Baker steps away from letter soliciting donations

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BOSTON – Defending himself against accusations that his campaign team was trying to sell access to special interest donors, Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday said his administration would continue to have an “open door” policy, and suggested he has not lost interest in campaign finance reform.

“I reject the premise that somehow we play favorites, because we don’t and we’re studious about that,” Baker told reporters, reacting to reports earlier in the day that his finance team had sent a letter soliciting donations from political action committees. The letter reportedly offered “meetings, one-on-one calls, and fund-raising events with Governor Baker and Lieutenant Governor [Karyn] Polito.”

“I didn’t write the letter and I didn’t see the letter until it showed up in the paper,” Baker said in response to questions about the solicitation. “What I would say is that one of the hallmarks of our administration, and I think anyone you talk to will vouch for me on this, is that we’re an open-door administration.”

Baker advisers said there is nothing unusual about a state committee or party seeking donations from political action committees, but Common Cause Massachusetts took issue with what it saw as Baker “overtly selling access to and influence with the Governor and Lt. Governor to Political Action Committees.”

“That is unacceptable,” said Pam Wilmot, the organization’s Massachusetts director. “Officeholders should not be making special deals for special interests. Fundraising schemes like the one highlighted in the Globe inappropriately tilt government away from average citizens and should be stopped.”

Asked whether he would request his finance team to remove the language in the fundraising letters offering access to his administration, Baker repeated, “I didn’t write the letter and I didn’t see the letter before it went out, but I certainly believe that we’re going to continue to be an open door administration. People who have serious matters before the commonwealth, whatever their party affiliation is, are going to continue to be able to talk to us, because that’s the way you make the best government.”

Baker also said that while snow, crises at the MBTA, reforming the Department of Children and Families and fighting opioid addiction consumed much of his administration’s focus over the first 16 months, he hasn’t forgotten about the comments he made days after his 2014 victory, when he pledged to seek campaign-finance law changes to remove what he considers to be built-in advantages for incumbents.

The governor has said he would like to change the system to allow donors to give maximum contributions once a cycle, or every two years, rather than annually.

“I’ve talked to the speaker about including campaign finance issues as part of the task force that he put together to look at conflict of interest issues and a few other issues like that and I’m sure we’ll be able to deal with it there and I look forward to it,” Baker said.

Written by Matt Murphy