Rufus Gifford’s bid for Congress boosted by father’s connections
As he launched a run for Congress, Rufus Gifford had a valuable advantage: a web of donors culled from his time as one of President Obama’s foremost fund-raisers.
But in establishing himself in the Third District, where he had never lived or worked, Gifford also turned to another crucial group of wealthy contributors: friends and allies of his father, Charles “Chad” Gifford, a prominent former banker and civic leader in Boston.
That network has proved a boon for Rufus Gifford in his first bid for public office, with more than $87,000 in donations from top executives and board members at organizations where his father wielded influence for years.
They include dozens of contributions from officials at CBS, where Chad Gifford, 75, is a director; Bank of America, where he is the board’s chairman emeritus; and Eversource, where he retired from its board in May. Some are active political donors, but none live in any of the Third District’s 37 towns or cities perched northwest of Boston near the New Hampshire border.
Rufus Gifford said although there’s “overlap” with his father’s colleagues, he has personally known many of the donors for years. “These are relationships that I’ve earned over the course of my career,” he said in an interview.
The timing of their help was key. The vast majority of that money — roughly $82,000 — poured in between mid-November, when Rufus announced his campaign, and the end-of-year fund-raising deadline in December. It was a crucial span for the Concord transplant, who set a stake in a crowded field by raising $502,000 in those first six weeks.
“If you’re asking if Chad is the reason I did it, the answer is yes,” said Jack Connors, the former chairman of Partners HealthCare and a longtime advertising executive, of donating $5,400 to Rufus Gifford.
“I’ve known Chad for a number of years,” he said. “But I’m very comfortable telling you that I support Rufus. I like his style a lot. I like his commitment to public service. I like his energy.”
To be sure, Rufus Gifford has built a reputation as a prolific fund-raiser in his own right, spearheading efforts to raise $1 billion for President Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign and before that, serving as finance director at the Democratic National Committee.
He said he’s “outrageously humbled” by the help he has gotten from his father and other family members, some of whom live in the district. Nodding to his father’s decades in banking and civic life, he said it would be difficult to “gain support from anyone in Boston who doesn’t know my dad at all.”
“When we were gearing up, the first thing you have to do is activate your network,” Rufus Gifford said. “For me, that meant first and foremost my Obama network. . . . Some of them are my dad’s network as well. There’s overlap there. But I believe I can look anyone in the eye and say this network, through the work I’ve done, is a network that I’ve built.”
Chad Gifford’s name, too, is familiar in many of Boston’s influential circles. He has been a board member or trustee for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Northeastern University, and Massachusetts General Hospital. He helped bring the sides together in 2000 to reach a new Boston public school teacher contract, and he played a key role in negotiations that kept the New England Patriots in Foxborough.
In a statement, Chad Gifford said he and his family are proud to talk to friends and voters about his son, and he’s “very grateful that many in our family’s network are supportive.”
“He has earned their support over the years because of his work with President Obama and his time as US ambassador to Denmark. They know his values and believe in his campaign,” Chad Gifford said.
Chad Gifford has gotten involved in other ways. He was the focus of a Father’s Day missive the campaign released that included a photo of Chad and his wife, Anne, making phone calls for the campaign, something Rufus Gifford said they do weekly. On Tuesday, Chad and Anne will host a meet-and-greet for their son’s campaign at their 3,200-foot condo in the Back Bay.
Gifford’s campaign said the event — which Connors and Anne Finucane, Bank of America’s vice chairwoman, are also cohosting — is not a fund-raiser, and is similar to dozens that Rufus has held. In an e-mail to invitees, Chad Gifford stressed the importance that “Boston’s leaders hear directly from [Rufus] and that we provide the resources to the campaign so he can continue to compete.”
Many prominent figures already have.
Leslie Moonves, the president of CBS, is one of 11 company executives, board members, and their relatives to give Rufus’s campaign a combined $23,000. Gifford has served on its board since 2006, and at the moment, is in the middle of a boardroom firefight between Moonves and vice chairwoman Shari Redstone, the latter of whom accused Gifford of acting in a “bullying manner” and “grabbing her face and directing her to listen to him.” CBS denied the accusation.
“We have all had the good fortune to get to know Rufus over the years,” the CBS executives said in a statement, adding they are “very pleased to be able to support his campaign.”
At Eversource, where Chad Gifford served on its board, the company’s chief operating officer, chief financial officer, and five board members — including chairman and president James J. Judge and his wife — are among those who have donated a total of $23,900.
Chairman and chief executive Brian T. Moynihan led a parade of donations totaling $16,000 from executives at Bank of America, and at least 11 executives and board members from Partners and MGH also contributed, totaling $20,450. As an MGH board trustee, Gifford cochaired the hospital’s 200th anniversary celebration in 2011.
Tom Werner, the chairman of the Boston Red Sox, also gave Rufus $2,700. (Chad sits on the Red Sox Foundation’s board.) A team spokeswoman said Werner also gave to Dan Koh, the former chief of staff to Mayor Martin J. Walsh and another Democrat in the Third District race, adding that he “has a personal friendship and respect for both of them.” The Red Sox’ principal owner is John Henry, who also owns the Globe.