Charlie Baker, the incoming governor, talks about William F. Weld, the former governor, in almost paternalistic terms, regularly listing him as one of the greatest influences on his life.
Weld was a regular and welcome presence on the campaign trail, to the point that he almost seemed to consider it a personal comeback. There’s nothing wrong with any of that — in fact, it’s fun to see Weld back on stage.
But now comes word that Weld has just registered as a lobbyist, something no previous governor in recent memory has ever done.
It’s both amusing and jarring, the notion of one of the state’s most popular recent governors roaming the corridors of the State House as a registered lobbyist. Yet this remarkable image could become reality, and soon.
For him to lobby Baker, about anything, is going to become problematic in no time. With Baker in the governor’s office, who wouldn’t want Weld as their lobbyist?
Weld maintained that he has registered out of an abundance of caution, now that Baker, his protege, is about to become governor. In a statement to the Globe, Weld noted that he was not necessarily registering to represent a specific client, but was seeking to avoid any burden on his friendship with Baker.
It’s anyone’s guess how much lobbying Weld will actually do, but it could be substantial. He’s spent the past couple of years as a principal at ML Strategies, the government relations arm of the high-powered law firm Mintz Levin.
Obviously, his access to the new administration could hardly be better, and lobbying is integral to his firm’s business. That access is precisely the problem.
As it happens, Weld already has a client with plenty of business pending with the state — casino magnate Steve Wynn. While his Everett casino license has already been awarded, he will need plenty of state approvals in the course of getting it built over the next year.
Wynn’s relationship with ML Strategies well predates Baker’s election, but he must feel good about his choice of representation.
Since walking out of the State House in 1997, Weld has displayed a restless spirit, reinventing himself with surprising frequency.
For a time, he was a corporate lawyer in New York. He did a stint in a private equity firm. He made a painfully awkward bid for governor of New York in 2006. His quirky old-Yankee charm seemed lost on the New York Republican Party, which regarded him as an alien.
Since returning to Boston, he has appeared before the state gambling commission on behalf of Wynn, and in US District Court, defending his former aide Jim Kerasiotes, who was embroiled in a no-win tax evasion case.
There was a time when the notion of Weld lobbying would have been unthinkable. He was a man who wore his patrician roots proudly, often quoting John P. Marquand’s old line about family wealth: “We don’t get money, we have money.” When he ran for governor in 1990, he resigned from the Tavern Club in a comical attempt to portray himself as a man of the people.
But he has been getting money for a while now.
Weld will not be any old lobbyist. He probably won’t have to cool his heels in the waiting room of the Senate president’s office, or cozying up to the bar at Mooo with his new peers.
His lobbying figures to mostly be out of the public eye. And he isn’t going to start hanging out with a bunch of guys whose claim to fame is winning a medical marijuana dispensary someplace. He’s still Weld.
But the world has changed, and the lines that once separated professions blurred long ago.
The distance from representing Steve Wynn to lobbying for him barely exists. It’s all good for a laugh, until Governor Weld calls Governor Baker and gets what he wants.