A super PAC aligned with Governor Charlie Baker broke state campaign finance law when it advertised him as a special guest at a summer fund-raiser, despite being previously warned by Massachusetts regulators that using Baker’s name to raise cash was not allowed, according to a letter officials sent the group.
The Massachusetts Majority PAC was forced to purge $17,500 — the amount it raised from a July event at the UMass Club in Boston — in wake of the violation, according to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
State law strictly prohibits coordination between candidates and super political action committees, including barring elected officials from helping “finance” a PAC.
In an e-mail invitation the group circulated in June, it touted Baker, a second-term Republican, as a “special guest” at the July 25 fund-raiser. The invitation said the PAC’s mission is to help elect “moderate candidates on both sides of the aisle in Massachusetts who have the potential to play key roles in supporting the continued work of Governor Baker,” according to OCPF director William Campbell’s letter to the group.
Even though Baker was not running for reelection himself, he was still considered a candidate under state law and the act of using his name was a violation, Campbell wrote.
“It is worth noting,” Campbell added, “that the Committee was notified by OCPF in prior discussions that such use of a candidate’s name would not be consistent with [state law].”
Gregg Lisciotti, a Leominster developer and the super PAC’s chairman, disputed that the PAC broke the law.
“We do not believe that the invitation included a solicitation of funds,” he said in a statement Friday. But, he said, “as the time and cost of contesting this point would have far exceeded the amount at issue, we agreed to settle this matter and focus on our mission of electing candidates.”
Campbell’s letter, however, was silent on whether regulators believe Baker, too, broke the law despite the prohibition of office-holders helping finance a PAC. An OCPF spokesman declined to say whether the agency determined Baker was also in violation of the law.
“We’re going to let the letter speak for itself,” said spokesman Jason Tait.
An aide to Baker said he does not believe he violated any law and that the governor is allowed to attend such events.
“The governor does not direct or control the activity of this PAC, including the language it uses in marketing its events,” Baker advisor Jim Conroy said.
Baker leaves office in January, after which he’s slated to become the new president of the NCAA.
Amid the governor’s fallout with the conservatives leading the state Republican Party, Mass. Majority has played a pivotal role in bolstering Baker’s preferred candidates in recent years. Since 2019, the super PAC has spent more than $4.7 million backing both Republicans and Democrats. The figure includes $2 million doled out this year alone on mailers, digital ads, and text messages on an array of candidates.
The super PACs 2022 spending included putting $390,000 behind Republican Anthony Amore’s unsuccessful bid for state auditor; Amore was the only statewide candidate Baker publicly endorsed ahead of November.
Baker has been open about helping fund-raise for PAC, which is led by one of his donors and has tapped the Republican’s campaign staff for consulting work in the past. Baker previously told the Globe this year that the PAC operates in his “sweet spot ideologically,” and said in February that he expected it to raise $2 million this cycle.
It ultimately raised about $1.8 million this year, according to records.
“I’m trying to help people where I can,” Baker said then.