State GOP leaders form PAC to back local candidates

Last-minute drive focused on fiscal conservatism, not Trump

STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE

WITH VOTING SET to end in Massachusetts in 22 days, three prominent state Republicans announced on Tuesday that they had formed a political action committee to support GOP candidates for state, local, and county offices.

Republican National Committee Treasurer Ron Kaufman and Janet Fogarty, the state’s other RNC member, said that every dollar donated to The Fund for Massachusetts Future PAC, outside of small administrative expenses, would go to supporting local candidates.

The focus, they said, could potentially open the door to donors who might want to support local Republicans, but don’t want to contribute to federal candidates in a cycle when attitudes toward President Trump and Congress are a motivating factor.

“Everyone talks about how critical of an election this is. Our candidates on the ground deserve support, and we needed to develop a giving strategy that keeps all dollars here in Massachusetts. It’s what’s best for donors and what’s best for candidates,” Kaufman said.

The paperwork for the PAC was filed with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance on October 1, and lists the promotion of “fiscal conservatism and job growth in the Commonwealth” as its objective. The committee will be chaired by Michael Sullivan, a former state lawmaker and US Attorney who has also run for US Senate.

Sullivan compared the Legislature on Beacon Hill, where Democrats control 164 of 200 seats in the House and Senate, to a monopoly, which he said is not good for business or public policy.

“Successful campaigns need great candidates, grassroots and financial support,” Sullivan said. “The narrative needs to be kept on why our Republican candidates for state and local offices are better for the taxpayers, better for public policies, better for education, and better for attracting and retaining good jobs and businesses.”

The treasurer of the new PAC is Michael Valanzola, a one-time candidate for state Senate who worked in the Baker administration in the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Valanzola was forced to resign amid a scandal over whether his cousin had tried to pressure the husband of one of his employees not to run against a Republican senator.

The formation of the new PAC by the party leaders comes during a cycle in which many in the Massachusetts Republican Party admit that it’s a difficult election for Republicans with Trump at the top of the ticket, given the president’s unpopularity.

Not counting candidates for federal office, there are 66 Republicans on the ballot this fall, with just 19 challenging Democratic incumbents in the Legislature and almost as many defending their seats from challenges from Democrats.

The state party’s fundraising has also lagged in the midst in the pandemic, and without any real support from the de-facto leader of the party Gov. Charlie Baker. As the party has moved toward Trump under the stewardship of MassGOP Chair Jim Lyons, Baker has moved away from the president and national politics, despite his endorsement of US Sen. Susan Collins in Maine.

Baker has said that outside of that endorsement he and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito intended to keep their politicking confined to campaigning for some legislative candidates, though that has yet to really happen.

Without Baker and with COVID-19 inhibiting more traditional fundraising efforts, the state party’s finances have taken a hit. Through the end of August, the party reported raising just over $1.5 million this cycle for its federal account, which can be used for party operations, compared to more than $5 million in 2017 and 2018.

Asked if the Fund for Massachusetts Future PAC was created because the party was struggling to adequately support its candidates, Kaufman said it was intended to lure donors who might be hesitant to give because of the national climate.

In addition to state legislative and county candidates, the MassGOP has five candidates running for Congress and one challenging for the US Senate.

“This PAC is dedicated to putting resources in the hands of Massachusetts candidates directly, a prospect that more Massachusetts Republican supporters are willing to contribute to, especially given the national climate. We see this PAC as different in function than the state party, which directs resources to national issues, federal candidates, and staff in addition to local and state candidates. We believe our support will help our candidates be successful,” Kaufman said.

Meet the Author

Matt Murphy

State House News Service
No one involved with the PAC plans to take a salary. As of Tuesday, the PAC had not yet filed any reports on spending or fundraising.

A separate super PAC run by allies of Gov. Baker – the Massachusetts Majority super PAC – has spent nearly $230,000 in 2020 to support local and state candidates, including Democrats and Republicans.