Meehan stockpiling cash for future political run?

Congressman-turned-university chancellor says elected office may yet be in his future

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A cool $4.7 million could buy you Dodgers pitcher Zack Greinke's new compound.

Or this cyclotron.

Or — yes — the original Batmobile.

For ex-Rep. Marty Meehan, such a cash stash ($4,661,671, to be exact, according to a new federal campaign disclosure report) sits quietly in a congressional campaign account the Massachusetts Democrat hasn't had much need for since he resigned from Congress in 2007 to become chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell.

But Meehan may yet use the money for its intended purpose: seeking elected office.

"I have no immediate plans, but I'm only 56 years old," he told the Center for Public Integrity by phone. "I haven't made a firm decision, I haven't decided I could never be a candidate for office again."

Any run for higher office, if one ever occurred, would likely come years from now, Meehan said.

"If you're trying to have a transformative impact on a university, that usually takes about 10 years," he said. "I'm very happy doing what I'm doing."

Meehan recently was the subject of brief but intense speculation that he'd seek the U.S. Senate seat John Kerry vacated in January to become Secretary of State. He did not run, telling The Eagle-Tribune in December: "I’m not thinking of leaving to go back into politics in Washington.”

Immediate federal-level options in Massachusetts beyond U.S. House seats are scant: Kerry's former seat is slated to be filled in a June special election, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., just began her six-year term in January.

Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick's current term expires in 2015 and he's pledged not to seek a third term.

But Massachusetts campaign finance law prohibits transfers of federal campaign cash to state-level candidate committees, meaning Meehan couldn't easily tap his stash. Massachusetts law does state that a state-level candidate may "coordinate arrangements, with a federal committee that refunds contributions pursuant to federal law, for a solicitation of the same contributors by the candidate's committee."

For now, Meehan — long a campaign finance reform advocate — says he won't convert his federal campaign committee into a super PAC or other such big-dollar political vehicle, even if he one day categorically decides against re-entering electoral politics.

If anything, he says he'd donate his leftover campaign funds to charities, or perhaps give some away to Democratic brethren, as he has to a modest degree in recent years.

Meehan is co-author of the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill of 2002, which served as the House of Representatives companion to the better-known McCain-Feingold Act, also known as the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision was a setback for reform, leading to the creation of free-spending organizations known as super PACs.

Meehan said such organizations are "bad for the system."

 He says he'd love to see the ratification of a constitutional amendment overturning the Citizens United decision.

"But I look at the composition of the Congress and this seems unlikely — very unlikely," Meehan said. "There would have to be a change in the composition of the [Supreme] Court for something to happen."