Nearly three months into his second term, Governor Charlie Baker is still taking in tens of thousands of dollars for his inaugural celebration, including donations from the firm representing Wynn Resorts in a highly anticipated hearing this week before the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
Baker reported accepting approximately $50,000 during the last week of March through his and Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito’s inaugural committee, which under law is allowed to raise unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations, and other groups without having to publicly disclose how it’s spent.
That haul included nearly $8,000 from attorneys at the firm Brown Rudnick LLP and their relatives, who together made 13 donations — all of which were disclosed on March 25, campaign finance records show. Among the donors was Jed Nosal, who is the attorney listed as representing Wynn amid its multiday hearing this week on how the company handled sexual misconduct complaints against its former chief executive, Steve Wynn.
Nosal and his wife gave a total of $1,000, as did William R. Baldiga, Brown Rudnick’s newly named chief executive, and Joseph Ryan, its former CEO and a current consultant.
The Gaming Commission hearing began Tuesday to determine whether Wynn remains fit to hold a state license for its (nearly finished) Everett casino. Baker has no direct say over that decision, but under the law, the governor appoints the chair — Baker tapped Cathy Judd-Stein in January — and has a hand in selecting two of the other four commissioners.
Paul D. Liu, a Brown Rudnick spokesman, said a firm employee spoke with Baker’s committee in early December about making contributions for the inaugural events and that the checks were delivered “in late February or early March.” He said that the firm, with 250-plus attorneys in eight cities, gave to Baker’s first inaugural celebration in 2015, cutting a $10,000 check that January, and that its lawyers have given to other gubernatorial campaigns and committees as well.
That the firm is directly involved in the high-profile Wynn case had no bearing on its decision to donate, he said.
“The individual contributions to the Baker-Polito 2019 Inaugural Committee were properly and lawfully made and are unrelated to any engagement by any client,” Liu said.
Jim Conroy, a Baker political adviser, said that Brown Rudnick is considered an inaugural “sponsor” and that all of the donations flowing into the committee now, months after Baker celebrated the state of his second term, “are fulfilling pledges made some time ago.”
It’s now raised more than $1.7 million since November, with Vertex Pharmaceuticals contributing $25,000 and former US Senate candidate John Kingston giving $12,500 last month, records show.
Conroy said the committee is still paying off some costs from the inauguration and is also determining to what charities it will donate any excess funds, as it did four years ago. Because of that, he said he also couldn’t provide a total budget for the events.
In 2015, the committee had refused to detail its spending but said that $1.8 million of the more than $2.4 million it raised went to 20 or more inaugural events. Another $400,000 went for overhead, such as staff and fund-raising expenses.Matt Stout can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.