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Follow the Money, (part I)

“Just who are these people representing anyway?” I recently asked that question after commenting on Rachel Kaprielian and Peter Koutoujian’s abysmal voting record.

This led to the next logical question. Wouldn’t we know how to answer this question better by looking at their campaign contribution filings? Since Kaprielian supposedly represents almost the entire town, I decided to focus my investigation on her records.

Let me say from the outset that this information is a matter of public record and can be verified by visiting the web site of the Office of Campaign and Political Finance -- Commonwealth of Massachusetts (http://www.mass.gov/ocpf/).

Looking at Kaprielian’s 2005 report, the first thing that hits you is the staggering war chest she has. She started the year with $121,362.46. She received another $26,645.00 .She spent $18,911.07, leaving an ending balance of $129,096.39.

So who is giving Rachel all this money? Examining her contributions report (schedule A) for 2005, you will notice is that there are 186 contributors. Of these only 27 listed addresses from Watertown or Cambridge (her district). That indicates a whopping 85% of her contributions are from outside our community. This money comes from places like Hudson, Lynnfield, and Wayland. Some of it even comes from out of state, places like Rochester, New York; Portland, Maine; and Poulsbo, Washington.

If you feel like doing some more arithmetic, you’ll see that of the $26,645.00 collected in 2005; about $2,700 came from the 27 addresses in Watertown and Cambridge. That’s a little over 10%

All of this is perfectly legal. But it does raise legitimate questions. If 90% of her money comes from outside the district, to whom does she owe allegiance? If Rachel truly represented Watertown and our priorities, why are so few of her contributors from Watertown?

Again, it’s perfectly legal to collect money from outside the district. But when it’s 90%, it means forces outside our community are dictating who represents us and how they vote.

As a good Democrat, Rachel Kaprielian purports to represent the “little guy” and the working families. She was interviewed sometime ago by the Boston Phoenix (Feb. 2005) for an article entitled: “Who’s buying the legislature?”

This article records the following:

“NONE OF THIS means that legislative outcomes are predetermined by lobbyists’ spending. The legislature has passed strong anti-smoking measures in recent years despite heavy lobbying by the tobacco industry, notes Watertown state representative Rachel Kaprielian. "There are lobbyists I agree with and those I don’t," Kaprielian says. "It almost levels the playing field. You have big corporate interests, and a labor PAC can counter that with a contribution."

Now that’s a pretty long quote, so let me paraphrase Rachel. Corporate interests and big tobacco lobbies are the bad guys. Labor PACs are the good guys.

She agrees with some lobbies, but not with others. Great! Theoretically, that answer passes Rachel to the head of the class. Except I see a little problem. She’s taken money from both sides!

She slams big tobacco. But she also took money from Beacon Strategies. One of their listed clients is Lorillard Tobacco. But apparently that’s ok because she also took a contribution from a group called Tobacco Free Kids.

To all of you who can’t afford prescription drugs, you might pay particular attention to this one. She took money from firms such as, Kearney Donovan McGee and Shanley Fleming & Associates .Both of these represent huge pharmaceutical interests like Bristol-Myers Squibb and GlaxoSmithKline.

O’Neil and Associates is another contributor. They represent Bechtel Infrastructure of big dig fame, or should I say ill repute. She’s taken some money from O’Neil throughout the years. But in her tenure, has she ever championed oversight for a project that is over budget and behind schedule.

Hickey and Associates is a lobbying firm that spends a pretty penny on Beacon Hill. Sure enough, going back to 2002, Rachel Kaprielian received 11 contributions from various people working for Hickey. And that’s only the contributions from people directly associated with the firm. I would imagine these people have friends, families, neighbors and other contacts whose contributions might not be so easily traced back to Hickey Associates.

For the record, Hickey represents trial lawyers (viewed by some as ambulance-chasers) auto dealers and insurance companies.

Folks, it doesn’t end there. When you look at the lobby money you need to compare it to the PAC money.

For instance, she got money from Donoghue, Barrett & Singal. Among their clients is “Massachusetts Package Stores Association”. That contribution dovetails very nicely with an almost annual contribution she gets for the Beer Distributors’ PAC. This one is a bit amusing because the Beer Distributors always contribute in April. Best I can figure, profits are up that month because everyone is filing their income tax returns. They need to drown their grief with a cold one.

The list of special interest groups goes on forever. It’s next to impossible to makes any sense of it. Some groups are natural allies, other special interests are at odds. But it doesn’t matter. Rachel is more than willing to take their money. Thank God she has the House Leadership to tell her which way to vote or the poor girl would be lost.

I’ll ask the question again. Just who is Rachel Kaprielian representing anyway?

The answer is clear. Everyone but the people who elected her.

Still not convinced? Stand by- this is only the end of part one- part two is soon to follow!

John DiMascio
Communications Director
Watertown Citizens for Common Sense Government


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