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A super PAC took nearly $40,000 from a candidate’s parents. ‘It wouldn’t be surprising’ if it helped him

Jake Auchincloss.Rick Bern/Handout

It has yet to report any significant purchases or release a press statement. But a super PAC funded, in part, by the parents of a Fourth Congressional District candidate is raising the specter of outside groups wading into the crowded Democratic primary.

The group, dubbed the Experienced Leadership Matters PAC, reported this month raising nearly $90,000, almost half of which came from the parents of Jake Auchincloss, one of nine Democrats running for the seat being vacated by Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III.

Its primary intentions remain somewhat a mystery; the lone official listed on the paperwork, a Foxborough accountant, did not return recent requests for comment. It lists paying no staff or consultants, and by the end of June, its only disclosed costs were on fees to process donations. A $30,000 contribution, the PAC’s largest, came from Hugh Auchincloss, Jake’s father.


But the Democrat’s stepfather, Gregory Petsko, said “it wouldn’t be surprising” to see the super PAC help Auchincloss, a Marine veteran — even though Petsko said he hasn’t been told exactly how it will spend his and others’ money.

“I have given them money so they can find experienced leaders and donate to them,” said Petsko, a biochemist and the husband of Laurie Glimcher, Auchincloss’s mother.

Glimcher, the president of Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, and Petsko donated a combined $7,500 to the PAC on May 22, the day it organized with the Federal Election Commission. Super PACs are barred from giving money directly to a candidate, but can raise and spend unlimited amounts in support of or opposition to one.

“If you look at [Auchincloss’s] record in the United States Marine Corps and the Newton City Council, Jake has demonstrated leadership in everything he’s done,” Petsko said. “I would have thought he was the sort of person that certainly fits the description of experienced leadership.”


Asked if that means the PAC will help him, Petsko said he has “no idea” who makes that decision. “It wouldn’t be surprising, given his track record,” he said.

Petsko said he didn’t know who was running the PAC, nor could he pinpoint how he was alerted to its existence, saying he gets a “dozen, maybe two dozen e-mails a day from various PACs and candidates.”

He also couldn’t say who directly solicited his donation. “I think her name was Beth,” an apologetic Petsko said. “I’m lousy with names.”

A campaign spokeswoman said Auchincloss did not discuss his parents’ donations to the PAC with them. But she did not answer whether Auchincloss is open to taking help from super PACs, other than emphasizing that he’s rejected donations from corporate PACs, which is a different type of political entity.

“Jake is focused on running the best campaign he can and he can’t worry about how others are spending money in this race,” spokeswoman Yael Sheinfeld said in a statement. “He hopes that voters, not money decide this election.”

The super PAC also took donations from a slew of well-known names in the district: Robert Kraft, a Brookline resident and the New England Patriots owner, as well as his son Jonathan Kraft, the team’s president; Jack Connors, of Brookline and the founder of the advertising firm Hill Holiday; and Barry Sloane, Century Bank’s president and a Needham resident.

Hugh Auchincloss, the top deputy to Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, did not return a message left on his cellphone Friday. Glimcher also did not return a call seeking comment.


But the PAC’s presence alone prompted one candidate, Dave Cavell, to proactively put out a statement this week calling on other candidates to reject help from a super PAC. “My campaign will disavow any big spenders — friends, family, or otherwise — starting a super PAC in support of my campaign,” Cavell said.

The district’s nine-Democrat primary remains a tightly bunched race, and one that’s become increasingly defined by the candidates’ ability to personally finance their campaigns.

Ihssane Leckey, a former Wall Street regulator and self-described Democratic socialist, has loaned her campaign $800,000, and Becky Walker Grossman, a Newton city councilor, intends to pour $350,000 from a “personal account” into her race.

Christopher Zannetos, a tech entrepreneur from Wellesley, has loaned his campaign $306,000, accounting for nearly half of his contributions, according to campaign filings. Natalia Linos, a social epidemiologist from Brookline, has put $35,000 into the race, and Cavell, a former Obama speechwriter from Brookline, has loaned his campaign nearly $29,000, records show.

Auchincloss, who ended June with more than $1.1 million in his campaign account, has not reported dipping into any of his own money. Neither has Alan Khazei, the cofounder of City Year and the race’s fund-raising leader; Jesse Mermell, a former Brookline select board member; or Ben Sigel, a Brookline attorney.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.