Grossman’s binge fundraising
The sequence was almost as predictable as a September swoon for the Red Sox (how helpful to be able to dust that line off and get it back in circulation!). A candidate gets elected to office pledging to bring a new day of integrity and good government to office. Months into office that balloon gets popped by a news story reporting on all the campaign donations the official is raking in from special interests his office oversees. A finger-wagging editorial then follows, decrying the unseemliness of the fundraising haul.
The latest name to fill in to the blank of this timeless storyline is state Treasurer Steve Grossman. The former state and national Democratic Party honcho got elected state treasurer last year pledging a new era of transparency in which he would put the state’s checkbook online for all to see how their tax dollars are being spent.
But Grossman’s good-government image came crashing down last week, when the Globe reported that the treasurer took in $45,000 in donations last month at a fundraiser chock full of bar owners, package store owners, and liquor distributors. Grossman’s office oversees the state’s Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission, and the Globe said the fundraising haul from liquor interests represented nearly one-quarter of the $187,000 Grossman has raised thus far this year. Today, the paper follows-up with an editorial titled “Dispiriting contributions,” criticizing Grossman for taking “gobs and gobs” of money from an industry he oversees.
The paper concedes that he’s not the first state treasurer to take donations from liquor interests, but says “Grossman’s haul from a single event seems unusually large.” But is Grossman’s binge fundraising among liquor interests really any worse than having a similar sum sprinkled among monthly campaign finance reports over the course of a year?
The fact of the matter is, not too many disinterested citizens have an abiding interest in the operation of the state treasurer’s office. The editorial says “liquor interests aren’t giving out of the goodness of their hearts.” True enough. But neither are many of those who have filled the war chests of House Speaker Robert DeLeo or Senate President Therese Murray far beyond any level either pol raised prior to assuming their powerful posts.
When he reigned as chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, US Rep. Barney Frank marveled at how he had suddenly become a big favorite among campaign donors, “and I haven’t gotten any nicer,” the prickly pol quipped.
It is troublesome when elected officials’ campaign coffers are filled by those whose industries they hold sway over. But until we’re serious about a radical remake of our campaign finance system, it’s hard to see how it will be any other way.
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