WASHINGTON--The most powerful House member from Massachusetts, not surprisingly, drew the most in political action committee (PAC) contributions, according to a report released yesterday.
Rep. Joseph Moakley (D-Mass.), a member of the House Democratic leadership collected $441,364 in PAC contributions from 1983 through 1988, according to a report by Common Cause, a government watchdog group. The report detailed some $2.7 million in PAC contributions over the six-year period to the 11 House members from Massachusetts.
Throughout the period covered by the report Moakley was deputy majority whip and a member of the powerful House Rules Committee, which sets the House floor agenda. In June 1989, after the period covered by the Common Cause report, Moakley became rules committee chair.
Moakley received large contributions from defense contractors such as Raytheon Co. and General Dynamics; from communications PACs including New England Telephone and the National Cable Television Association; from transportation companies including Greyhound Corp.; and from labor PACs including the Teamsters, postal workers and airline pilots unions.
"Anyone who knows Joe Moakley knows that he fights for working families and not for special interests and I don't think that any group can challenge that fact," said Moakley spokesperson Jim McGovern.
Rep. Brian Donnelly (D-Mass.) ranked second with $357,993 and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was third with $351,162.
In a clear demonstration of fundraising prowess, Rep. Joseph P. Kennedy II ranked fourth among delegation members even though he has only been in office for half the period covered by the report. Kennedy collected $344,191 and that total was only 11 percent of all the money he has raised.
The typical member of Congress relies on PACs for about 45 percent of total campaign revenue and two Massachusetts delegation members--Donnelly and Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.)--got more than half their contributions from PACs.
Common Cause has long criticized the system of PAC contributions as thinly-veiled influence purchasing by private interests. Common Cause favors strict limits on PAC donations, restrictions on campaign spending, alternative campaign funding resources and an end to the "soft" money system in which political organizations not limited in the donations they receive can give candidates indirect political help.
"Our current system of financing congressional campaigns is corrupt and special-interest PAC contributions are at the heart of the problem," said Common Cause President Fred Wertheimer. "Comprehensive campaign finance reform legislation must be enacted this year to restore integrity to congressional decisions and fairness to congressional elections."
Six members of the Massachusetts delegation--Frank, Moakley, Nick Mavroules, Richard Neal, Ed Markey and Gerry Studds--support campaign finance reform legislation backed by Common Cause.
Rep. Chester Atkins (D-Mass.) refuses to accept PAC contributions. Markey stopped taking PAC money in February 1984. And Mavroules, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, stopped taking PAC money from defense contractors in 1986.