Neal dogged by story of AIG party



Staff Writer
Published: 11/9/2019 2:14:15 PM

HOLYOKE — As 2019 elections come to an end, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and challenger Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse are still embroiled in their 2020 Democratic primary race for the 1st Congressional District seat. And Neal has recently come under fire for his ties to large corporations.

One recent story was picked up by news outlets across the state and country, as well as by Morse: an expose by Politico that said Neal presided over a 100th birthday party for the insurance giant American International Group, or AIG, inside the House Ways and Means Committee hearing room.

Describing AIG as “once one of the most scorned corporations on Capitol Hill for its pivotal role in the financial crisis,” Politico’s story noted the $180 billion taxpayer bailout the company received in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

The report described AIG’s birthday in the Ways and Means hearing room as a swanky, packed reception where senior House members from both parties rubbed shoulders with finance industry lobbyists.

“The lawmakers and executives who spoke at the event made no mention of the company’s controversial bailout and instead focused on things like retirement savings legislation, which is a high priority for Neal and the insurance industry,” Politico reporter Zachary Warmbrodt wrote. “The celebration is the latest sign that memories of the 2008 market meltdown have faded in Washington.”

Morse, Neal’s challenger for the seat he has held for three decades, was quick to criticize Neal for the birthday bash thrown in his committee’s chambers. In an interview, he said the event is an example of congressional members’ overly cozy relationship with corporate America.

“Congressman Neal talks a lot about how he knows how Washington works,” Morse said. “He thinks it works when companies like AIG have unfettered access to the halls of Congress and the halls of power.”

In a statement emailed Friday to the Gazette, Neal spokesman William Tranghese said Neal has served as a watchdog of the financial sector “to ensure that investments made with American tax dollars will never again be wasted.”

“The Chairman made a brief appearance at the event and gave informal welcoming remarks to a company that employs 400 people in Massachusetts, some of whom live in western Massachusetts,” Tranghese wrote. “He was not the host. It is well known that public rooms on Capitol Hill are used for receptions virtually every night Congress is in session.”

Neal has received the second-highest amount of corporate PAC money of any House candidate in the 2020 election cycle, according to figures from the Center for Responsive Politics. Neal has raised $1,099,053 from business PACs thus far in the 2020 cycle, with $126,800 coming from the insurance industry, according to the site.

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