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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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.”

5th Congressional district candidate discusses immigration, part 2


It sounds like you believe that this is an issue for states to handle. Is that correct?

Yes.  Illegal immigration is an issue that should be left to the states because they are the ones being directly affected.  The federal government shouldn’t force the states to enact specific policies.  I support the deportation of illegal immigrants, which is something that I’ve said on my website.  However, I don’t believe that the states should be mandated to deport illegal immigrants.

What sort of provisions would you endorse if you are elected?

I would encourage Massachusetts to enforce the federal laws already in place.  I think that the local authorities should be allowed to report illegal immigrants if they choose.  That’s why we have the police—they’re here to enforce the law.  The states should work together to fix immigration since it’s an issue that affects them.

Shapiro is running against three other candidates for the Republican nomination.  To find out more about him, visit his website www.shapiro4congress.org.  The state primary is on Tuesday, September 14th and the general election is on Tuesday, November 2nd.

Race for 1st Middlesex district heats up


As the Massachusetts primary draws ever closer, Chris Doherty (D-Lowell) and Eileen Donoghue (D-Lowell) keep turning up the heat with their campaigns. With 50 days left until September 14th, both candidates are making back-breaking efforts to speak with as many voters as possible.

Chris Doherty‘s campaign is, for lack of better words, operating energetically around the clock. Since the start of the race, Doherty has been out and around the first Middlesex District on a daily basis. According to a campaign spokeswoman, Doherty and his volunteers contact at least 100 households and hold phone banks each day. In addition, the Doherty campaign holds signs across the district and regularly meets with voters at Spinners baseball games in Lowell.

In addition, the Doherty campaign holds meet and greet events at supporters’ homes at least twice a week. Last night, advocates from Groton and Pepperell converged at the house of Groton selectwoman Anna Elliot in order to demonstrate their support. The crowd numbered in the mid-twenties, which is more intimate compared to the massive groups that gather at Doherty’s fundraisers.

Eileen Donoghue‘s campaign appears to be equally passionate. Donoghue’s campaign holds daily phone banks and frequently knocks on voters’ doors. The campaign reports that Donoghue attended the Lowell Folk Festival over the past weekend. Her volunteers contributed to what the campaign calls a “mobile visibility” as they were all decked out in t-shirts. The mobile visibility seems to have been a big hit as the campaign stated that they received a positive response.

The Donoghue campaign attends bi-weekly house parties throughout the district.  On July 20th, a group of approximately twenty-five convened at the house of Tyngsboro Selectman Rick Reault.  Donoghue parties typically number in this range, minus fundraisers and cultural events.  When asked about the turn-out, the campaign said they “felt lucky to have so many incredible volunteers willing to open their homes.”

As volunteers crank up the heat, voters face a tough choice in September as they choose which candidate gets the nomination on the 14th. Though the debates are still being scheduled, it is too early at this point to tell which candidate is going to shine more.

Unemployment benefits extended


On Thursday, Niki Tsongas (D-Lowell) signed a bill which extends unemployment benefits. According to many critics, the legislation will add another $34 million to the federal deficit. The measure passed which means that thousands of Massachusetts residents could see their benefits restored.

By a vote of 272-152, the House passed their version of an unemployment benefits package which was promptly sent to President Obama. Obama signed the House bill the same day and appears confident that the funds will be distributed as quickly as possible. Before the package was passed, an estimated 70, 000 local Massachusetts residents were slated to lose coverage by the end of November.

“‘I have always had a very good job, I work hard, PAY TAXES and I certainly have not been living in excess. Last July my company had to cut staff and my entire team was let go. I have never had a problem finding a job but this search has been extremely difficult…Unemployment benefits helped me to stay on track with life’s basic necessities such as food, gas, insurance, etc,'” explained one of Tsongas’s constituents. Such sentiments were read aloud by Tsongas as she advocated on behalf of her district.

Critics, including Sen. Scott Brown, point out that while extending benefits are necessary alternative funding should be considered. Brown contends that unspent stimulus resources should be utilized because they are, “…just waiting to be used…and what to better way to use them today, then to return them directly to the unemployed Americans who need them most. That is real stimulus, which can help the economy – instead of just letting the money sit around for years without being spent.”

Jon Golnik and Sam Meas, two of Tsongas’s conservative challengers, favor legislation to extend benefits without adding to the deficit. While crafting a “deficit-neutral” bill is laudable, a potential problem is that it could take a long time to frame it and gain majority support. Thursday’s bill took months to resolve before any semblance of a package could be passed. Given the high demand for benefits, it seems unlikely that the public would wait a long time for a solution. The problem for any candidate right now is to create popular economic solutions in as little time possible.