The new nativism
It should probably come as no surprise that the influence of “outside money” has become a flashpoint in the race for mayor of Boston. For along with our capital city’s many charms comes a long and not so illustrious history of rank provincialism.
We are wary of outsiders and are capable of dismissing those even from a different neighborhood of Boston as meddling troublemakers, as evidenced by the surprising degree of support among mayoral candidates for a referendum in which only East Boston residents get to vote on whether Boston should be home to a casino.
Last week the focus was the short-lived vow by the education advocacy group Stand for Children to spend $500,000 to boost John Connolly’s mayoral campaign. The kerfuffle was tailor made for the sort of self-righteous expressions of indignation at interloping carpetbaggers that are so baked into Boston’s political landscape.
Rob Consalvo has been leading the nativist charge among mayoral candidates, decrying any spending by outside organizations in the 12-way race. The Hyde Park district city councilor has called on his competitors to commit to a “Boston Pledge,” fashioned after the “People’s Pledge” that Scott Brown and Elizabeth Warren agreed to in their US Senate race, to keep independent expenditures out of the mayor’s race.
The backlash against Connolly over the pledged spending by Stand seemed poised to go from zero to 80 in no time, and it may well have dogged him all the way up to the September 24 preliminary election. With that in mind, Connolly, who sought the Stand for Children endorsement along with three of his fellow candidates, quickly pivoted and said he’d take their support but didn’t want their money. The group said it would respect his wishes and not spend money in the race.
Connolly’s announcement was welcomed by several of his competitors, and it surely also cheered the Globe editorial board, which earlier this month called on candidates to ask outside groups to stay out of the mayor’s race.
But in a sign that editorials don’t always reflect unanimous opinion within the paper, veteran Globe editorial board member Larry Harmon, in his bylined column over the weekend, had a very different take. Harmon’s message to Connolly (albeit a few days too late): Take the money. Connolly’s education reform views align perfectly with Stand for Children’s, so why not let them promote your candidacy, Harmon argued, especially since the Boston Teachers Union — every bit the special interest group that Stand is — will be mobilizing its members to push the union’s interests in the race.
Meanwhile, Marty Walsh shows no signs of swearing off outside spending by labor unions. Charlotte Golar Richie also isn’t interested in signing the pledge. Richie, appearing last week on NECN, said she wouldn’t sign the pledge because, well, she needs the money (or, technically speaking, needs money spent on her behalf, since independent expenditures can’t be coordinated with a candidate’s campaign). Richie has been widely expected to get a boost from spending by EMILY’s List, a national political organization that supports pro-choice Democratic women candidates, so her vow not to sign the pledge was hardly surprising. The real news was her declaration that EMILY’s List isn’t going to make independent expenditures on behalf of her campaign, after all, and she said she didn’t know of any group, for that matter, that was planning to do so. (All of which makes her stand against the “Boston Pledge” and claim to need money from wherever it comes a bit of a headscratcher.)
Tom Keane, writing in yesterday’s Globe, finds all the parochial denouncing of outside influences to be tiresome — with the holier-than-thou pronouncements from Consalvo particularly tough to take in light of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions he’s received from donors who live outside the city. (CommonWealth’s Paul McMorrow has documented the healthy share of donations coming from out-of-town to the coffers of all the candidates.) Keane says there are plenty of people who don’t live in the city who have a stake in its future, and there’s nothing wrong with them donating to campaigns.
Maybe so, and out-of-town cash from individual donors doesn’t seem to be pushing anyone’s buttons — probably because all the campaigns are counting on it. And no one has called out Walsh in a big way for the money unions are quietly spending on his behalf. A brassy announcement from an advocacy group that they’re going to spend big bucks to back a candidate who supports their agenda, however, was apparently too much for the locals to handle.
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