“Dark money” on the right

First came the news last month that Gov. Charlie Baker was raising big bucks from Republican honchos — some $300,000 in all —  to win seats for his allies on the Republican State Committee, but did not have to disclose the donors because these were intraparty elections.

Then the Globe reported earlier this month on a complicated Rube Goldberg scheme through which Republican donors could give almost $50,000, which was divided between state and federal party accounts to satisfy campaign finance laws, but largely ended up under the control of Baker underlings.

Both schemes appear to conform to the letter of the law. A Globe editorial said that’s a problem and called for changes to force disclosure of this sort of campaign “dark money.” The paper also wondered what happened to Baker’s embrace of transparency, which he has often highlighted,  both in office and during his days as a health care executive.

Now, the Globe reports that a right-leaning nonprofit is coming in for scrutiny over its spending on campaigns. The paper says the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance is examining the activities of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance, which sent out a recent fundraising appeal that spoke of mounting “an all-out blitz” in several districts holding special elections for state representative earlier this month.

The group, which advocates for fiscal conservatism, claims nonpartisan status as an organization that provides information to voters on candidates’ positions but doesn’t explicitly favor or oppose any specific office-seeker. Under that status, the group does not have to disclose information on its donors.

Democratic Party leaders say the email shows the group was clearly looking to boost Republican candidates running in two House races.

Paul Craney, Mass. Fiscal’s executive director, says there was nothing partisan about the email — or about the group’s overall sharing of information on candidate stands on taxes and other issues.

The group spent $400,000 two years ago in state legislative races. The effort included ads and mailers targeting reps over a vote the group claimed gave illegal immigrants preference in public housing over veterans. (David Bernstein wrote at the time that the charge was “a crock,” as did Stonehill College’s Peter Ubertaccio.)

In January, all the dark money and other dodgy moves in politics prompted Ubertaccio’s fellow MassPoliticsProfs blogger Maurice Cunningham to inaugurate an annual award for “fraud in politics.” Cunningham, a professor at UMass Boston, deemed Mass. Fiscal Alliance worthy of the first issuance of the award for a poll it conducted and promoted on the Baker administration’s MBTA reform proposal. Cunningham slammed them for refusing to disclose details of the polling methodology. Cunningham said it was something of a two-fer, with the group winning out because of its dark money funding and its use of that money in polling that he found to be less than scrupulous.

With today’s story on Mass. Fiscal, it’s been a season for tales of dark money on the political right. But conservatives hardly have a corner on the shadowy practice.

Cunningham has dubbed his prize the “Jocelyn Hutt Award for Fraud in Politics.”  It’s named in honor of the Roslindale woman who served as the pass-through shell for $480,000 of dark money spent on Democrat Marty Walsh’s 2013 campaign for mayor of Boston, money that was later revealed to have come from the American Federation of Teachers.




Former state treasurer candidate Mike Heffernan is named commissioner of the Revenue Department. (Masslive)

Lawmakers are considering a proposal to certify and license police officers in Massachusetts, one of only six states that don’t license police. (MetroWest Daily News)


After protests from Cambodians living in Lowell over corruption and repression of civil rights by the Cambodian government, the City Council reversed course and decided not to welcome to town the son of the Cambodian prime minister. (The Sun)

Framingham voters took a major step toward making the town a city by approving a ballot measure to create a charter commission and selecting nine members to draw up a new form of government. (MetroWest Daily News)

Cambridge becomes the largest community in the state to ban use of plastic bags at retail establishments. (Boston Magazine)


The Elks Club in Beverly admits it was making $1,100 a week from illegal gambling machines. (Salem News)


Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois became the first GOP senator to meet with Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and he chastised his Republican colleagues who are refusing to sit down with the judge as “close-minded.” (U.S. News & World Report)

US Rep. Katherine Clark questions web developer Genius about an annotation tool that could be used for abuse.


Corey Lewandowski, the Lowell native who is now campaign manager for Donald Trump, is arrested and charged with simple battery for allegedly grabbing a reporter and yanking her away from the candidate as she was asking him questions. (New York Times) Trump, who initially disputed that anything happened, now says the incident is overblown and suggested the reporter already had bruises on her arms prior to her encounter with Lewandowski that was caught on tape. (Weekly Standard) Friends of Lewandowski in New Hampshire support him. (Eagle-Tribune)

Trump, in a candidates’ forum on CNN, now says he no longer stands by his pledge to support the Republican nominee if it’s someone else, saying he hasn’t been treated fairly by the party establishment. (New York Times)

Massachusetts GOP officials have filed an ethics complaint against Brewster Selectman Benjamin deRuyter for appointing the town counsel as treasurer of his campaign to replace retiring Sen. Dan Wolf. (Cape Cod Times)

Republican Patrick O’Connor, a former aide to Weymouth Mayor Robert Hedlund in the Senate, is taking heat for his plan to retain his Weymouth Town Council seat if he wins the special election to replace his former boss. (Patriot Ledger)


Developers are proposing a $1 billion makeover, with modern glass towers, of a block that includes the Back Bay MBTA Station. (Boston Globe)

The Stop & Shop in Boston’s Grove Hall neighborhood may reopen today after city inspectors shut it down on Monday because of a mouse infestation. (Boston Herald)


The opening of a UMass Lowell satellite campus in Kuwait, being built in partnership with Raytheon, is delayed a year. (The Sun)

A group of Boston-area superintendent is supporting the call for later start-times for high schools. (Boston Globe)

Could the Harvard-Yale football rivalry become a subway series? Not likely. But some are having fun with the idea. (Boston Globe)


Ralph de la Torre of Steward Health Care backs the ballot question compressing hospital rates, saying something must be done to rein in Massachusetts General and Brigham and Women’s hospitals and nothing else is available. (CommonWealth) At a Health Policy Commission forum, Lowell General CEO Normand Deschene also says he tells insurers his hospital should be paid based on the quality of care and not based on its zip code. (The Sun)

A report by Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association says the newest policyholders under the Affordable Care Act are sicker and use more costly services than those already with insurance, a trend supporters say shows a pent-up need for coverage. (New York Times)


Solar power backers say the impasse on Beacon Hill over net metering is taking a toll on the industry. (State House News) Stephen Christy says legislative inaction is forcing his Plainville company to shift operations to New York. (CommonWealth) Zaid Ashai of Nexamp says solar is not a zero sum game. (CommonWealth) Hawaii dismantles its solar net metering program, and many solar developers close up shop. (Governing)

The Baker administration’s Energy Facilities Siting Board issues a preliminary decision denying a permit extension for Cape Wind. Its reasoning seems to be that the extension until May 2017 isn’t long enough for the project to reasonably land financing. (Cape Cod Times)

Attorney General Maura Healey joins her colleagues in New York and California in an investigation of whether ExxonMobil misled the public and its shareholders about the dangers of climate change. (Masslive)

Berkshire County residents implore the state Department of Public Utilities not to clear the way for Kinder Morgan to do survey work on their land. (Berkshire Eagle)

Charlton nears agreement with ExxonMobil on a plan to deliver clean water to an area of town affected by a gasoline spill in the 1980s. (Telegram & Gazette)

Westport police discovered a four-foot alligator with its head removed. (Herald News)


Rod Matthews, the first juvenile in the state tried and convicted as an adult 30 years ago for the brutal murder of another teen, pleaded with the state parole board to release him from prison, saying he’s changed and no longer a threat. (Patriot Ledger) He gets no vote of confidence from  Peter Gelzinis, who says Matthews still wore “the same strange look of intensity I first saw at his arraignment” three decades ago. (Boston Herald)

Whitey Bulger’s Social Security benefits will be added to the more than $800,000 in cash found in his hideaway California apartment to be distributed among the families of 20 of his victims. (Boston Globe)