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Man of the People?
State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Photo: Joel Librizzi, The Berkshire Eagle

When's this guy up for reelection?
Nuciforo -- Another bad apple on Beacon Hill?
Why's Andrea against 'Clean Elections'? 


Is he bucking for a committee chairmanship
with extra salary and perks,
or maybe he wants to be a judge?
If something smells rotten, chances are.......

(The article below appeared in The Berkshire Eagle and is reproduced on this Web site without permission.) 

Nuciforo defends stance on 
Clean Elections

By Jack Dew
Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, February 20, 2002

Want to contact State Senator Nuciforo? Click Here!
PITTSFIELD -- State Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. yesterday faced some of the staunchest proponents of the Clean Elections law in an effort to explain why he has opposed implementing the act that passed in 1998 with more than 1.1 million popular votes but has languished on Beacon Hill.

In a Berkshire Community College classroom, Nuciforo was confronted by about 40 Clean Elections backers, including Robert A. Feuer, a Stockbridge attorney who was one of 32 people to sue the state in an effort to fund the law and allow qualified candidates for statewide office to receive public dollars to pay for their campaigns. In January, the state's high court ruled in favor of Feuer and his fellow plaintiffs, ordering the Legislature to either fund the law or repeal it.

Nuciforo couched his argument in philosophical terms, saying he was simply opposed to the notion of state taxpayers being forced to pay his campaign bills.

"I believe that public money should be used to provide services to the public. I don't think that we should be spending public money and paying it to candidates to run for office. Some of you may fundamentally, philosophically disagree with that position. You may think that it's a good use to pay candidates to run for public office. I happen to think that's a bad idea," he said.

Tim Walter of Lee
Tim Walter of Lee tells Sen. Andrea F. Nuciforo Jr. that the point of the Clean Elections law is that candidates for office should raise votes, not money. 
Photo: Joel Librizzi, The Berkshire Eagle

The significance of yesterday's meeting and the outrage sparked by Nuciforo's opposition to Clean Elections were made clear by Alice Sedgwick Wohl of West Stockbridge who said, "We are angry and frustrated and upset because your disagreement means that you no longer represent the will of your con-stituents," three out of four of whom voted for the law.

Nuciforo was among 19 senators who last week voted to severely restrict the state's 3-year-old Clean Elections law so that it applies to only two political candidates, and to ask the electorate to repeal the law this fall. The effort passed by a mere one-vote margin, 19 to 18.

He likened his opposition to his stance against the death penalty. "I am accustomed, frankly, to taking positions and then taking some heat for them. I hope that by hearing you out, and that by giving you an opportunity over not just one issue but several issues, you can find your way back to me. I hope, but that may not be true."

Feuer, the Stockbridge attorney, called the Senate's vote a legislative effort "to gut the Clean Elections" and allow large corporations and wealthy donors to continue backing powerful political figures like House Speaker Thomas M. Finneran.

"More people don't vote today than do. They see this as a failed system. They no longer believe in our system," Feuer said. He argued that diminished voter interest puts free elections in jeopardy at a time when world events -- the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the collapse of Enron -- make restoration of faith in the system more important than ever.

"Our government derives its power from the governed, and we are before you demanding you fulfill, rather than thwart, our will. It's the only democratic way to save our state, our country and our system of laws. Don't tie your brilliant career to the tarnished star of the private money system," Feuer said.

At the start of the meeting, Nuciforo walked through the current state law that limits private contributions to $500, donations from lobbyists to $200 and bans corporate gifts altogether. He compared that current system to Clean Elections, which could allow a person running for state Senate to receive more than $70,000 in public money if he or she could muster 450 contributions of $5.

"When I decided to run for state Senate the first time, I sat down with a piece of paper and wrote down the names of every person I knew. People I went to elementary school with, people I went to high school with, people I went to law school with, my family members, my friends ... and I called or contacted every one of those people and I asked them to put a lawn sign in their yard, a bumper sticker on their car and I asked them to send me a check. 

"It was really hard work and it was humbling sometimes," Nuciforo said, adding, "That, in my view, is the traditional and correct way to run for office. This [Clean Elections law] in effect pays people to run for Senate."

Tim Walter of Lee took issue with that logic. "What it is is paying people's campaign expenses, it doesn't pay the candidate. The real question here should not be people's ability to raise money to get elected but people's ability to raise votes... It won't be solved unless we start it at the state level. What we want to do is get the big money out of politics, and the existing system does not do that. We want it so people will raise votes and not money. It should be votes and not money that elects you to office."

Though the state is facing a $2 billion budget shortfall, there was no sympathy in the room for the argument that there are better uses for the money needed to fund Clean Elections.

Tom Ennis of Williamstown said, "The important thing is that we need to have some limits on this whole campaign spending. We have arrogant leadership in the state Legislature who ignore the law. When they are sued, they say the Supreme Judicial Court is irrelevant... I'm not swayed by the argument that we can't afford to do this. We can't afford not to do this."


Jack Dew can be reached by e-mail at jdew@berkshireeagle.com

© 1999-2002 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc.

(The article above is reproduced on this Web site without permission.)


 
Want to contact State Senator Nuciforo? Click Here!


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