know how unavailable he is, and how disinterested he is in meeting with us. His district is not flourishing, so it is unclear to me how his clout serves us.
His challenger, Tahira Amadul-Wadud, offers a breath of fresh air. She knows how to listen and is concerned about what we think and what we need. Her support of single-payer health care, which the incumbent isn't even interested in talking about (perhaps because of his donations from insurance and pharmaceutical companies), is a top priority for her because she knows that there can be no equality of opportunity without access to excellent, affordable health care.
Beth Eisenberg, Cummington
Letter: “Western Mass. needs aggressive new representative”
The Berkshire Eagle, June 19, 2018
To the editor:
I have to take issue with the fact that Chan Lowe has "no problem with the incumbent, Richard Neal" (Eagle op-ed, June 17). I have lots of problems with Congressman Neal. If Mr. Lowe is happy with a congressman who has been in office for practically 30 years and whose main accomplishments, at least in the rural part of the district, is making all the "right noises" and showing up "when there's a ribbon to be cut," then we clearly have very different expectations of what a congressman is supposed to do. For example, we've been trying to get broadband telecommunications services in Western Massachusetts for the last 20 years.
Franklin County is the second poorest county in the Commonwealth. The only thing we've gotten recently from Congressman Neal is a new train station in Springfield. Big deal. In fact, the Union Station renovation would not have happened without former Congressman John Olver getting numerous earmarks into the Transportation-HUD Appropriations bills and the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy carrying the project in the Senate over the years. Rep. Neal seems to be a bit selfish in claiming all the credit.
Yes, if the Democrats take back Congress, Richie will chair the House Ways and Means Committee, but the Democrats have been in power quite a bit over the past 30 years and I can't see that we've benefited from his position on the committee. In fact, his voting record reflects the positions of the corporate special interests from whom he gets the bulk of his campaign funds.
The 1st Congressional District needs a progressive, hands-on legislator who will address the needs of all of the district's people, not just those who live in Springfield. It's time for a change. I strongly encourage your readers to visit tahirahforcongress.com.
Letter: “What’s Neal’s deal?”
The (Greenfield) Recorder, July 5, 2018
WGBH reports U.S. Rep. Richard Neal’s reluctance to debate his Democratic opponent Tahirah Amatul-Wadud.
“What’s the Dough Boy afraid of?” Ben and Jerry’s slogan, when attacked by Pillsbury, could apply to Neal. Maybe he’s afraid of being asked about the “dough”: the millions of dollars in campaign contributions, roughly 75 percent of which comes from corporations and PACs. Less than 1 percent comes from small donors (under $200). Maybe the donations that he’s taken from the insurance and healthcare industry totaling millions of dollars have made him afraid to answer questions about his reluctance to support single-payer health care, a plank in the Massachusetts State Democratic Platform, and something the public overwhelmingly supports and needs.
He might be afraid of questions concerning thousands of dollars in contributions from Cardinal and McKesson, which have paid hundreds of millions of dollars in federal fines for price gouging and illegalities contributing to our opioid crisis. Why does he refuse to return this dirty money, or redirect it to help those these companies have afflicted?
What’s he afraid of? The press? Not when taking bows in Union Station, where he appears so often that he ought to pay rent. Why does he only hold town hall meetings on weekdays during the day when working people are unable to attend? He doesn’t like to answer the hard questions from real people who pay taxes, unlike so many of his corporate fat cat donors. His 29 years in office have yielded little benefit for average people. His campaign theme song, assuming he actually campaigns in front of actual voters, should be “Am I Blue?” That’s what Democratic voters are wondering.
Ken Eisenstein, Shelburne Falls
“Neal has commanding money lead on Amatul-Wadud in congressional race”
By Haven Orecchio-Egresitz, The Berkshire Eagle, July 19, 2018
Pittsfield — Congressional candidate Tahirah Amatul-Wadud might lag U.S. Rep. Richard Neal by more than $3 million in campaign contributions, but she said she is proud of the individuals who continue to support her.
In the spring quarter of the campaign for Massachusetts' 1st Congressional District, from April to late June, Neal raised more than $500,000, ending the month with nearly $3.5 million in free cash, according to records kept by the Federal Election Commission.
Amatul-Wadud, a Springfield attorney, brought in $37,338 during the period, with her free cash landing at $37,021.95, records show.
"Of course, money is important," Amatul-Wadud said. "It keeps the lights on, it keeps postage paid, but it's not going to win this campaign."
Amatul-Wadud announced her bid to unseat Neal — he has served on Capitol Hill for nearly three decades — in December and had brought in $72,646 through the end of June.
During that time period, all the contributions either were from individuals or herself, according to the data. In contrast, less than one-third of Neal's campaign contributions camefrom individuals, according to the data.
"What continues to disappoint me, as a constituent of Mr. Neal since I was 9 years old, is the amount of money he takes from corporate PACs" Amatul-Wadud said. "I abhor the idea of corporate PACs influencing elections."
This is the first campaign that Amatul-Wadud has run. So far, she has had more than 320 in-person events, she said Thursday.
Statewide, Neal's spring numbers aren't far off from other Democratic delegation members and candidates, including Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, who is seeking Mike Capuano's seat and brought in $367,510.08; Dan Koh, who is seeking Niki Tsongas' seat in the 3rd Congressional District and brought in $479,276.96; and U.S. Rep Joseph Kennedy III of the 4th Congressional District, who brought in $823,815.92.
"Congressman Neal is grateful for the overwhelming support he is receiving from across all 87 cities and towns in the First Congressional District," Neal's spokesman, Peter Panos, said in a statement. "He is committed to running a people-powered, grass-roots campaign, and this successful fundraising quarter allowed him to open two field offices and will reach thousands of voters where they are: at their doorsteps, on their phones, in their mailboxes, and through their TVs and computers."
Neal has raised and contributed more than $5 million to support the Democratic Party and candidates throughout this election cycle, Panos said.
Neal and Amatul-Wadud will face off during the Sept. 4 Democratic primary election.
Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.
- Jonathan Melle
- Amherst, NH, United States
- I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": berkshireeagle.blogspot.com / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at email@example.com