Attorney General Maura Healey has returned a donation that her predecessor, Martha Coakley, made to her political campaign, adding to the fallout from Coakley’s decision last month to join the e-cigarette giant Juul Labs.
Healey, who is investigating Juul’s alleged marketing and sales to minors, had taken a $200 donation in late March from Coakley, the maximum amount a state lobbyist — such as Coakley — is allowed to give under Massachusetts law.
Less than two weeks later, Coakley announced she was taking a full-time job with Juul’s government affairs team. She also had been consulting for the company for several months.
In a statement, a Healey spokesman indicated the decision to return Coakley’s check was not personal. Coakley had hired Healey more than a decade earlier at the attorney general’s office and served as a mentor to the younger attorney. But it’s yet another rebuke of Coakley’s move to the company, which has been bracketed by state-led investigations and lawsuits.
“The Attorney General has great respect for AG Coakley, but we have decided to return this contribution due to pending matters before the office,” Corey Welford, a spokesman for Healey’s campaign committee, said in a statement to the Globe.
Coakley’s new position in Juul had quickly sparked consternation in Massachusetts’ political circles, where she was remembered as a fierce consumer advocate during her eight years as attorney general.
Healey herself reaffirmed her intent to probe Juul’s practices, saying in a statement at the time that Coakley’s new job would have “no impact” on her office’s efforts. She later name-checked Juul in a series of Twitter posts decrying the “epidemic of vaping in our schools.”
Coakley’s donation to Healey in March had drawn little public attention at the time or when Juul announced her hire. Coakley has regularly made donations to Healey’s campaign since she took office four years ago, giving $200 every year between 2016 and 2018, state records show.
But Healey ultimately returned the latest $200 donation in early May, according to a newly filed campaign finance disclosure.
Coakley declined to comment Friday.
As an assistant attorney general under Coakley, Healey had helped lead some of the office’s most important bureaus, including serving as chief of the civil rights division, where she led Massachusetts’ successful effort to challenge the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Later, Coakley named her to lead the office’s public protection and advocacy bureau and its business and labor bureau.
Healey announced her campaign for attorney general after Coakley opted against reelection so she could run for governor in 2014. (She lost to Charlie Baker.)
As attorney general from 2007 to 2015, Coakley was known for taking corporations to court and was among 40 attorneys general who in 2013 urged the FDA to ban sales of electronic cigarettes to minors and to clamp down on youth-oriented advertising of vaping products.
When she was hired by the San Francisco-based Juul in April, Coakley said still she hoped to help eliminate e-cigarette use by minors, adding that she believes “in Juul Labs’ commitment to eliminate combustible cigarettes.”