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Political Intelligence

2 ex-lawmakers gain after GOP battle

Kayana Szymczak for the Boston Globe

Robert Maginn won a battle for the state GOP chairmanship, and soon after hired two political allies as consultants.

If there has been a prize lately in Massachusetts Republican circles, political office aside, it has been the chairmanship of the state party.

With Mitt Romney a strong contender for the GOP’s 2012 presidential nomination, and Scott Brown likely to battle Elizabeth Warren in one of the country’s most high-profile US Senate races, there will be special demands on the chairman’s post during the next year.

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Not only will the chairman be the touchstone for national reporters interested in assessing Romney or Brown’s chances, but the person holding that post will also be a prominent figure at next year’s Republican National Convention in Tampa - conceivably announcing Romney’s nomination during the delegate count.

Most significantly, the chairman will be the ultimate decider about how to dispense state and federal campaign dollars collected by the local GOP.

With so much at stake, it’s no wonder both Romney and Brown were interested in the outcome of the race to succeed Jennifer Nassour, who stepped down as chairwoman in late October while preparing to have another child in February.

With so much at stake, it’s also no surprise a number of people were interested in the job.

And with so much at stake, it explains why Romney and Brown - who share the same team of top political advisers - rallied party activists behind their preferred candidate, Robert Maginn.

In a Nov. 30 meeting of party activists, Maginn, a Belmont resident and unsuccessful candidate for state treasurer in 1998, defeated former US attorney Frank McNamara by a 51-to-21 vote.

That result, however, apparently has not just profited Maginn from the perspective of political clout. It also appears to have financially benefited two other well-known state Republicans.

Former Representative Peter Blute, who considered challenging Maginn for the chairmanship, and his fellow former congressman Peter Torkildsen, a past party chairman who helped steer Maginn to victory over McNamara, now have secured paid consulting contracts with Maginn’s company, Jenzabar Inc.

The Boston-based company was founded by Maginn’s wife, Ling Chai, a former Chinese dissident. It sells software that colleges and universities use for everything from student registration and business affairs to alumni fund-raising.

The hirings have triggered grumblings that Maginn used the bounty of his privately held business to engineer success in his personal political pursuits.

Neither Blute nor Torkildsen have a software background. Blute worked most recently as a talk-radio host, while Torkildsen worked in business development for an ophthalmology research company.

Blute, whom Maginn has also tapped to fill an unpaid post as the party’s deputy chairman, told the Globe his consulting contract at Jenzabar had no connection to the chairmanship race.

“It was more in connection to our contacts as former members of Congress,’’ said Blute, who served in the House alongside Torkildsen from 1993 to 1997. “For example, there are many former members of Congress who are now college presidents.’’

Blute also said he has been working for Maginn “the last few months.’’

A Jenzabar spokeswoman had a different timeline, saying both Blute and Torkildsen were brought on as consultants after the chairmanship election.

Torkildsen said he was simply repaying a favor to Maginn when he helped him with his campaign.

“He was very helpful to me when I ran for Congress, so I am more than happy to help him out,’’ said Torkildsen.

Was there spillover from the political endeavor to their business relationship?

“Well, I don’t know that ‘spillover’ is an accurate description at all,’’ said Torkildsen.

The Jenzabar spokeswoman, Carina Ganias, said Blute and Torkildsen are not Jenzabar employees but company consultants.

She said they will be working on business development projects with Jenzabar’s vice president of sales and marketing.

“They’re not working directly with Bob,’’ said Ganias.

Rumors swirl about possible candidates

Some interesting names are flying around as potential 2012 congressional candidates.

The North Shore is abuzz with talk that Salem’s mayor, Kim Driscoll, is considering a Democratic primary challenge to incumbent Representative John Tierney.

Driscoll laughed off - but did not dismiss - the question during a Twitter exchange.

Meanwhile, former Brookline selectwoman and lieutenant governor candidate Deborah Goldberg apparently has no such reticence.

She was openly telling people at Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Christmas party she will run for the seat of retiring Representative Barney Frank.

Glen Johnson is lead blogger for Political Intelligence, available online at www.boston.com /politics. He can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
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