A Whip City Wallet Inventory…
UPDATED: 3/2/14 2:43PM: To reflect details from an amended campaign finance report from Dan Allie, which changed the entries originally marked “chiropractor” to “reimburse.”
WESTFIELD—Next Tuesday primaries will be held across the commonwealth to select nominees for special general elections to fill several vacant legislative seats. Voters here, too, will go to the polls next week—or not—for the primary ahead of an April 1st election to fill the State House’s 4th Hampden district, a seat formerly held by Don Humason who himself won a special election to the state Senate.
Turnout in the Whip City will likely be microscopic as the primary for neither party is a competitive affair. Republican Dan Allie and Democrat John Velis were the only ones to sign up for their respective party’s primaries leaving March 4th little more than a brief pause in the remaining sprint to the April Fool’s Day balloting. The only community in the district is Westfield in its entirety.
Allie, who works for a printing company, declared his candidacy in December, a month after winning an at-large City Council seat. Velis, an attorney who served in Afghanistan on a rule of law mission last year, announced November 1st, with the intention to run whether Humason was elected to the Senate or not.
This stands in contrast to the special primary in the 13th Suffolk in Boston, the near-indigo blue former “Mahty” seat, held until the beginning of this year by Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Whoever wins that primary will almost assuredly win the general, especially since no Republicans are on the ballot at all.
While the primary election itself may be inconsequential, it has a notable side effect. In the Massachusetts General Court’s infinite wisdom, all candidates for elective office that must file with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance on a monthly to twice-monthly basis…except for candidates for the legislature. Those candidates are only required to file shortly before primaries and general elections, including special elections. They must file a year-end report like all candidates in addition to a midyear report in years the legislature is not up for election.
Both Allie and Velis filed their pre-primary reports as required this past Monday. The reports includes all campaign activity through February 14.
Since both candidates formed their committees before the end of last year, both also filed an end of year report for 2013. Massachusetts campaign finance laws set contribution caps by calendar year rather than by cycle, meaning that a contributor can max out to a candidate in the off year and then max out again during the actual election year. It is an odd system compared to the federal one for example, but also results in some perverse outcomes during special elections.
The candidates’ end of year reports were unremarkable except that all of Allie’s 2013 contributors maxed out (and can contribute again this year) and were from well east of the 413. With nearly all local contributions Velis outraised Allie by over $1000 in 2013. Neither spent a significant amount in 2013.
According to the pre-primary reports, Velis did lag behind Allie in 2014 fundraising, but by only about $1200 when 2013’s fundraising is added. Velis raised about $5200 in 2014. Allie raised about $7400.
Velis, who receives a small stipend as a member of Westfield’s Disability Commission, cannot raise money for himself under state law and instead must rely on others to solicit contributions. He is expected to raise some significant cash in the coming weeks with several fundraisers planned. Allie’s ability to raise cash is not a total shock considering he raised over $4000 for his City Council bid last year. However, much more of that campaign’s money was local.
The cash on hand difference about matches the overall fundraising difference with Allie again having a slight advantage. Allie had about $5700 as of February 14, while Velis had about $4700. Most of the spending is unremarkable as well. Allies spent mostly on phone calls to voters, postage and transportation spending like gas and tolls. Velis, by contrast, has spent far more on campaign material design, printing and ads in The Westfield Evening News.
Allie does have one bit of campaign spending that is quite unlike other expenses. The Westfield councilor lists six separate expenditures for Kevin Pighetti with a stated purpose of “chiropractor” totaling $210. Massachusetts law does not allow campaign funds to benefit candidates personally. A campaign may receive or spend money “for the enhancement of the political future of the candidate,” but not in a way that “is not primarily for the candidate’s or any other person’s personal use.” Regulations promulgated by OCPF offer more specifics, but do not deviate from the prohibition overall.
OCPF did not comment on Allie’s spending, but did respond to a general question about campaign spending rules. “Personal expenditures are prohibited,” Jason Tait, a spokesman for OCPF emailed. On March 1, after WMassP&I originally posted this article on 4th Hampden campaign spending, Allie filed an amended pre-primary report with OCPF. That amendment included a change of the expenditure to Pighetti from “chiropractor” to “reimburse.” As of the amended report, there was no explanation for the reimbursement.
Allie’s campaign expenditures for City Council do not include any spending for a chiropractor. He spent down almost all of the money he raised last year on campaign materials, although there was an $86 entry for clothing purchased at the Bon-Ton in Westfield. OCPF’s regulations generally prohibit clothing to be allowed expenditures, but formal wear like a tuxedo to be used “exclusively at political or government functions” is allowed as is specialty clothing for functions which is otherwise different from what people normally buy and wear.
Allie’s pre-primary report tells a story about his contributors similar to his 2013 end of year report, but with many more local donors. Among Allie’s 2014 contributors was Nathan Bech, who ran against former US Rep John Olver in 2008 and is looking to unseat Rep Michael Finn in neighboring West Springfield this year. Other notable contributors were the Marlborough Republican City Committee and Jay Fleitman, who unsuccessfully in the 2010 Republican primary to challenge US Rep. Richard Neal.
Velis’ pre-primary contributions were far more uniformly from Western Massachusetts and Westfield in particular. Among the dozens of contributors were notable names like members of the Whip City’s politically prominent Sullivan family, including Brian and Kevin, a city councilor and school committee member respectively. Several current and former members of the City Council also gave to Velis as did family members like his uncle, Peter Velis a former Republican state rep and retired judge.
The next campaign finance report is due in late March before the April 1st general election. Another will be due shortly after the election.