Galvin tones down his name-dropping

Voter guide this year has fewer references to him

IN THE FACE of criticism from the State Ethics Commission, Secretary of State William Galvin has cut down on promoting himself by name in the informational voting material he prepares and distributes to Massachusetts citizens in his role as the state’s chief elections official.

Last November, after conducting an investigation, the commission informed Galvin in a “public education letter” that what he was doing gave him an unfair political advantage over his competitors in his bid for reelection in 2018, in violation of the state conflict of interest law.

The booklet entitled “Massachusetts Information for Voters Ballot Questions” that Galvin prepared in 2018 states at the top of page 21: “If you have been the victim of investment fraud, Secretary Galvin might be able to help.”

That was followed by seven vignettes describing how Galvin helped citizens get their money back.  The phrase “Secretary Galvin’s office” appeared 12 times throughout the page in 2018 as well as in prior years — a practice for which the veteran politician had been criticized for many years before the Ethics Commission finally took notice.

In the 2020 edition of the voter guide, Galvin used the same seven vignettes but the term “Secretary Galvin’s office” appears only once — at the top — on the vignettes page, having been replaced by references to “the Secretary’s office” nine times and “the office” three times. Galvin, who has held down the secretary of state position for 25 years, is not up for reelection this year.

Peter Loge, director of the Project on Ethics in Political Communication at The George Washington University, thinks that Galvin’s strategy this year will avoid getting the Ethics Commission on his case again.

“In the world of politics, the fine lines between appropriate, questionable, unethical, and illegal behavior can get fuzzy sometimes,” Loge says.  “The secretary this year walked up to the line, but didn’t cross it.  He was quite clever on how he handled it.”

Galvin did not respond to requests for an interview.

A spokesman for the Ethics Commission declined to comment on whether the changes made by Galvin this year avoid the conflict of interest it cited him for last year.

Galvin also uses public service announcements to promote himself.  From April 2019 to March 2020, he spent close to $2 million of taxpayer money to produce and air five different TV public service announcements in which he appeared.