Make a Comment 0

Arthur Winn, Florida, and campaign finance

Posted in: Elections
Tags:



This afternoon, prominent housing developer Arthur Winn will appear in federal court in Boston and be sentenced for funneling $4,500 in illegal campaign contributions to a pair of Massachusetts congressmen. This evening, it’s very likely that Mitt Romney will stomp all over Newt Gingrich, thanks in large part to Romney’s overwhelming advantage in Florida’s advertising-heavy primary. These two developments are connected, two extremes bookending a warped campaign finance system -- or, at least, that’s what Winn’s attorneys believe. Winn pleaded guilty in October to reimbursing relatives for $4,500 in campaign donations to Reps. Steve Lynch and Michael Capuano. A shell company connected to Winn’s failed Columbus Center project, Winn Columbus Center LP, also pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violations, waived the statute of limitations on older Winn-related contributions that were reimbursed, and was fined $1.6 million. Martin Raffol, a former executive working in Winn’s subsidized housing business, previously pleaded guilty to another campaign reimbursement scheme, and was sentenced to three months in a halfway house.

The investigation into Winn’s firm began when former state senator Dianne Wilkerson brought a pair of undercover FBI agents to a June, 2008 fundraiser at the Millennium Bostonian Hotel, a property Winn developed. The US attorney says that between Arthur Winn and Raffol, federal and state candidates received roughly $150,000 in improper campaign contributions; at the same time, prosecutors have also said Winn didn’t know about Raffol’s activities. Because some contributions were made to state candidates, and other contributions lie outside the statute of limitations, Arthur Winn pleaded guilty to a pair of federal misdemeanors, to the tune of a relatively paltry $4,500.

In arguing that Arthur Winn shouldn’t get any prison time, Winn’s lawyers have put the entire federal campaign finance system on trial. “The sums of money in question are far from influential in modern campaign finance terms, where individuals through Super-PACs and other mechanisms regularly and lawfully take credit for hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars in campaign contributions,” Winn’s lawyers argue in documents filed with the federal court. They argue that the 2006 donations Arthur Winn illegally reimbursed could have all been made in Winn’s name without exceeding federal campaign finance limits, and that Winn’s 2007 misdemeanor put him $700 above the personal contribution limit. They argue that Winn could have set up dozens of PACs to legally funnel tens of thousands of dollars to federal candidates, and that, in an era of of unlimited federal contributions, “A sentence of imprisonment will not deter others who seek to bypass the individual contribution limits of the campaign finance system.”

“To reason that a multimillion dollar donation to a PAC on behalf of a particular candidate cannot corrupt as a matter of law but that less than $5,000 worth of reimbursed contributions does corrupt does not make reasonable sense,” Winn’s lawyers argue. “That one is constitutionally sacrosanct but the other should result in a prison sentence is equitably unreasonable.”

Whether or not a federal judge goes along with Winn’s arguments, there’s no small irony in the fact that they’re being made on a day when money in politics breaks new ground. Gingrich’s campaign has been fueled almost exclusively by a pair of $5 million donations from a casino magnate to a super PAC that’s been savaging Romney across the South. He’s failing in Florida because his moon colony pitch has become a joke, but also because a Romney-friendly super PAC has heavily outgunned Gingrich’s group, spending 3.7 times as much on television ads.

The Atlantic notes that while the PACs’ expenditures are being updated in real time, their financial backers don’t have to be revealed until long after the ballots are counted. And, as Stephen Colbert’s meta-lampooning of the super PAC era has pointed out, the groups acting as proxies for Romney and Gingrich are on the sunnier side of the disclosure line. Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, a group that’s been airing ads attacking Elizabeth Warren, is set up as a nonprofit, so its unlimited donors are disclosed to the IRS, but not to the public. 

                                                                                                                                                            --PAUL MCMORROW

BEACON HILL

Former Patrick aide Arthur Bernard is joining Robert Travaglini’s lobbying firm.

The Globe outlines a big hurdle facing the Mashpee Wampanoag in any bid for a casino license under the state law’s special provision for Native American tribes. Last week, CommonWealth spelled out another set of big roadblocks in front of the Mashpee tribe.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Eagle-Tribune unearths two Lawrence city workers who have been convicted of crimes and are not working but are still receiving paychecks.

WBUR’s Radio Boston talks with former governor Michael Dukakis, Ted Landsmark, and Fred Salvucci about former Boston Mayor Kevin White. NECN’s Jim Braude chats with former White aides Dick Flavin and Peter Meade, while the Herald gets Bill Bratton and George Regan. In CommonWealth, James Aloisi remembers the “blunt, brash, lovable progressive rogue.” Greater Boston measures the life and legacy of White and his vision. Dan Kennedy revives his 1978 interview with the mayor when Kennedy was a Northeastern University senior. Peter Lucas, the newspaperman who gave White many of the nicknames that stuck, remembers him in a Lowell Sun column.

There will be no more frosties at public meetings in Cohasset  after a member of the town’s water commission brought a cooler with a few brews in it to a meeting last week to discuss the water supply contract.

A Cape Cod Times columnist laments the difficulty of getting approval for late night bars and entertainment venues on the Cape, primarily due to what he calls the “AARP-ization” of Cape Cod.

Cambridge fails again to fill its ceremonial mayor’s office.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

A woman is barred from running for the Yuma City Council under an Arizona law that requires candidates to speak English proficiently, Governing reports.

New Jersey governor and would-be GOP savior Chris Christie steps in it when talking civil rights.

Those tough-talking Republican governors in Wisconsin, Florida, and Maine aren’t talking so tough anymore.

ELECTION 2012

Rick Santorum concedes he won’t fare well in Florida today but says he has no plans to be voted off the island.

Mitt Romney tells astrotech workers President Obama has failed to define our mission in space but he doesn’t lay out his own plan, except to intimate it won’t include Newt Gingrich’s lunar colony. Gingrich insists he sees a path to the nomination, even after his expected drubbing in Florida tonight. A Wall Street Journal op-ed column says Romney will win Florida for all the wrong reasons, with all his “glaring weaknesses” -- primarily his inability to convincingly articulate a political agenda -- fully intact. The Globe’s Farah Stockman offers a thoughtful deconstruction of Mitt’s proud-of-every-penny claim to be a self-made man.

The Daily Beast posts the latest presidential campaign ads.

Dana Milbank details the increasingly bizarre statements and tactics Newt Gingrich is employing as he slips in the Florida polls.

The Christian Science Monitor reminds us that the Maine caucuses began this weekend, and Ron Paul is expected to pick up a few delegates.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Freddie Mac is under investigation for allegedly betting against homeowner refinancing efforts, while throwing roadblocks in front of homeowners seeking to modify their mortgages.

EDUCATION

State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester says his “patience is wearing thin” with New Bedford school officials who have yet to file an acceptable strategy plan to turn around the beleaguered system.

The teacher certification program at UMass-Dartmouth is in trouble after the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education flunked the program following a three-day licensure review last fall.

More consolidation in the Boston archdiocese school system, with all-girls Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Brighton and co-ed Trinity Catholic School of Newton set to merge. The end of the Mount Saint Joseph’s run as an all-girls school will leave the archdiocese with just one all-girls high school.

Time reports that many charter schools are being shut down for poor performance.

HEALTH CARE

The American Spectator weighs in on the history of eugenics in Massachusetts in the wake of the recent appeals court decision overturning a lower court’s ruling allowing the forced abortion and sterilization of a schizophrenic woman.

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA came under heavy criticism Monday from a transportation advocacy coalition for giving T riders a “false choice” between service cuts and fare hikes, reports the MetroWest Daily News. Via State House News Service.  And Mayor Tom Menino has weighed in -- finally -- urging a hike in the gas tax to stave off huge fare increases and service cuts.

Foxborough town officials and residents find fault with a privately-funded study examining extending commuter rail service to their town.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Former US rep-turned-lobbyist William Delahunt says he’ll give his advice on wind power for free to the town of Hull after a storm swirled over his taking money from an earmark he sponsored while in Congress. The story’s a couple days old but it’s a chance to link to this really funny cartoon by the Patriot Ledger’s O’Mahoney.

The town of Lenox is considering installing solar panels that would provide clean power for the town’s municipal buildings.

The Globe reports that going green is proving less than popular with local utility customers, who don’t seem to relish the idea of paying higher rates in order to support renewable energy.  

A report by the Cambridge-based Brattle Group says as many as 60,000 American jobs could be lost if a proposed tariff on Chinese-made solar panels is passed by Congress.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

A Fall River dentist was sentenced to a year in jail and five years probation after pleading guilty to using paper clips instead of stainless steel posts for a root canal.

The Worcester Telegram offers some history and legal perspective on automobile black boxes, such as the one that provided damaging information on Lt. Gov. Tim Murray’s crash.

A Stoughton nurse was convicted in federal court of drug dealing and money laundering after she and her husband, who was convicted last fall, used their Dorchester pharmacy to distribute prescription weight-loss and anti-anxiety medication issued by an Internet pharmacy from the Dominican Republic.

The Berkshire Eagle interviews Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless regarding an ongoing triple homicide case.

MEDIA

The Boston Occupier and its editor, Dan Schneider, go old school, reports CommonWealth.

Val Wang and WGBH are launching Planet Takeout, a documentary project to break down barriers between Chinese immigrants running local restaurants and the customers they serve. Wang and WGBH are one of 10 winners participating in a $2 million initiative called Localore, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports.

Helen Gurley Brown donates $30 million to Stanford’s engineering school and Columbia’s journalism school to promote the development of newsroom technology, Poynter reports.

The Fall River Herald News becomes the latest GateHouse paper to outsource its printing.

 

0 Article Comments
There are currently no comments.
Would you like to comment? You must Login or Create an Account to leave a comment.
Back to top

Login

Forgot Password?

 

* = Required
*
Username Required
*
Password Required

Create an Account Here!

Create an account with us to comment on stories and blog posts. Your account information will not be shared with third parties.

* = Required
*
First Name Required
*
Last Name Required
*
Screen Name Required
*
Email Required
*
Password Required
*
Confirm Password Required
*

Archive