Starting off our look at news of the past week: the fundraising practices of Democratic U.S. Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield, Massachusetts.
The longtime congressman has raised more than a half-million dollars since becoming chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. But he has spent a lot to raise those funds.
According to some published reports (The Boston Globe, WBUR) citing campaign finance records, Neal has spent tens of thousands of dollars on lavish meals and big-ticket events catering to wealthy donors.
Much of the money raised by Neal has come from political action committees, also known as PACs.
“I think it’s a terrible approach,” said panelist Rick Hurst. “But they call it pay-to-play. I call it bought and caught. There’s been a lot of publicity about that, in The Boston Globe, too, besides WBUR. And it’s not new. Richie’s been doing that kind of thing for years. Now that he’s in the seat that he’s in, he’s taken advantage of that, and expanded his pay-to-play business. Here’s a guy who’s busy in Washington, and not so busy in his own district. I think he’s going to get caught on that.”
Panelist Chris Collins said he thinks Neal is not well-respected in the rural parts of his district, which covers Hampden and Berkshire counties.
“His strength is Springfield, as long as he has Springfield locked up,” Collins said. “But I agree with Rick: I think it’s bad optics. But when you become the chair of the Ways and Means Committee, suddenly all kinds of people are going to be knocking on your door, and looking to stuff money in your pockets. And pay-to-play, I think, is a good description of our government, not just in this case, but in a lot of other cases as well.”
Also this week, the Mohawk Trail regional school committee took several votes on Native American imagery. It voted to keep the high school's team name, the Warriors, but remove all Native American references to it, including a large mural in the school's gym. The panel also voted to keep the name of the district.
The Red Sox went to the White House to celebrate last year's World Series title. But not all of the players were in attendance, and neither was manager Alex Cora — who said it didn't seem appropriate to celebrate while his native Puerto Rico continues to recover from the 2017 Hurricane Maria. All the white players from the team attended the ceremony on Thursday, but nearly a dozen of their teammates — all players of color — did not.