Governor-elect Charlie Baker has tapped developers, insurers, and utilities that do business with the state to foot the ballooning bill for his inaugural bash, which is now estimated to cost $1.6 million and includes a private candlelight dinner for high-dollar donors.
A preliminary donor list released by Baker aides shows the governor-elect has raised more than $780,000 from two political action committees, 32 individuals, and 43 corporations to bankroll his inauguration on Jan. 8, which was initially estimated to cost $1 million.
Among the 17 top donors giving $25,000 each are Blue Cross Blue Shield; MassMutual; Hanover Insurance; Northeast Utilities; Boston University; and Brait Builders, a Marshfield construction company.
Verizon donated $20,000, and 12 corporations gave $10,000 each, including Diesel Direct, Astellas Pharma, Staples, and Atlantic Charter Insurance Co.
Baker has invited his biggest donors to a candlelight dinner at Alden Castle in Brookline on Jan. 7, the night before he is sworn in at the State House.
The inaugural schedule also includes parties in South Boston and Worcester and a concert for supporters on Jan. 9 in Dorchester.
Pamela H. Wilmot, executive director of the government watchdog group Common Cause Massachusetts, said special interests should not be funding inaugural celebrations or be granted exclusive access to the governor-elect at a private dinner the night before his swearing-in.
“These are people who are actually looking for something from government and getting special access and influence, or at least creating the appearance of it,” Wilmot said. “That’s a problem for public trust in government and can be an actual problem.”
Jim Conroy, a top Baker aide, defended the Baker inaugural committee accepting large sums from companies that either do business with or are heavily regulated by the state.
“We are pleased to have received such strong support for the inaugural celebration from across Massachusetts and have chosen to self-impose contribution limits as well as publicly disclose these contributions in the interest of full transparency,” he said in a statement.
At the estimated $1.6 million, Baker’s inauguration is more expensive than Mayor Martin J. Walsh’s $1.4 million ceremony last January but less than Governor Deval Patrick’s $1.9 million celebration in 2007, which was the costliest in state history.
Baker has set a limit of $25,000 for donations from corporations and individuals and $200 from lobbyists. Despite the cap on lobbyists’ donations, the Baker camp still enlisted lobbyists to raise money for the inauguration.
Robert F. White, a veteran Beacon Hill lobbyist, said he was asked by Baker aides for fund-raising help and solicited checks on the governor-elect’s behalf from Blue Cross Blue Shield; Arbella Insurance; Boston Medical Center; and Cumberland Farms, which gave $25,000.
“I took my client list and worked with them to raise money,” White said.
Boston University, which also donated $25,000 to Walsh’s inauguration, said through a spokesman: “We frequently support important civic events, and we are pleased to support this one, too.”
Patrick had a self-imposed limit of $50,000 for corporations and individuals, and his donor list, like Baker’s, was replete with banks, law firms, and drug companies regulated by the state.
Patrick, who had vowed to shun the culture of insider dealing on Beacon Hill, also banned contributions from Big Dig contractors, tobacco companies, gambling firms, and firearms companies. Governor Mitt Romney, who also promised to clean up Beacon Hill, refused donations from tobacco and gambling interests.
Baker, a former health insurance executive, did not rule out contributions from any category of special interest. But Conroy said the governor-elect still rejected some donations. He refused to say which donations Baker rejected or why.
Baker’s donor list, in addition to large checks from corporations, includes hefty donations from wealthy business executives.
Among those donating the maximum amount of $25,000 were Roger Marino, cofounder of EMC Corp.; Kevin Rollins, former chief executive of Dell, and his wife, Debra; Thomas DeSimone, executive vice president of WS Development; and Wayne Capolupo, chief executive of SPS New England.
Those donating $10,000 included Steve DiFillippo, chief executive of Davio’s restaurant group; John Brock, chief executive of Coca-Cola; John McDonnell, managing director of Tito’s Handmade Vodka; and Seth Klarman, chief executive of The Baupost Group.
The two political action committees that donated to Baker were the State Police Association of Massachusetts, which gave $25,000, and the Massachusetts Society of Certified Public Accountants, which gave $2,500.
Baker has also sold about 3,000 tickets, at $50 each, to his “Let’s Be Great, Massachusetts” party at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center on Jan. 8, several hours after he takes the oath of office in the House chamber.