AG Healey To Appoint Special Prosecutor To Investigate Alleged Dem Donor Scheme

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BOSTON — Attorney General Maura Healey will appoint a special prosecutor to investigate a prominent Hub law firm’s track record of paying back its lawyers and spouses for donations made to both Massachusetts and national Democrats after state campaign finance officials directed her office to take up the matter.

Healey, in addition, will recuse herself from all probes into the dealings of the Thornton Law Firm, according to a recent Boston Globe report.  

According to state campaign finance records, Healey was one of dozens of prominent Democrats that Thornton Law funnelled money to, all while cloaking the origin of the cash — which came from the firm’s lawyers and their spouses, and not the firm itself, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

Healey received $4,500 in donations from Thornton Law but returned the money after the Globe ran an expose in October. Healey had also called on OCPF to investigate after the news spread across Beacon Hill.

Republicans on Beacon Hill, including Norfolk state Representative Shawn Dooley, had called on Healey to recuse herself from the investigation. On Friday Dooley sent a letter to Healey requesting that she appoint a special prosecutor.

“I respectfully request that you recuse yourself and your office from this investigation due to the fact that you were the recipient of monies from the Thornton Law Firm,” Dooley wrote. “While I am confident that you had no knowledge that contributions might be illegal, I’m sure you agree that it is best to eliminate even the appearance of impropriety.”

Dooley, a Republican, also pointed out that the dealings also involved “a member of House leadership at the time of the alleged conduct.”

Dooley did identify him by name, but Garrett Bradley, a top attorney at the firm, unexpectedly stepped down last July from his post as a Democratic state representative serving Hingham. Bradley had previously been appointed by House Speaker Robert DeLeo (D-Winthrop) to lead a joint committee tasked with monitoring election laws, and had previously sponsored a bill aimed at forcing the disclosure of the identity of those donating to so-called “electioneering” organizations.

Jillian Fennimore, a spokesman for Healey, issued an official statement over the weekend.

“In the best interest of this case, and to avoid even the appearance of a conflict, we will appoint an independent prosecutor if a referral is made to our office,” Fennimore stated.

Healey has made national headlines over the past few months by lodging legal challenges at policies enacted under Republican President Donald Trump, in addition to her involvement in pushing for a civil investigation demand that seeks to prove that scientists for energy giant ExxonMobil knew about the company’s role in contributing to climate change as far back as the 1970s.

Most recently, Healey quickly joined the group of prominent Democrats demanding the resignation of Republican U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions after reports surfaced that the former senator from Alabama met twice with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak during the recent presidential campaign. Sessions had previously testified during his Senate confirmation hearing that he did not have contact with the Russian government while helping out Trump’s campaign.

Sessions has maintained that his meetings with Kislyak constituted normal day-to-day Senate business and had nothing to do with the presidential election campaign. Healey, who has been a frequent critic of Sessions, pounced on the development:

Healey’s recusal from the Thornton Law investigation, however, means she will not have to wield the same bright spotlight on a law firm that has funneled big bucks to Democrats.