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The Gloves Come Off Over Corporate Cash In Markey Vs. Kennedy

Sen. Ed Markey, left, and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (Elise Amendola, Josh Reynolds/AP)
Sen. Ed Markey, left, and Rep. Joe Kennedy III (Elise Amendola, Josh Reynolds/AP)

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As Washington focuses squarely on the formal impeachment process against President Trump — one the full Massachusetts delegation now supports — the gloves have come off in the state’s heavyweight U.S. Senate bout.

Oh, It’s On! Markey Hits Kennedy On Corporate PAC Cash

Sen. Ed Markey’s campaign released a video Thursday hitting Rep. Joe Kennedy III for his No Corporate PAC (political action committee) pledge, despite the Newton congressman’s past acceptance of donations from corporate campaign committees.

The video highlights more than $41,000 in corporate PAC cash Kennedy took in during June, in the run-up to his Senate campaign, and the $1.9 million he’s taken from such groups since he’s been in Congress.

"Congressman Kennedy is not being straight with the people of Massachusetts about corporate PAC contributions and his accusations in this race. People should take a look at the facts for themselves," Markey’s senior campaign director, John Walsh, said in a statement.

Kennedy campaign spokeswoman Emily Kaufman acknowledged his past acceptance of corporate PAC money.

"He took the No Corporate PAC pledge in early September, prior to entering the Senate race, after hearing from voters loud and clear about how important this issue was to them,” Kaufman said. “He encourages Sen. Markey to follow his lead and sign the pledge, as well as accept the People's Pledge to keep all dark money out of the primary race."

But a source close to Kennedy noted that the Malden senator himself has flip-flopped on the corporate pledge. As a congressman, Markey chose not to accept corporate PAC funds in 1984, but reversed course in 2003 when he mulled a bid for then-Sen. John Kerry’s seat. In all, from 2003 to 2012, Markey’s total haul from corporate PACs exceeded $2.7 million.

This fight's just getting started, folks…

Lawmakers Hail Cannabis Banking Bill — But Call For MORE

(Jesse Costa/WBUR)
(Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The U.S. House on Wednesday passed the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow cannabis businesses to use federally insured banks in states — like Massachusetts — where marijuana is legal.

All Massachusetts representatives backed the bill. But several said the law should go further.

“While I was proud to support this narrowly tailored bill, I believe we must also prioritize restorative justice reforms required to make amends with the communities most impacted by bad drug policies,” Rep. Ayanna Pressley said. “If we are to truly address the injustice of the War on Drugs, we must remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, invest in communities most impacted by past and present policies, and expunge the records of those convicted of marijuana related offenses.”

She urged passage of the MORE Act, which would federally decriminalize marijuana.

Rep. Jim McGovern echoed the sentiment.

“Now, we need to decriminalize and deschedule cannabis while providing reinvestment, restorative justice & expungement to persons & communities of color that continue to be adversely impacted by the War on Drugs,” the Worcester Democrat tweeted.

Chances of either bill passing the Republican-led Senate remain slim to none.

Lawmakers Knock Columbia Gas After NTSB Merrimack Valley Explosion Findings

A view of the destruction following the September 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions (Courtesy of the NTSB)
A view of the destruction following the September 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions (Courtesy of the NTSB)

This week’s findings by the National Transportation Safety Board — laying the probable cause for last year’s deadly explosions on Columbia Gas’ “weak engineering management” and failure to use adequate protections — drew the ire of lawmakers.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren said Columbia Gas’ “mind-numbing negligence and blatant disregard for safety cost a young man his life, injured countless individuals, risked the lives of our first responders, and left thousands of Merrimack Valley residents without heat or hot water during some of the coldest months of the year.”

Rep. Lori Trahan said in a statement: “This preventable disaster is a tragic demonstration of the need for Congress to strengthen pipeline safety laws.”

Warren, Markey and Trahan introduced the Leonel Rondon Pipeline Safety Act, a bill named after the teenage victim of the blasts, to address the deficiencies outlined by the investigation into the accident.

While the NTSB cited negligence on the part of Columbia Gas, it also praised parent company NiSource and Massachusetts officials for their assistance in the investigation.

3 More Things:

— Warren Targets Collins: Warren isn’t just focusing her presidential campaign staffing and ad buys in early primary states. Her campaign is setting up shop in Maine too — a clear sign she’s targeting Republican Sen. Susan Collins in an effort to flip that competitive seat blue.

“If we want to make big, structural change, we need to make sure Democrats control the U.S. House and Senate and win important gubernatorial and state legislative races across the country,” Warren campaign manager Roger Lau said in an email to supporters.

— The Debate Everybody Missed: There was a presidential debate this week, but you’d be forgiven if you didn’t know.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld faced off with former Illinois Rep. Joe Walsh in a debate hosted by Business Insider, in which they focused mostly on blasting Trump.

Neither Trump nor former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford participated.

— Markey And Clark Push To Boost Fentanyl Mail Screening: Amid the ongoing opioid crisis — in which fentanyl is present in the vast majority of fatal overdoses in Massachusetts — Markey and Rep. Katherine Clark have introduced legislation to mandate 100% screening of all inbound international mail and express cargo from high-risk countries for illicit fentanyl and other illicit synthetic opioids.

On My Radar

— The tick tock of how House Speaker Nancy Pelosi went from warning against impeachment proceedings to completely embracing them (Politico)

— How Rudolph Giuliani, a private citizen, became Trump’s point person on Ukraine, sidelining foreign policy officials (The Washington Post)

— The Department of Homeland Security is finally going after white supremacists. It’s not going to be simple. (The Atlantic)

Quotation Of The Week

“This is an attack on the Constitution, actively, by the president. This is an attempt to interfere with our election using a foreign power to do that. And this is a clear violation of the rule of law.”

Rep. Stephen Lynch, speaking to Radio Boston about why he called for impeachment proceedings against Trump, becoming the last member of the Massachusetts delegation to do so

Related:

Kimberly Atkins Twitter Senior News Correspondent
Kimberly Atkins is a senior news correspondent for WBUR, covering national political news from Washington, D.C., with a New England focus.

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