Mayor-elect Martin J. Walsh’s fund-raising machine has continued to churn since his election this month, raising money for himself and a key member of his transition team even as they weigh decisions on city policies and hires.
Since Walsh won on Nov. 5, he has deposited at least $63,000 in his own campaign account from real estate developers, architects, and at least eight executives at construction firms. While
Walsh has also thrown his newfound prominence behind efforts by Charlotte Golar Richie, who finished third in the preliminary election, to liquidate a post-election debt she estimates at $50,000. Golar Richie, tapping into a host of new financial backers, several with links to Walsh, has raised $15,000 since being named a cochair of the new mayor’s transition team, a sort of shadow government in place until the inauguration in January.
On Tuesday, Walsh headlined a fund-raiser for Golar Richie at a Faneuil Hall bar, asking on her behalf for contributions of up to $500, the maximum allowed under state law.
Government watchdogs contacted by the Globe said that this interregnum — when a high volume of administration-building decisions and key hires are being made — is a time when officials should be extremely sensitive to even the perception of influence-peddling.
“This inherently creates a problem, a problem of appearance at the very least,” said Gregory W. Sullivan, research director of the Pioneer Institute who served 10 years as the state inspector general. “The Ethics Commission should be consulted right away.”
In an interview with the Globe on Friday, however, Walsh said he was not concerned about the propriety of the post-election solicitations.
“No, not at all. I hadn’t even thought about that until you just brought it up,” he said.
Walsh said he did not believe his campaign carried any debt, but that he would continue to raise money to help keep “as many people going through the holidays as possible” on his campaign payroll. He said advisers were developing a screening method for future contributions.
“We’re working on a better vetting process to make sure we’re very careful on where the money is coming from,” he said.
With political campaign costs rising, elected officials often have to start raising money almost immediately after the confetti flies on election night, said Ray La Raja, political science professor at University of Massachusetts Amherst. That can mean collecting checks while setting the course for a new administration.
“I think it’s fairly common, especially in places where elections cost so much money,” said La Raja, who is studying campaign finance laws. “But I absolutely think it raises ethical questions.”
Campaign records from Mayor Thomas M. Menino’s transition period, in 1993, have been purged and no longer exist. In 2006, Governor Deval Patrick deposited more than $83,000 in donations in the weeks after his election as he built a new administration.
It is not uncommon for a victorious candidate to help a former rival raise money to pay off campaign debt. What’s less typical is for people advising newly elected officials to solicit contributions from those who may want to curry favor with a new administration. As mayor, Walsh will control a $2.6 billion budget and command a workforce of roughly 20,000 employees.
‘This inherently creates a problem, a problem of appearance at the very least.’
Golar Richie, who struggled during her campaign to raise money, received 29 checks of $500 each on Nov. 13, five days after she was named one of the six leaders of the transition committee, and eight weeks after she lost her preliminary election bid. None of those checks came from previous contributors.
In the eight weeks between her September loss and last week’s influx, Golar Richie took in $3,750 and received only two $500 checks.
Golar Richie’s Nov. 13 haul included 15 checks from people who had donated to Walsh or shared an address with someone who gave money to his campaign.
Her campaign has not yet reported how much money she raised at Tuesday’s fund-raiser.
Golar Richie is not the only member of the transition team actively raising funds, though no one else has received direct assistance from Walsh.
Councilor Felix G. Arroyo, a transition team co-chairman and former mayoral contender, sent an e-mail to supporters on Friday inviting them to a Florian Hall “thank you party,” with suggested donations ranging from $25 to $500. Arroyo said he would direct his donation requests only at people who have contributed to him in the past. A third failed mayoral candidate named to the team, John F. Barros, told the Globe he did not plan to solicit donations while on Walsh’s interim advisory group.
Asked whether her fund-raising activities posed any conflict of interest, Golar Richie called it “a legitimate question,” but said it would not cause a problem.
“The things that I’m working on have nothing to do with the folks who are contributing to my campaign,” Golar Richie said. She later acknowledged, however, that she was unaware who was writing the checks.
Golar Richie has loaned her campaign $30,000 since Nov. 1 to pay bills, including two payments of $10,000 apiece to two consultants who advised her campaign.
“I need to pay my bills,” Golar Richie said, adding that if she did not accept the political contributions, she would have to pay out of her own pocket.
Walsh spokeswoman Kathryn Norton attributed the flow of Walsh money into Golar Richie’s coffers to a natural affinity between backers of both candidates.
“It’s Marty Walsh supporters throwing their support behind Charlotte, just like what happened vice versa during the election,” Norton said.
If they were to take positions in the new administration, as appointed public employees, the failed mayoral candidates would be forbidden under state law from soliciting campaign funds, although others could raise money on their behalf. Elected officials are not bound by the same campaign finance rules.
Golar Richie, Arroyo, and Barros teamed up to endorse Walsh over Councilor John R. Connolly at a key juncture in the final election, giving Walsh’s campaign a sense of momentum and granting him greater entrée to political support in communities of color.
The former candidates said they had made no deals with Walsh that would encourage him to retire their debts.
Another transition committee co-chairman is Samuel R. Tyler, president of the Boston Municipal Research Bureau, a government watchdog funded by business and nonprofits.
“The Research Bureau does not comment on internal political campaign matters,” Tyler said. “We focus on policy issues that are important to Boston.”
Walsh has not held any fund-raisers since his election, but checks have continued to arrive.
One donor was William Ahearn of the Back Bay real estate firm Otis & Ahearn, whose $500 contribution was deposited about two weeks after Walsh won the election. He had financially supported City Councilor Michael P. Ross during the preliminary election.
“I don’t know why that concerns you,” Ahearn said when reached by a reporter. “I don’t know why I’m receiving this phone call.”
Asked why he wrote a $500 check to Walsh nearly two weeks after the election, Louis Miller, a Boston attorney, replied, “Just because he’s now the mayor.”
Miller, who donated to five other mayoral candidates this year, said he did not view his donation as a means of currying favor with the city’s new chief executive.
“He’s not going to do anything for me,” Miller said.
Golar Richie has drawn money from Walsh supporters as well as apparent newcomers.
Much of the money she has banked in November came from Boston’s eastern neighborhoods, which backed Walsh heavily during the campaign, or from addresses in suburbs south of Boston.
Thirteen of the donors who wrote $500 checks on Nov. 13 had never before given to a Massachusetts political candidate, according to a state campaign finance database that dates to 2002, including a 20-year-old student who lives in South Boston.
One contributor, reached Tuesday by the Globe, said she was unaware that Golar Richie’s campaign ended eight weeks ago. That contributor, Lindsei Matos, a 27-year-old interpreter from Braintree had not previously given to a political candidate in Massachusetts. Her husband, Kevin Brett, had donated $300 to Walsh’s campaign in May, records show.
This month, the couple each sent $500 checks to Golar Richie. Matos, who said she and Golar Richie have mutual acquaintances, said a friend asked her to donate. She declined to divulge a name because she said “campaigns are private.”
Donors who sent $500 checks also included five people with the last name Kelley from two addresses in Canton and Milton. Three of the Kelleys had previously given money to Walsh, including James Kelley of Church Place in Milton.
A James Kelley of Church Place in Milton is the owner of American Roofing Systems. A picture of Walsh was on the company’s Web page until a reporter inquired about the donations.
It is difficult to determine the identity of Golar Richie’s new donors because her filing is incomplete and contains numerous errors.
None of the contributors listed their occupation or employer, as required under state law. Several of the addresses were off by one digit.
Bill Allison, editorial director at the Sunlight Foundation, a government transparency nonprofit, said the incoming administration should proceed with caution during the transition.
“The last thing you want,” he said, “is someone fund-raising or going to donors while having input into who’s going to be going inside the administration and have their hands on the levers of power.”Matt Carroll of the Globe staff contributed. Jim O’Sullivan
can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com.