Man of the People?
State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr.
Photo: Joel Librizzi, The Berkshire Eagle
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
Nuciforo defends stance on
By Jack Dew
Berkshire Eagle Staff
Wednesday, February 20, 2002
Want to contact State Senator Nuciforo?
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
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
"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,"
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your disagreement means that you no longer represent the will of your con-stituents,"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,"
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
"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
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
Jack Dew can be reached by e-mail at
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