William F. Weld, a onetime federal prosecutor who rattled Beacon Hill with political corruption probes, has become the first former governor in modern times to register as a State House lobbyist, just a month before his protege Charlie Baker is sworn in as Massachusetts’ next governor.
Weld, whose legal clients include Steve Wynn’s Las Vegas gambling operations, signed up with the secretary of state’s lobbying division this week as an agent for ML Strategies, the government relations arm of the giant Boston law firm Mintz Levin.
Baker owes much to Weld. He helped create Baker’s public life by giving him major Cabinet posts in his administration and has been a close adviser and mentor to the governor-elect during his recent campaign and transition period.
In an e-mailed statement in response to a request for an interview, Weld said he felt it “prudent” to register “in case” his practice developed to a level that requires registration under the law.
“Don’t have anything specific in mind, but obviously would try my utmost to manage my professional activities in a way that does not burden my friendship with the governor and lieutenant governor,’’ he said.
The Baker administration will face a series of significant issues as Wynn, who was chosen this year to develop a casino in Everett, begins to construct the huge facility. The governor’s team will have to decide on environmental and transportation issues that are critical to the construction of the project.
Weld, who is also listed as an attorney at Mintz Levin, has served as Wynn’s local legal counsel, appearing at his elbow at the state Gaming Commission when the gambling mogul was vying for the casino license for the Boston area.
ML Strategies also has a list of well-established corporations and professional groups who will depend on Baker administration decisions on regulations and policies. They include the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council, which is navigating the state’s health care reforms; alternative energy companies, such as Nalcor Energy, a hydroelectric firm looking to bring energy from Canada into Massachusetts, and the Solar Energy Business Association of New England; and the giant pharmaceutical firm, Johnson & Johnson, which has a series of regulatory and tax issues before the state.
Baker’s spokesman Tim Buckley, noting the close relationship, said Baker’s administration “will set a high standard for transparency as they enact his agenda to make Massachusetts great.”
Weld, who built his public career in pursuing political corruption as the US attorney in Boston, will be expanding his professional credentials into a field that has been at the center of corruption probes. Lobbyists played key roles in the federal investigations of two House speakers, Salvatore DiMasi and Charles F. Flaherty. DiMasi is serving a federal prison sentence. Flaherty was forced to resign in 1996.
There is little likelihood that Weld will be hanging around the halls of the State House, the habitat of most of the leading special-interest state lobbyists. They cozy up to legislative leaders and committee chairs, buttonholing them for their clients and throwing fund-raisers for them. The profession can be highly lucrative, particularly for former lawmakers, staff members, and government officials who have had longstanding Beacon Hill relationships.
As described on the Mintz Levin website, Weld’s credentials would not fit into the resume of most State House lobbyists. He offers his clients “advice and counsel related to domestic and international government strategies, international business transactions, cross-border investments, and international capital flows.”
Since he resigned as governor in the middle of his second term in 1997, Weld moved to New York, where he joined a large international law firm, McDermott Will & Emery. His work included consulting to clients on mining, energy, and technology. He and a partner also created a private equity firm, but he left the firm in 2005, shortly after a for-profit Kentucky trade school in which it invested went bankrupt and shut down. He returned to Boston in 2012 to join Mintz Levin.
Robert White, a former legislative staff member who is now a leading State House lobbyist, applauded the news that Weld was getting licensed to lobby. Tongue in cheek, he wondered whether Weld would join his colleagues at their usual watering hole, down the street from the State House.
“Hallelujah, old-money now comes to the profession,’’ said White, a longtime admirer of Weld. “I can’t wait to see him at Moo buying a round of drinks.”
Frank Phillips can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.