Two Democrats hoping to oust Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal from his perch as the heavy favorite to win the state’s newly drawn 1st Congressional district are trying to turn Neal’s Capitol Hill fundraising prowess against him. Andrea Nuciforo and William Shein both say that while Neal may hold the advantage among political action committees and corporate givers, they are beating Neal when it comes to contributions from the little guy. According to finance reports filed to the Federal Election Commission this week, former State Senator Andrea Nuciforo raised $42,493 from individuals in the year’s first quarter. He says that’s almost double the amount reported by incumbent Neal, who raised $21,625 during the same period.
“The ability to attract support from individuals is some reflection of a candidate’s ability to appeal to progressive democratic voters. And that’s what our campaign is all about.”
Writer and activist Bill Shein, who is also targeting the progressive democratic vote, managed to raise $11,235 from individuals. That was less than half of Neal’s contributions. But Shein points out that among donors who gave less than $99, he was supported by three times as many people as was Neal.
“We’re focused on raising small amounts of money from regular folks who have an interest in seeing us break the stranglehold of big money on our democracy.”
Both Shein and Nuciforo say, by contrast, that more than ¾ of the contributions to the Neal campaign came from political action committees. One political observer says stressing the individual contributions is a dynamic he’s been seeing increasingly in American politics this year.
“Trumpeting the source of the contributions gives them some moral victory, I suppose, some argument that they have broader grassroots support.”
Tim Vercellotti is a political science professor at Western New England University and director of its Polling Institute. He says in the case of Nuciforo and Shein, both could use the argument in future fundraising appeals in going up against an incumbent with almost $2½ million in the bank.
“The candidates could say don’t let us be outgunned by the political action committees. Send your $5, $10 or $20 contribution today. But when push comes to shove, you need money to get direct mail out, get advertising on the air and, if you can afford it, some polling or some help with phone banks and things like that. And so in the end, unfortunately in many cases, it’s the golden rule. He who has the gold, well in this case doesn’t make the rules but gets elected to make the rules.”
A spokesman for Neal, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy for a 13th term, says the Congressman has and continues to receive hundreds of individual contributions from police, firefighters, teachers and other laborers across western Massachusetts.