Super PAC tied to Baker raises $177,500

Gov. Charlie Baker may be preoccupied with dealing with COVID-19, but his political operation is remaining busy.

Massachusetts Majority, a super PAC with close ties to Baker, raised $177,500 during March and April, bringing its total fundraising haul over the last year to $1.1 million. The PAC has doled out just over $300,000 for direct mailings in support of 20 Republican and Democratic candidates for local offices.

Donors have said they gave money to the PAC to support Baker’s political agenda, which is to back allies and moderate candidates from either party. Baker, a Republican who does not support Trump, has been trying to chart a new course ever since the state Republican Party elected former rep Jim Lyons, a Trump supporter, as its chair.

A super PAC can raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals and businesses, but it is barred from coordinating with campaigns on how to spend it. According to state campaign finance records, the big donors over the last two months were retired advertising executive and well-connected philanthropist John (Jack) Connors Jr. and Carl Ferenbach, the chairman of High Meadow Foundation, who each contributed $50,000. Wye River Insurance, a Baltimore-based insurance broker, donated $35,000 and Kevin Kennedy, an investor based in Gulf Stream, Florida, contributed $25,000.

Previous big donors include Robert Hale, the CEO of Granite Telecommunications; John Fish, the president and CEO of Suffolk Construction; Niraj Shah and Steven Conine, the founders of Wayfair; Daniel Quirk Inc., the auto dealership; and philanthropists Amos and Barbara Hostetter. Hale donated $100,000, the Hostetters donated $25,000 apiece, and the others each donated $50,000.

The latest beneficiary of the Massachusetts Majority PAC is Michael Nicholson, one of four candidates vying to be the mayor of Gardner in a primary scheduled for next Tuesday. According to the super PAC’s latest report, it spent $6,398 on two direct mailings supporting Nicholson that were sent out on April 23 and April 28.

Nicholson is currently the administrator of the town of Rutland and previously worked as an aide to the former mayor of Gardner, Mark Hawke. He is running against Scott Cordeiro, a barber shop owner; City Councilor Scott Graves; and former city councilor Christine Johnson.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

COVID-19 benchmarks keep heading in a good direction as hundreds of protesters gather outside the State House claiming Gov. Charlie Baker is trampling their rights and depriving them of their livelihoods by keeping the state shut down. (CommonWealth) Models are shifting to predict a dramatic increase in US COVID-19 deaths as states relax social distancing. (Politico)

Republicans, a tiny minority in the House, use their leverage during the COVID-19 crisis to force concessions from House Speaker Robert DeLeo on virtual operating rules during the pandemic. (CommonWealth)

A new poll shows broad support among state residents for the restrictions state leaders have put in place, despite the economic hardships it has caused. (Boston Globe)

Senate President Karen Spilka offers a dire budget scenario in a talk to the Natick selectmen. (MetroWest Daily News) To balance the fiscal 2021 state budget, the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation suggests putting off initial expenditures on a new school funding law and a planned boost in state pension funding. (State House News Service)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, taking part in random coronavirus screening to gauge the virus’s penetration, tested positive for antibodies but negative for the virus, indicating she was infected at some point but has cleared the virus. (Boston Herald)

A Cambridge police superintendent apologized for tweeting a curse-laden message at Rep. Joe Kennedy from the department’s official Twitter account. (Boston Herald)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Coronavirus has killed 54 residents of a Medford nursing home, an astonishing toll not previously disclosed. (Boston Globe)

Pediatricians worry about new COVID-19-related illnesses in children. (MassLive)

Mass. General Hospital and Mass. Eye and Ear are collaborating on a vaccine project that received a $1 million boost from Celtics co-owner Wyc Grousbeck. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

The number of coronavirus cases nationally is rising by about 2 to 4 percent each day, a sign that the pandemic is growing, not slowing yet. (New York Times)

Mixed message: President Trump is hailing states that are beginning to reopen their economies in defiance of the guidelines his administration has set forth for doing so. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

Campaigning in a pandemic: where Markey and Kennedy differ — and where they don’t (WGBH)

A Globe editorial slams the Legislature for standing by idly and leaving to the Supreme Judicial Court to order changes to signature-gathering requirements for ballot access amidst the pandemic.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Restrictions on some small businesses, including florists in time for Mother’s Day, are being loosened to allow them to fill online and phone orders. (WBUR) Golf courses are lobbying Gov. Charlie Baker to be allowed to reopen. (MassLive)

The state must secure a permit to avoid fishery closures, according to a judge. (Cape Cod Times) 

So far, home prices remain high and inventory low, despite the economic convulsions set off by the pandemic. (Boston Globe)

A Quincy Walmart shuts after an employee dies of COVID-19. (MassLive) Meanwhile, Quincy Health Commissioner Ruth Jones gave councilors the rundown on coronavirus in Quincy. (Patriot Ledger)

Legal Sea Foods is suing its insurer for claiming the company’s loss policy doesn’t cover a pandemic. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

Merrimack Valley schools are looking for ways to hold their proms and graduations – possibly later in the summer. (Eagle-Tribune)

Schools are being flexible with their curriculum as remote learning continues. (MassLive)

ARTS/CULTURE

Massachusetts Design Art & Technology Institute is collaborating with New Bedford organizations to prepare a line-up of public art for everyone to enjoy from a safe social distance. (Standard-Times)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA is treading in very uncertain waters as it prepares to increase services levels to accommodate social distancing while fully expecting its minimal number of riders to grow only incrementally. (CommonWealth)

Empty roads caused by the COVID-19 shutdown are prompting drivers to speed, which in turn is contributing to a much higher rate of fatalities. (CommonWealth).

The commuter rail keeps running, but ridership is down 97 percent. (The Salem News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A federal judge rejects a bid by attorneys representing immigration detainees at the Bristol County Jail to expand a deposition of Sheriff Thomas Hodgson in an ongoing court case to focus on the violence that erupted at the jail Friday night. (CommonWealth) Suffolk County District  Attorney Rachael Rollins and Boston Police Commissioner William Gross raise concerns about releasing prison inmates during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Boston Globe)

Some police and fire departments say they can no longer participate in birthday parades, because they are getting more service calls and too many parade requests. (Telegram & Gazette)

MEDIA

Here are the winners of the 2020 Pulitzer Prizes. (Poynter)

The union representing newsroom employees at the Los Angeles Times accepts a 20 percent cut in pay and hours. (Los Angeles Times)