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July 5, 2014

Meehan still spreads campaign leftovers years after leaving office

(Continued)

Meehan, 57, was first elected to Congress in 1992, succeeding Chester Atkins in a district that included parts of the Merrimack Valley and his native Lowell.

He resigned in July 2007 to accept the chancellor’s job at UMass Lowell, his alma mater.

While he has been mentioned as a potential candidate for governor or U.S. Senate, Meehan said he isn’t holding onto the campaign money as part of a plan to return to politics.

“The more years that go by, the less likely it is that I will run for office again,” he said.

Separately, Meehan has given more than $23,000 of his own money since 2008 to state lawmakers including House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Theresa Murray, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Rep. Brian Dempsey, a Haverhill Democrat who chairs the House Ways and Means Committee that shepherds budget bills through the Legislature, has received $1,000 from Meehan in recent years. Dempsey is also a UMass Lowell graduate.

Michael Goldman, a longtime Democratic political consultant, said Meehan’s contributions benefit him as chancellor of UMass Lowell, especially with the campus competing against private universities for limited federal research grants.

“When people call him up for money, he gets to make a pitch to them for educational funding,” Goldman said. “It gives him a chance to make his case, but it doesn’t guarantee that he’s going to get what he wants.”

Meehan’s contributions to Democrats in Congress don’t appear to be paying off. Federal funds and contracts for UMass Lowell have remained largely flat since he took over – netting roughly $24 million in fiscal year 2014, according to state budget figures.

Meehan’s ties to state lawmakers, however, appear to have had a more measurable impact.

For the past two years lawmakers have boosted the UMass Lowell budget by millions of dollars — even above funding levels called for by Gov. Deval Patrick — allowing the five-campus system to freeze tuition increases.

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