A letter of inquiry has been sent to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) by a Berkshire County resident regarding the legality of a letter sent Nov. 29, 2010, to congressional candidate Andrea Nuciforo by 23 local Democrats calling themselves “Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County,” The Planet has learned.

The letter ratchets up the controversy regarding what many perceive as an attempt by the “Concerned Democrats” to strong-arm Nuciforo out of the 2012 1st District congressional race. The Planet obtained a copy of the private letter sent to Nuciforo by “Concerned Democrats,” who used the E. Housatonic Street address of former state rep. Sherwood Guernsey’s law firm.

Guernsey and L. Lee Harris were the two principle signatories, and 21 others, many of them prominent Democrats, signed. Nuciforo replied that he would not withdraw from the race. See The Planet’s posts from Jan. 4 and 7 for more of the background.

Here is a copy of the inquiry letter obtained by The Planet from an authoritative source. The letter was supposed to be Top Secret, and we can’t say how we got this, but please, don’t tell anyone you know about it! We have redacted the name:


TO: Federal Elections Commission


SUBJECT: Influencing an election

Sir or Madam:

I am looking for clarification regarding the requirements for an independent committee or a PAC as outlined in the material facts below.

On or about November 29, 2010, the “Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County” circulated a letter amongst some or all of their membership in an effort to persuade a candidate, Andrea Nuciforo, not to run for office during the upcoming election cycle.

Mr. Nuciforo has in fact filed the necessary paperwork and was issued an ID number etc.

The questions that flow from such a letter appended hereunto for your viewing are:

1.     Would the “Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County” be or have to be an Independent committee?

2.     They must have expenses as they have an address. They have circulated the letter to Mr. Nuciforo and to at least 23 individuals for their signature, method unknown, be it fax, e-mail or hand delivery. Whichever the method of delivery,  there would be costs associated with this as well as the letter being typed, not hand written, indicating a level of office equipment maintained at the address listed.

3.     I have as yet no reason to believe that the current representative, Mr. John Olver, has any knowledge of this activity, further suggesting that “Concerned Democrats” are required to register as a 527 political action committee.

4.     Most of the signatures on the letter to said Mr. Nuciforo are those of either currently elected and serving members of governmental agencies ( State Reps, City Councilors etc.) or former members of Governmental members.

Any help you could provide to us, the Citizens of Berkshire County and the larger congressional district, as to the requirements for such a group would help us to ensure a clean and open election. If there are no requirements, we would appreciate hearing that as well.

Thank you in advance for your time.


The Planet will stay on this story, and if the FEC responds to the inquiry, we shall try to obtain a copy of their opinion. Normally, a process like this would then advance to a formal protest if the FEC advised that the “Concerned” letter to Nuciforo was an attempt to illegally influence an election.

We are not trying to influence a congressional election, a ridiculous claim made by one of the Gang of 23. We aren’t pushing the candidacy of anyone in this race. We have not taken money for any candidate in this race for writing services. These and other hysterical charges have been made. Nonsense.

The Planet’s sole concern is that a legitimate, credible candidate has been bullied in a flagrant attempt to get him to withdraw against a long-time incumbent. This tell us that the “Concerned Democrats” fear Nuciforo’s bid. If not, if they had determined that he was a space shot and unable to compete financially or organizationally, they wouldn’t have attempted this political hit.

Another View of the FEC Letter

"Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County": Shades of Boss Tweed and Tammany.

To get another view of the letter to the DEC, we went to a prominent Pittsfield legal source, who requested anonymity: “This is interesting to say the least. The FEC will probably want to know what is the ‘Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County’?  Are they a PAC a 529? Do they contribute money? They are certainly attempting to influence an election, aren’t they? Are they registered as a PAC 529, a voter education group, or none of the above? Are they one of those behind-the-scenes smoke-filled room gang aka Boss Tweed that McCain-Feingold [congressional legislation on finance reform] was to get rid of?”

“Lettergate” gets more interesting by the moment, eh?


Quick Hits and Other Fits

Colonial News


The Pittsfield Colonials had a huge week, unveiling Jamie Keefe as their new manager, issuing the expanded 2011 schedule, telling us of other events at Wahconah Park the club will be promoting when the team is on the road, detailing stadium upgrades, and otherwise continuing good on their word of a relentless off-season marketing push. It remains to be seen what effect this has on the all-important bottom line (attendance), but it shows the organization living up to its word. Credibility is all. We judge by actions, not on hearsay.

The Planet is specially excited to learn that the comatose mascot Captain Colonial, in the words of owner Buddy Lewis, has been “busted to private and drummed out” of the corps. There will be a New Captain Colonial, who will be augmented by the antics of a mascot. If the new mascots show even the movement of molasses in a subfreeze, it will be an upgrade. Our spies tell us The Old Captain Colonial has been living at Soldier On, where he is gumming his oatmeal in drools.

J-Lo Appoints a New Mayor

LOTHROP as Barney Fife

We call it the Barney Fife Syndrome, where a wannabe gets appointment to a position, usually a rinky-dink one, and then thinks he’s General McArthur. Since we have long ago stopped looking into other people’s souls (a talent we learned in metaphysics class) and therefore cannot attribute motivation, we can only comment on action.

After the most recent snowstorm, Pittsfield plow jockeys, riding under the crop of city consultant John Barrett III, came up aces. New York City ‘s snow removal under the direction of Mayor Michael Bloomberg didn’t fare so well, with numerous complaints. This prompted city councilor Jonathan Lothrop to comment: “Mayor Barrett 1, Mayor Bloomberg 0.”

J-Lo, who’s got his nose so far up and in that he can’t smell the flowers, thus promoted Barrett to mayor of Pittsfield. J-Lo is a a ward councilor in a small city, and he takes upon himself the powers of a presidency. Planet to J-Lo: Get the nose out, straightened up, and start living up to your oath of office. You pledged to represent your constituents to the best of your ability, so when are we going to see it?

If you had no talent, we’d go easy on you. However, you, our Right Honorable Good Friend, have the curse of potential.  Ask any student who’s taken a class from Prof. Planet. If you got the goods and you don’t deliver them, you get a rough ride into the boards.

Strawberry Fields Today

Whilst driving to the landfill, The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever” came on the CD. The line: “No more laughing kids in my tree” struck me as the saddest, most wistful lyric I’ve ever heard. It’s long struck me this way.

John Lennon, in reflecting on his playful past as a boy, hit upon that lost chord for all of us. What adult doesn’t miss playing in trees, messing about with childhood friends, and — if your childhood was a good one — wondering about those innocent days?

With that, we share a verse from one of our favorite poets, Matthew Arnold:

For early did you leave the world, with powers / fresh, undelivered to the world without, / firm to their mark, not spent on other things; / free from the sick fatigue, the languid doubt, / which much to have tried, in much been baffled, bring / O life unlike to ours!

From “The Scholar Gipsey”




  1. Canyon Raunch
    January 15, 2011 at 2:37 pm #

    The “Concerned Dem” letter has backfired, it seems. I will vote to Nuciforo if nothing else than on principle. I would urge others to do the same. This coverage has been a nice intrepid piece of expose and reporting. Credit to this site.

  2. Jim Gleason
    January 15, 2011 at 3:12 pm #

    In his overly syrupy praise, Lothrop also said barrett is smarter than Bloomberg. C’mon, man. To compare a billionaire Mayor of NYC’s smarts to those of a dumped ex-mayor of North Adams is ludicrous at best. As you said ,Dan, he (Lothrop) has his nose so far up there he can’t even turn his head. Don’t make ridiculous statements Lothrop, leave that to Krol, he’s good at it.

  3. tim
    January 15, 2011 at 3:27 pm #

    Dan, Please tell me that the FEC doesn’t have better things to do than look into a letter that basicly says nothing. Please tell me they have more IMPORTANT things to do than this! By the way I would say your praise of Mr. Nuciforo is border line obsessive. Are you on his campaign committee?

    • danvalenti
      January 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      As a commentator said below, the FEC can make up its own mind about whether this letter is a waste of time or not. If you read my post, you will see I address ridiculous rumors such as being on Andy’s campaign committee. I have no dog in this fight except the truth, and the truth is, there’s been an attempt to hijack this election two years before the vote. The Planet stands against that. We are for Truth, Justice, and the Planetary Way.

  4. Jonathan Melle
    January 15, 2011 at 4:15 pm #

    Andrea Nuciforo is running for Congress to serve Boston area big banks and insurance companies he raised 6 figures from. Nuciforo is not fooling anyone but himself (and possibly Dan Valenti).

    • Rivetor
      January 15, 2011 at 5:22 pm #

      @tim that’s why the FEC exists among other reasons, to prevent election tampering. you are obviously one of the ones who have a hard time with this site because it might be hitting too close to home. as for the majority were glad to have the planet on our side. valenti is the one media place in town that doesn’t rely on the usual fluff and cotton candy the rest of the media swallow.

      • Scott Laugenour
        January 15, 2011 at 5:38 pm #


      • Scott Laugenour
        January 15, 2011 at 5:39 pm #

        State law is very clear. Any group that spends money to support or attack a candidate must register as a PAC.

  5. Bill Sturgeon
    January 15, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    “Better late than never,” as the quote goes. I want to thank you for your observations concerning Mike Ward. I too believe he has been a wonderful councilor and I will miss him.


    • danvalenti
      January 15, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

      Appreciate it. Keep up the good work at BRK.

  6. No Reply
    January 15, 2011 at 9:19 pm #

    Courtesy of the work of The Planet I read the letter the committee sent to Nuciforo and his letter to them. Now this letter which if i understand is only asking the fed elec commish. for an opinion. whats wrong with that? i agree with scott l. the committee is clearly supporting a candidate olver and atatcking a candidate nuciforo. must be registered as a pac. whoever is filing the letter is doing us all a good deed.

  7. GMHeller
    January 16, 2011 at 12:45 am #

    Mr. Valenti,

    The political neophyte filing that inquiry with FEC is plainly wasting his and FEC’s time.
    Where is the law/regulation that says an ad hoc group of private citizens, which is what the “Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County” actually is, is required to file reports with FEC and/or with any other federal or state agency?

    CDBC’s letter to Andrea Nuciforo appears nothing more than the logical outcome of citizens availing themselves of the right to associate.

    Mr. Nuciforo is certainly under no obligation even to respond, so what’s the real beef?

    I’m no Liberal Democrat, but it sounds to me as though Mr. Nuciforo just doesn’t like the proverbial heat in the local Democrat Party kitchen.
    There’s a simple course of action open to him which would immediately remedy his discomfort.

    • danvalenti
      January 16, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

      First, I assure you the letter writer is not a political neophyte.
      Second, how do you know what the “Concerned Dems” is an “ad hoc group of private citizens.” You are making an unwarranted assumption.You have no way of knowing.
      Third, you pretend that the 23 are just some random, civic-minded people. They are not. They represent a core of factionalism, unless you think that current and former office holders have no other stake except for civic expression. If you think that, I would ask then who is being naive?
      Fourth, You have the heat wrong. It seems, based on the evidence, that the local Dem establishment can’t stand the heat that would come from a credible challenge to the long-standing incumbent. Perhaps you can share an easy remedy for the 23, because Andy is not in need of one.

      • GMHeller
        January 18, 2011 at 6:04 pm #

        Mr. Valenti,

        Seems to me that had Andrea Nuciforo truly wanted to keep the so-called Concerned Democrats of Berkshire County guessing, that he would not have responded at all to the CDBC’s letter.
        All that Mr. Nucifor did was to show the opposition that their letter rattled him enough to respond.
        No response from Mr. Nuciforo would have left the other side really wondering.
        As the proverb goes: “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt.”

        • danvalenti
          January 19, 2011 at 10:36 am #

          Perhaps, Glenn, but the counter to that is outright rejection of their “kind offer.” That puts an end to it, short and sweet. This is stronger than the passive-aggressive approach you suggest. Obviously, Nuciforo feels he doesn’t have to play the “keep em wondering” game.

  8. REX
    January 16, 2011 at 5:11 pm #

    This is an interesting discussion.You’ve had a couple people ask why the letter writer would ask an opinion of the FEC. That’s an incredible question. What’s wrong with the inquiry. From what I read of the letter, no accusations are being made. The writer as are others is unsure if the CDBC letter is okay. Really, “redacted” should be applauded for the effort.

  9. Joe Pinhead
    January 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm #

    Guilty of the greatest crime in the Berkshires, Asking questions that guy / girl has got some nerve. Rather than make out right charges someone wants to inquire.