Democratic Attorney General Martha Coakley on Thursday called for federal securities regulators to take a look at one of her gubernatorial campaign rivals, Republican Charlie Baker, and his work at a Cambridge venture capital firm.
Coakley said that the Securities and Exchange Commission should review a $15 million deal between General Catalyst and New Jersey’s public pension fund. Some of that money went toward the firm’s investment in a health insurance startup upon whose board Baker sits. She stopped shy of calling for a formal investigation.
“They should look at these allegations,” Coakley said of the SEC. “They know best whether they have jurisdiction and whether they raise issues. But I would hope at least they would do a review of these allegations, to determine whether or not a further investigation is needed.”
Baker has denied any wrongdoing, and said he was unaware that General Catalyst had raised money from the pension fund.
The deal between General Catalyst and the pension fund came months after Baker donated $10,000 to the New Jersey Republican State Committee, which is controlled by the state’s Republican governor, Chris Christie, a Baker political ally. Baker said he made the contribution because of Christie’s support for him during his failed 2010 gubernatorial campaign against Governor Deval Patrick.
“Charlie has been completely transparent about this contribution and his association with General Catalyst,” Baker campaign spokesman Tim Buckley said in an e-mail
“The fact remains that this contribution is permissible. This is politics over substance from Attorney General Coakley who was recently fined thousands of dollars for violating campaign finance laws,” he said.
This year, polls have depicted both Baker and Coakley with wide leads in their respective party primaries.
Coakley has faced campaign finance turbulence of her own. Last month, she entered into an agreement with state regulators to pay nearly $18,000 to charities from her state political committee after violating Massachusetts law by using federal US Senate campaign funds for state political purposes.
The controversy that has ensnared Baker stems from his role as an “executive-in-residence” at General Catalyst, which also lists him as a partner. Baker has denied that he is a partner or employee of the firm, but on a series of campaign finance documents he has identified himself as such.
A Baker spokesman said on Tuesday that the Swampscott Republican was unaware, until media inquiries Monday, that a chunk of the funds that General Catalyst invested in the health care startup, Oscar Insurance, originated from the New Jersey pension fund.
Interviewed after accepting the endorsement of a health care workers union in Dorchester, Coakley said Baker’s role at General Catalyst had raised “troubling concerns.”
“Any agency that has oversight over this, whether it’s New Jersey based on their laws, or the SEC, at least should take a look at and determine whether they need to investigate this,” she said.
An SEC spokeswoman declined comment.
In a lengthy statement provided by Baker’s campaign, General Catalyst described the pension plan’s investment into one of its funds as totaling $15 million, less than had been reported earlier.
The firm said Baker’s role there had not subjected him to either federal or New Jersey “pay to play” rules that could have rendered his political contribution and the subsequent public investment in violation of the law.
“General Catalyst followed the law and any implication to the contrary is wrong,” the statement read, calling “questions” about the investment deal “without merit.”