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Maginn hires third from GOP

Party chairman taps ex-official as firm consultant

The chairman of the Massachusetts Republican Party, who came under fire last month for hiring two former US representatives at his software firm, has tapped another Republican to work for the company.

The chairman, Robert A. Maginn Jr., has hired Rob Willington, a former executive director of the state party, to consult for Jenzabar Inc. at the same time that he is expected to work for the party at no net cost.

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Willington will be updating the party’s digital media plan “at zero net cost to our party operations,’’ Maginn told fellow Republicans in an e-mail message last month. The party’s new website went live last week.

State campaign finance laws prohibit corporate funding of political activity, and no donations - of money, time, or services - are permitted, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance.

“Corporations cannot provide goods or services to a political committee without compensation. An employee’s time is a good or service,’’ said Jason Tait, a spokesman for the office.

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Maginn, elected chairman in November, raised eyebrows at the end of last year when the Globe reported that he had hired two former US representatives, Peter Blute and Peter Torkildsen, at his software firm. Blute said he would serve as Maginn’s unpaid deputy chairman at the MassGOP. Those hirings triggered questions about whether Maginn used resources from his privately held business to push political pursuits.

Maginn did not return calls for comment on his hiring of Willington. A party spokesman, Tim Buckley, said Willington is not working for the party free of charge. His consulting firm, Swiftcurrent Strategies, is being paid by the Massachusetts GOP, Buckley said. But his services are expected to raise more money for the party than they cost.

“We expect Swiftcurrent to expand and enhance our fund-raising efforts beyond the value of the contract, providing a net benefit to the party,’’ Buckley said.

Last year, Willington received $4,000 a month for website service and design for Senator Scott Brown’s reelection campaign, federal campaign finance records show.

Buckley did not explain Willington’s relationship with Jenzabar. “I have no idea,’’ he said. “I’m not Jenzabar.’’

Neither Willington nor a Jenzabar spokeswoman returned repeated calls from the Globe.

The hirings are not the only connection between the Massachusetts Republican Party and Maginn’s Boston software company. On Jan. 14, the company rented a $30,000 luxury suite at Gillette Stadium for the New England Patriots’ divisional playoff game against the Denver Broncos, hosting Brown, two of his aides, and other Republicans at the MassGOP’s expense. Buckley, of the GOP, called the event a fund-raiser and said the GOP would pay for the cost of the tickets and a portion of the food.

And on Friday, Jenzabar’s Prudential Center office was the site of a fund-raiser for Brown, who arrived in his trademark barn jacket. The invitation to the fund-raiser listed Maginn’s corporate assistant as an RSVP contact.

Asked why the contact for a political event is a corporate assistant, Brown’s spokesman Colin Reed said: “The Brown campaign finance team organizes fund-raisers for Senator Brown in conjunction with event hosts in full compliance with federal election law.’’

Senate candidates like Brown are governed by federal campaign finance laws that allow contact and some work between corporations and candidates.

Reed said that Brown’s campaign would be the sole beneficiary of the event.

But plans were murky in the weeks leading up to it. Maginn originally invited state committee members to the fund-raiser with an e-mail saying he also planned to donate the maximum $500 contribution to the House and Senate state political action committees and that he would “encourage those attending to do the same.’’

Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr, the ranking Republican in the state Legislature, said a week earlier that he still expected House and Senate Republican political action committees to benefit.

Under state campaign finance laws - which govern legislative candidates - corporations are not allowed to directly or indirectly give anything of value to help a candidate’s election, and campaigns are expected to cover the costs of fund-raisers, including paying for the use of space. Corporations cannot subsidize fund-raisers.

Buckley would not specify the cost of the event, or say whether the party will reimburse Jenzabar.

Maginn, who has helped lead presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s finance team, campaigned for the chairmanship as a prolific fund-raiser and has begun drawing in thousands in of donations. He donated $5,000 to the state GOP in December and under his leadership this month, the party took in $30,000, including $5,000 contributions from each of two Jenzabar vice presidents who live in Tennessee and New York and another $5,000 from Blute, according to state campaign finance reports.

Blute said in an interview that he and Torkildsen are working on a “business development project’’ for Jenzabar that he could not discuss because it is proprietary. He said he is working as a consultant and not directly for Jenzabar.

Both Blute and Torkildsen said in interviews that they are not doing political work for Jenzabar. “It’s two different things,’’ Torkildsen said.

Stephanie Ebbert can be reached at ebbert@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @stephanieebbert.
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