Shannon Liss-Riordan poured $2.5 million of personal funds into her campaign last month, campaign finance records show, prompting criticism from a rival candidate that she’s trying to “buy the attorney general’s office.”
On top of a previous contribution in March, the workers’ rights attorney has already spent $3 million of her own money on her campaign, the same amount she loaned her unsuccessful campaign for US Senate in 2019.
Andrea Campbell, the former Boston city councilor who is running for attorney general, contrasted Liss-Riordan’s campaign largesse with her own efforts to build a “people-powered, grassroots campaign.”
“If Shannon is willing to spend millions of her own money to buy this election, she can never truly be accountable to the people,” Campbell said in a statement. “As a public servant, I don’t have millions to loan my candidacy. My campaign’s money overwhelmingly comes from the people of Massachusetts because they understand I’m running to fight for them.”
Liss-Riordan’s campaign pushed back at the criticism, saying Campbell is taking money from lobbyists and corporate interests that the state’s top law enforcement official may need to oversee.
“Shannon understands that she is blessed, she is fortunate, but she also worked very hard and as a result she has the ability to contribute,” said her campaign manager, Jordan Meehan. “It means she’s not going to be beholden to the special interests that Andrea Campbell has taken tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars from.”
Campaign finance issues have taken center stage in the Democratic primary race between Campbell, Liss-Riordan, and Quentin Palfrey, a former assistant attorney general who won the state Democratic Party’s endorsement.
Palfrey and Liss-Riordan agreed to disavow spending by independent expenditure committees, but Campbell has not signed on.
While individuals can only give $1,000 a year to a candidate’s campaign in Massachusetts, they can give unlimited sums to independent expenditure committees, which can influence a race by running advertising on their own so long as they do not coordinate messaging or advertising with the campaign.
An independent expenditure committee raised $2 million and ran ads to promote Campbell’s candidacy for mayor last year, leading Palfrey to question whether the committee could become active again.
Palfrey has also criticized Campbell’s campaign for posting stock campaign video and photos on her website that he says could be tapped for ads by such a committee.
Liss-Riordan’s campaign officials, meanwhile, questioned Thursday whether Campbell’s complaints about self-funding were aimed at encouraging such independent committees.
“I think Andrea is talking about money because she’s trying to signal to supporters that she needs some help,” Meehan said.
Campbell spokeswoman Molly McGlynn said the allegations from both campaigns were untrue.
“We are not coordinating with anyone, in any shape or form,” McGlynn said. “Andrea has been on the record multiple times saying she’s beholden to the people, not corporate interests, not special interests.”
With five weeks to go until the Sept. 6 primary election, Liss-Riordan is already running frequent TV ads, with a third spot tentatively planned to air next week. Her personal contributions to her campaign seem nowhere near complete.
Under the state’s public financing program, which Palfrey is participating in, candidates had to declare how much they intended to spend in the race. Campbell estimated $3 million, while Liss-Riordan put the figure at an eye-popping $12 million.
Four years ago, Attorney General Maura Healey set her spending limit at $2.5 million, while Governor Charlie Baker and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito jointly capped spending at $20 million. Candidates can name a dollar figure they won’t reach, however, and have in the past, noted Jason Tait, a spokesman for the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. In 2010, Kamal Jain, a candidate for auditor, set his spending limit at $29 billion.
The three candidates are vying to succeed Healey, who is now running for governor. The winner of the Sept. 6 Democratic primary will face Republican James R. McMahon III in the November general election.