BOSTON — For Democrats and charities, former Congressman Marty Meehan is the gift that keeps on giving.
Meehan left Congress in 2007 with nearly $5 million in his campaign war chest. Since then he has given $683,400 to Democrats and Congressional candidates in Nevada, Florida, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and other states, according to his reports to the Federal Election Commission.
That includes $210,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the fundraising arm of Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives, and $68,500 to the Massachusetts Democratic Party. But it doesn’t include thousands of dollars in personal contributions Meehan has made to state Democratic lawmakers.
Meehan, who left Congress to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, has also been generous to national and local charities. He’s given $349,055 from his campaign funds to nonprofits including Greater Lowell Music Theatre, The Salvation Army, The Jimmy Fund, The Immaculate Conception Church in Lowell, Lowell General Hospital, The Lowell Plan and dozens of other causes.
The biggest recipient of Meehan’s charity is a group that bears his own name — the Marty Meehan Educational Fund — and gives scholarships to Massachusetts college students who lost a parent or loved one in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Meehan’s largesse is more than just generosity, say political observers, who point out that his contributions to state and congressional lawmakers boost UMass Lowell’s profile, which can translate into funding for the state university.
Meehan, who spent 15 years in Congress, defends his use of the campaign money, accumulated over years of fundraising. He denies that he is lobbying by doling out the cash.
He says the expenses are legitimate and based on requests he receives from party officials and candidates, as well as charitable groups that know he’s sitting on a large sum of cash.
“The money would be gone by now if I responded to every request for funds,” said Meehan, who still has about $4.5 million in extra campaign cash. “We say no to as many people as we say yes to.”