Race for 1st Middlesex district turns bitter


With just 13 days left before the state’s primary, the candidates for the 1st Middlesex district state senate seat are lobbing bigger accusations against each other. On Monday, the Doherty campaign released a statement against Donoghue stating that she is a hypocrite when it comes to illegal immigration.

According to the flier, Donoghue willingly accepted a case against an individual, Lilliana Rivera, who was supposedly indicted for conspiracy to create and sell alien registration receipts and social security cards. The document goes on farther to state Donoghue was fundamental to Rivera receiving a substantially reduced sentence. The effect is that Donoghue is portrayed not only as soft on illegal immigration, but someone who misleads the public.

On its face, the Doherty campaign’s assertions are alarming to say the least. Factually, the campaign’s claims against Donoghue are half-truths.

The first claim: The flier seemed to indicate that Rivera was a key player in creating the forged alien registration receipts and social security cards.

One of the statements made was that Rivera was indicted for the federal charges of conspiracy to produce and sell false alien registration receipts and social security cards. To support this claim, the flier included a copy of a federal court’s filing for the case. The filing describes, in detail, the role of each person involved in the operation. It even lays out the offenses the individuals were charged with, of which Rivera was one out of two people indicted.

The document, which the Donoghue campaign says isn’t accurate, details the specific charges that Rivera faced. Though Rivera was found to be a part of the operation, she was found to play a minimal role. Namely, Rivera’s role was to transport the fake ids from the people who created them to the people who would buy them. In regards to specific offenses, she was charged with possession and transportation of falsified documents.

This information was verified by Conor Yunits, spokesman for the Donoghue campaign. According to Yunits, Rivera was forced to transport the ids because one of the people involved abused her. “Rivera got involved because one of the people who created the ids was her boyfriend. She was in an abusive relationship with him and he forced her to transport the ids. Rivera eventually sought a restraining order against her boyfriend.”

The second claim: that Donoghue willingly accepted the case when she could have refused.

Looking at the court document alone, it makes mention that the lead attorney was Donoghue and that she was retained. In legal speak, a retained lawyer is an attorney that been paid to take a case.

Yunits explained that wasn’t true. “Eileen speaks Spanish and was often assigned to cases to where one of the parties involved didn’t speak English. Rivera didn’t know a lot of English, so Eileen was appointed to the case. She only represented Rivera and not the individuals who actually forged the documents.”

What seems particularly odd is that the listed firm Donoghue was supposed to have been working for at the time, Gallagher & Cavanaugh, didn’t exist when the case was being processed.

The third claim: that Donoghue was responsible for Rivera’s reduced sentence.

The court document shows that Rivera was charged with possession and transportation, which are outlined in 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a) and 1028 (a) (2). In reading the text of 18 U.S.C. 1546 (a), a person who knowingly possesses false alien registration receipt cards or other documents can be fined, imprisoned or both.  According to the same section, a person can’t be imprisoned for more than 10 years for this violation if the offense wasn’t committed to facilitate international terrorism or drug trafficking. A person charged with transporting such documents can’t be imprisoned for more than 15 years, according to the terms of 18 U.S.C. 1028 (b).  It is also possible to be fined under this statute. Under both sections, no one can receive a higher sentence unless the offense was completed in order to commit international terrorism or drug trafficking.

The attached document included with the flier makes no mention of either terrorism or drug trafficking in list of charges against Rivera.

Notice that both of these sections of the United States Code establish maximum sentencing limits for these offenses. With that in mind, it’s possible that Rivera was given a lesser sentence because she wasn’t a major player. Or maybe her lesser sentence has something to do with the fact that the U.S. Attorney General, as evidenced by the included court document, dropped one of the charges against Rivera.

Why Rivera got a lesser sentence is murky at best given the court document is possibly inaccurate and nearly 20 years old at this point.

“This is another attempt by the Chris Doherty campaign to smear Eileen Donoghue’s name and reputation. Eileen worked hard to ensure 6th Amendment rights for everyone when she was an attorney,” remarked Yunits.

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Local attorney files suit over 9 North Road construction


On Wednesday, Richard McClure took a stance against the Epsilon Group by finding new causes to go to court. McClure’s charges came two days after the Chelmsford Board of Selectmen (BoS) voted in favor of the project, claiming that the construction doesn’t violate a 1978 preservation restriction. The August 25th filing of the case was also the deadline to revoke the building permit for the construction.

This is the latest of line of a grand total of four suites against the Epsilon’s group project. At least one of the cases was willingly dropped by the plaintiffs. This was due to the fact the BoS refused to meet for a vote while there was a case pending in the courts. After the case was dropped, the BoS eventually scheduled a meeting—a mere 48 hours before the town’s deadline to repeal the Eliopoulos’s permit.

In the current case, McClure states that “…there were improper, invalid, and absent approvals by required boards and improper notice of public hearings by those boards.” The suite also calls the permits, “…’whimsical, capricious, arbitrary, unconstitutional and unlawful.’”

Chelmsford BoS cower under threat of lawsuit


On August 23rd, the Chelmsford Board of Selectman (BoS) held a town meeting to vote on the construction proposal for 9 North Road and whether it violated a preservation restriction. Though the selectmen seemed contemplative throughout the meeting, their composure appeared lost after the Epsilon’s lawyer forewarned of a lawsuit should the BoS repeal their permit.

What makes this project so controversial is due to a preservation restriction that was created in 1978. The Epsilon group, which represents the Eliopoulos family, claims that restriction doesn’t bar all construction. The group also claims that the intentions of the restriction and the 1978 BoS are not only immaterial, but inapplicable to the project. Specifically, the Epsilon group focuses its argument on Articles 2 and 6 of the restriction. These sections require that any construction be “barnlike” in appearance, that all construction not exceed 55% of the total land area, and that the owners have a limited right to develop the land, respectively.

Such bold statements were probably a smack in the face for former selectman, John W. Carson. Carson, who was on the BoS in 1978, adamantly spoke out against the project at the meeting. According to Carson, he and the other two surviving selectman that signed the restriction crafted the measure in order to preserve the open land as a public park. Carson’s argument relies on Articles 5, 7 and 8 of the restriction. The sections maintain that the land is to be maintained as a park, that all structures are to be small, and that all buildings must match the architecture of the Emerson barn.

The board’s 2 to 1 vote in favor of the project was met with resounding outrage from the dozens of citizens that attended the meeting. Though there was support for the construction, it seemed to have been overwhelmed by the public’s opposition.

July political developments, part 2


With the immigration debate being a big issue, protesters took action across Massachusetts.  Opponents of Arizona law S.B. 1070 marched at the National Governors Association meeting that was held in Boston.  The Boston City council backed off of its boycott of Arizona-based businesses after receiving heat.  A poll conducted by the Boston Herald revealed that many residents were frustrated by the boycott.

July also saw the burgeoning Tea Party movement split in half.  This division came to pass after several groups within the movement were associated with outspoken critics of the president and current policy. Mass.-based chapters seem determined to carry on despite the criticism the movement has received.

July also saw the expansion of unemployment benefits.  For Massachusetts, that meant that approximately 70, 000 residents gained financial help for a few more months. The bill passed by a vote of 272-152 in the House.  Senator Brown proposed an alternative funding source for the measure but his amendment was not passed.

On the casino gambling front, state legislators that supported the bill faced firm opposition.  The problem seemed to have begun over the House’s introduction of slot machines at all of the race tracks, or “racinos”, which both Patrick and the Senate refused.  The stalemate lasted until the last possible moment when the House and Senate agreed to slot machines at only two of the racetracks.  Though that version passed just before the end of the session, its fate is not yet determined because Patrick doesn’t support the current version.

Just as the legislature was wrapping up its current session, both the House and the Senate passed measures in favor of a national popular vote.  As a result, Massachusetts is now part of a “pact” with five other states to give all of their votes to the candidate that wins the national popular vote.  A major sticking point, according to opponents, is that it ignores the stated amendment process contained within the U.S. Constitution.

July political developments, part 1


The month of July started with president approval ratings holding steady at 46% for the first few weeks.  By the second half of the month, President Obama’s ratings dropped down one percentage point.  His disapproval ratings fluctuated throughout the month and ended at 47%, which was two percentage points higher than at the beginning of July.

According to Gallup editor Frank Newport, Obama’s 6th quarter ratings stood at 47.3%, which is on par with previous president’s ratings at the same point in their administration.  In fact, Clinton’s (D) approval ratings for the 6th quarter were 46.1%, Reagan’s (R) was 44.2% and Ford’s (R) was 43.2%.  Historically speaking, most presidents lose popularity the longer they are in office with a handful of exceptions.  The most notable include JFK (D), Eisenhower (R) and Johnson (D).  So much for the supposed “Obama paradox” which stated that President Obama was loosing popularity despite the legislation that was passed.

In Massachusetts, Obama’s approval ratings seems to be around 56%.  This number seems to show a correlation between Democrats and Independents support of Obama and the local voting population.  What this means is that the Bay state has one of the highest populations of independent voters in the country.

Congress fared worse than President Obama given that it’s ratings hit an all time record low.  Though recent controversies might have probably played a role in these figures, chances are that this could be more due to political trends.  Midterms elections are usually somewhat painful for the party in power, irrespective of whether it’s the Republicans or Democrats.

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Supporters of 1st Middlesex district demonstrate loyalty


In the race for the 1st Middlesex district, Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) is a familiar face with supporters from all walks of life as demonstrated two nights ago.  Donoghue made an appearance at the home of Carolyn and Bob Gregoire, who hosted a party to recognize her bid for state senate.  She is competing against new-comer Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) to get their party’s nomination.

“I support Eileen because not only does she stand up for what she believes in, but because she is very easy to connect with,” remarked Dorine Dupont.  “I’ve known Eileen for many years and I know that she’ll do good things for the state.”

A former prosecutor, Doherty voluntarily left his job in order to work full-time on his campaign.  Doherty collaborated with District Attorney Leone to advocate for legislation to strengthen the voices of concerned citizens with regard to protecting children from sexual predators.  Before that, Doherty worked with former Congressman Marty Meehan.  Doherty’s supporters call him a reliable candidate that focused on helping voters.

There are subtle nuances between the candidates’ health care policies.  Voters could probably expect Donoghue to support legislation designed to put a cap on health insurance costs.  This might mean reducing paperwork in order to decrease administrative overhead, which is one aspect of rising insurance costs.  Alternatively, Doherty seems likely to support a small business consortium so that competition can drive down prices.

So far, the candidates have scheduled three debates.  According to the campaigns, the first debate is scheduled for Monday, August 16th, which will be broadcast live on radio station 980 AM from 7 pm to 9 pm.  A second debate will be held on Tuesday, August 31st, which is sponsored by the Democratic town committees of Groton, Dunstable and Pepperell.  The Lowell Sun and the Westford League of Women Voters have agreed to hold one in Westford on Thursday, September 9th.

Former mayor Bill Martin apparently concurs with Dupont’s point of view.  “When I worked with Eileen, she proved to be capable and effective in office,” stated Martin.  “She’s been good to the City of Lowell so I know she’ll be good for the state.”

No Women, No Play project launched


With a concert and much fanfare, the Institute for Gulf Affairs (IGA) launched their “No Women, No Play” project in Washington, D.C. The aim of the project is to improve women’s rights in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) by boycotting the country from the Olympics. The IGA is a think tank that focuses on improving U.S. – Middle East relations by regularly meeting with members of the government and the media, so as to ensure that everyone is well-informed of developments in the area.

The concert took place in DuPont Circle, a major hub of activity within the district, on July 31st. The concert included performers Yvette Benjamin (aka Free) and Muneer AlAsheq. Speakers included Erin Matson, Vice President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Palestinian-American women’s rights activist, Besama Adriana Alghussein.

According to a recent press release on the IGA’s website, the program was created to put pressure on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to enforce their charter.  The IOC is specifically mandated to “act against any form of discrimination affecting the Olympic Movement,” and to “encourage and support the promotion of women…with a view to implementing the principle of of equality between men and women.”

The logic behind the project is straightforward. Currently, though women have separate athletic facilities within the country, the KSA bars them from participating in the Olympics. The KSA’s practice is a direct violation of the principles which created the Olympic movement. As specifically stated with the Olympic Charter:

The practice of sport is a human right. Every individual must have the possibility of practicing sport, without discrimination of any kind…any form of discrimination with regard to a country or a person on the grounds of race, religion, politics, gender or otherwise is incompatible with belonging to the Olympic Movement. Pg 11

The charter also explains that any member country must abide by the charter. Furthermore, the IOC is “supreme authority” of the Olympic Movement and is thus charged to enforce the charter. Any decision made by the IOC is considered binding and must be followed.

Essentially, the project is relating the KSA’s practice to South Africa’s race apartheid. The comparison being if South Africa was banned until they stopped discriminating against blacks, then KSA should be banned until they stop discriminating against women.

For more information on this project, please visit the IGA’s website which is http://www.gulfinstitute.org. Email questions and comments directly to nowomennoplay@gulfinstitute.org or rachel@gulfinstitute.org. Updates are sent to Twitter and Facebook as well.