Boston fiscal watchdog calls on state to investigate law firm’s donations to Dems
By Evan Lips | October 31, 2016, 17:15 EDT
BOSTON — Startling revelations stemming from a Boston Globe report linking a leading House Democrat’s abrupt resignation to his law office’s bonuses-for-political-donations scheme has prompted the nonprofit watchdog Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance to call on the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance to investigate.
In a bit of irony that is no doubt delicious for MFA and its founder, Paul Diego Craney, the lawmaker at the heart of the Globe expose happens to be former state Rep. Garrett Bradley (D-Hingham), who had been part of a task force assembled by House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) which in 2014 drafted a law requiring that the names of donors contributing more than $5,000 appear on any direct mailings targeting elected officials.
Craney said Monday that the bill was “obviously” aimed at stopping MFA, which has gained notoriety among lawmakers for its “legislative scorecard” mailers they say “target” them by directing voters to review their legislative record:
— Jamie Eldridge (@JamieEldridgeMA) October 18, 2016
The measure, introduced by Bradley, passed on the last day of the most recent legislative session and was signed into law on Aug. 9. According to a State House News transcript of the floor debate involving Bradley’s bill, the Hingham Democrat argued that “transparency in our campaign finance and election laws is vital to the health of our representative democracy” and added that “closing legal loopholes that could be abused in our current laws allows the public to better keep track of which organizations are contacting them during elections as well as who helps to fund them.”
Bradley, a senior House member, resigned from his position after the legislative session ended, saying ahead of his resignation that he wanted to take on a “more senior role” at his Boston-based law firm. Bradley told the State House News Service he “would never not put one hundred percent” into his role as a lawmaker and stressed he could “see over the balance of this year and into the coming years I wouldn’t have time to do this job the way it should be done.”
The Globe’s explosive report thoroughly questions Bradley’s true motive for leaving Beacon Hill:
— Todd Wallack (@TWallack) October 30, 2016
According to the Globe, the Thornton Law Firm reimbursed its partners’ campaign donations to specific Democrats with bonuses. The report noted that between 2010 and 2014, the firm gave almost $1.6 million to politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other Democrats while reimbursing its partners with about $1.4 million — with “more than 280 of the contributions precisely matched to bonuses that were paid within 10 days.”
On his personal website, Bradley boasted about his work passing a series of campaign finance disclosure bills, including the one targeting MFA.
“Transparency in our campaign finance and election laws is vital to the health of our representative democracy”, Bradley declared in his prepared statement. “Closing legal loopholes that could be abused in our current laws allows the public to better keep track of which organizations are contacting them during elections as well as who helps to fund them.”
Reminded about these types of statements during an interview on Monday, Craney responded.
“Talk about arrogance to the worst degree,” Craney said. “Once this is all out there and people get to look at is more closely, I have a feeling this is going to go down in the record books as the worst campaign violation by a single lawmaker ever in Massachusetts.”
Baker told reporters he hopes that OCPF launches an investigation. Asked if he thinks candidates who were on the receiving end of Thornton Law Firm donations should return the money, Baker said, “I think people should make their own decisions.”
“I think there’s no doubt that a lot of the folks who may have gotten contributions from that firm probably have no idea about the inner-workings of how those organizations actually work,” Baker added. “But it’s now obviously become a public record, as it was in the paper yesterday, and I think people need to make their own call with respect to that.”
New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte in a grueling campaign, made her own call Monday morning by immediately returning a $51,000 Thornton Law Firm donation.
Craney called on other beneficiaries to return Thornton campaign donations.
“Often times they like to persecute what they call dark money,” he said. “They can start with themselves, and remove this dark money from their campaigns.”