Last year, Scott Lively cost Governor Charlie Baker delegates, votes, and maybe a few political headaches. This year? It’s more like $190,000.
Baker has dipped into his campaign account to hire two law firms, plus pay his longtime campaign counsel, to fight a $7 million civil lawsuit that Lively, Baker’s 2018 GOP primary opponent, filed against the governor and the state Republican Party amid last year’s campaign.
Lively, best known for his antigay statements, claims the state GOP violated its neutrality rules last year when it ran signature petition drives for Baker. He also alleges the party went back on its word when, after its work for Baker was exposed by the Globe, its executive committee voted to change its rules so it could endorse the governor for a second term. It’s a process that’s supposed to be in the hands of the 2,400 delegates at the April endorsing convention.
Judging by the legal costs, Baker has taken the challenge seriously.
In less than a week, he reported spending $189,000, including paying $127,000 to the firm Hunton Andrews Kurth LLP, where former attorney general Thomas F. Reilly and a team of lawyers represented Baker and the state party in Worcester Superior Court in late May.
He also paid nearly $55,000 to Washington, D.C., firm, Wiley Rein LLP, which Baker’s campaign said is assisting in the case. And that’s in addition to $7,500 Baker paid to the Virginia firm Ashby Law in mid-May. The firm’s partner, Chris Ashby, has regularly provided legal counsel to Baker’s campaign.
The state Republican Party also reported transferring $141,000 to its legal defense fund at the end of 2018, cash that’s going toward fighting Lively’s lawsuit.
The fund, however, isn’t required under campaign finance laws to publicly disclose how that cash is spent, and Evan Lips, a party spokesman, said he didn’t know how much has been specifically tied up in the case.
In contrast, Lively paid his attorney, Gregory Hession, a $1,500 retainer in May 2018 — and hasn’t cut a check since, outside of dropping $35 at a 99 Restaurant in Worcester last month for a lunch meeting about the case, according to records.
“They’re getting ripped off,” Lively said of Baker and the party. “It’s sort of mind-boggling that they would be willing to spend that kind of money and not try to work it out.”
Lively has hung in Baker’s political periphery far longer than the two-term governor probably likes. Lively shocked Republicans by winning 28 percent of the vote at the state convention last year, more than enough to qualify for the September ballot and force a September primary with Baker.
Baker, of course, beat Lively by 28 points before cruising to reelection in November.
Several months later, he and the Republican Party are trying to make the lawsuit go away. The state GOP filed a motion to dismiss Lively’s complaint, though Judge Susan E. Sullivan — a Baker appointee — has yet to issue a ruling.