Lets go back four years, shall we?


Charlie Baker, the Republican candidate for governor of Massachusetts, cut a genial country club image with his blue shirt, khakis and wide smile. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, in a politician’s dark suit, showcased the fiery style that has brought him YouTube fame.

Still, Baker, locked in a tight race with an incumbent Democrat, hopes voters see enough similarities between the two to help him win on Election Day. People should look to Christie, Baker said, "if you want to know what the next four years of the Baker administration will look like."

Christie took his brand of hot-blooded conservatism to one of the country’s most liberal states this weekend, appearing at an intimate fundraiser in a waterfront Boston hotel on Saturday night and speaking to a crowd of 800 at a town hall meeting in the suburbs today.

Baker was the lead act, but Christie, who has been boosting his national profile by campaigning for candidates coast to coast, occasionally held the spotlight, cheerfully batting down scattered calls for him to run for president.

The governor regaled the crowd with tales of confronting New Jersey’s Democrat-controlled Legislature, including his swift veto of a bill extending the millionaire’s tax.

"I took the pen out of my pocket, I vetoed it, and handed it right back," he said as the crowd roared. - Statehouse Bureau, 10/24/10

Of course Baker would go on to lose that race to Governor Deval Patrick (D. MA) but Baker and Christie remained close friends.  And then this popped up:


As Pando has previously reported, New Jersey has some of the nation’s strongest anti pay-to-play and anti-corruption laws and rules. These aim to prohibit public pension contracts from being awarded to investment firms whose executives make financial contributions to politicians, election funds and political party organizations operating in the state. They are buttressed by SEC rules engineered to do the same thing.

Yet, despite all of these laws and rules, Pando has discovered evidence that Gov. Chris Christie’s administration awarded a public pension contract to a technology venture capital firm shortly after a partner at that same firm made a $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey Republican State Committee.

The firm involved is General Catalyst Partners which has backed tech companies like Snapchat, Kayak, Stripe and Warby Parker. Their website lists Charles Baker as an executive and partner. According to New Jersey campaign finance records, that same Charles Baker made the $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey Republican State Committee just months before the state’s contract with General Catalyst was proposed. When making the donation, Baker described himself as a Partner at the firm.

According to New Jersey records, the contribution came within the 18 month contribution moratorium set by New Jersey’s pay-to-play statutes and within the two year moratorium set by the New Jersey Treasury Department’s rules.

Additionally, Baker also helped organize a high-dollar fundraiser for Christie in 2013, according to news reports that Baker’s spokesperson later confirmed.

If all that wasn’t enough, there’s one more twist.  If Baker’s name sounds familiar, it could be because he is not merely a financial executive: He is also the current GOP nominee in Massachusetts’ hotly contested 2014 gubernatorial election. According to the state’s Republican Party, he is running on a promise “to change the culture of corruption.” - Pando Daily, 5/8/14

And now Baker is on the ropes:


Baker said Friday that he is exempt from the strict federal and New Jersey “pay-to-play” security regulations that bar financial executives from making donations over $250 to political figures who oversee pension funds or to committees controlled by those politicians.

“I’m not a registered investment professional,” said Baker, who joined General Catalyst Partners, a Cambridge-based venture capital firm, in March 2011, just months after losing the 2010 gubernatorial race to Governor Deval Patrick.

Baker’s contribution and his firm’s involvement with the New Jersey pension fund were first reported on Thursday by liberal journalist David Sirota on the technology website PandoDaily.

Baker said his role is to seek out startups and companies that his firm will invest in. He is referred to on the firm’s website as an “executive-in-residence/partner” and listed among the firm’s partners. He said his title makes a clear distinction between him and other partners at the firm.

“I am not an employee,” Baker said in an interview Friday. “I pay for my health care, I don’t get a W-2 tax form.”

“I have no idea who Catalyst solicits funds from,’’ he said. “My job was to find interesting companies to invest in and that is what I was focused on.”

Both state and federal rules extend investment restrictions to political contributors who are “associated” with the relevant firms.

Baker made the political contribution, which he called his largest ever, 2011 when he and his wife, Lauren, attended a fund-raiser that Christie held in Boston for the New Jersey Republican State Committee. Campaign finance documents show that Baker identified himself as a General Catalyst “partner.” On Friday, Baker said that was “an error.” - Boston Globe, 5/9/14

Of course this isn't the only shady news story regarding Bakers and Christie to pop up over the past few months:


Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, embroiled in scandal over a punitive traffic jam, swung into Boston Thursday to raise money for Republican gubernatorial candidates, but stepped into a different type of controversy when organizers had to scramble to change venues.

The last-minute shift, from a private home in Newton Corner to a Back Bay hotel, came after the event, featuring arguably the nation’s most newsworthy Republican and the party’s most recent presidential nominee, drew unwanted attention from reporters.

Christie, who chairs the Republican Governors Association and is considered a formidable potential 2016 presidential candidate, was in town to raise money for the governors association alongside former governor Mitt Romney, the 2012 GOP presidential nominee, and Charlie Baker, the party’s leading candidate for governor in Massachusetts this year.

Baker’s campaign worked during the afternoon and evening to keep the location shift a secret, declining repeated requests for the information about the event, which raised about $1 million from about 20 people.

Initially, the fund-raiser was scheduled at the home of New Balance chairman Jim Davis, a political benefactor who gives to both Democrats and Republicans and who contributed $1 million to a super PAC backing Romney in the 2012 election, according to a report by the Center for Responsive Politics.

The evening was intended to be a staid and intimate affair, in keeping with Davis’s low-key, press-averse nature. After its location became public Tuesday, unwanted attention, including reporters outside Davis’s house Thursday, prompted organizers to reconsider.

Thursday afternoon, they decided to switch the venue to the Lenox Hotel on Boylston Street and Davis decided not to attend, said one person familiar with the decision. - Boston Globe, 2/28/14

The timing for this latest corruption charge couldn't come at a worst time for Baker and the GOP:


At a press conference on Thursday, Republican gubernatorial candidate Mark Fisher fired back at state party officials' claims that he demanded $1 million from them to drop his lawsuit.

Mark Fisher, who is suing for the opportunity to be on the GOP primary ballot, said that Massachusetts Republican Party officials reached out to him in December with an offer of $1 million to drop out of the race. Fisher said that he initially rebuffed the offer because he was sure it was illegal.

"My first reaction was 'This is a bribe, this is illegal, this can't be done.' My second reaction was they have no clue why I am running. There is no amount of money that can get me out of this race," said Fisher.

When pressed to identify the people who reportedly offered him this amount of money in December, he declined, citing a gag order. He did say it was two individuals.

Fisher filed a motion for a gag order in Suffolk Superior Civil Court, but the motion was denied by Judge Douglas Wilkins after the Massachusetts Republican Party objected to it, according to civil court documents. - MassLive, 5/8/14

But here's the real kicker:


Massachusetts Republican Party officials are accusing Tea Party gubernatorial candidate Mark Fisher of demanding up to $1 million in exchange for dropping his legal challenge to get on the GOP primary ballot this September.

In a letter shared with Republican State Committee members Tuesday evening, the party’s lawyer, Louis M. Ciavarra, outlined a series of meetings in which he advised Fisher’s attorney that it is unlawful to pay someone in exchange for dropping out of a political race.

“I advised you and your client, as well as my own clients, that . . . in layman’s terms ‘buying people off the ballot’ is illegal,” Ciavarra wrote to Fisher’s lawyer, Thomas M. Harvey, in a letter dated May 6.

Harvey confirmed Tuesday night that Fisher, who is suing for the right to face off against Republican front-runner Charlie Baker in the fall primary, had asked for $1 million, but said it was only a “starting point’’ in the negotiations.

“We’re trying to negotiate a reasonable settlement and you have to start somewhere,’’ he said. - Boston Globe, 5/6/14

After all that, here's the outcome:


State Republican Party officials told a Superior Court judge Friday they have decided to certify tea party candidate for governor Mark Fisher for a September primary challenge to endorsed candidate Charles D. Baker Jr.

The decision marks a major shift in the race for governor, creating a primary battle for Mr. Baker, who had expected to be untested before the November general election.

At a Suffolk Superior Court hearing on Mr. Fisher's claim that he was cheated out of the 15 percent support needed at the convention to make the primary ballot by improper vote counting, GOP lawyer Louis M. Ciavarra said party officials who are defendants in the suit have decided to allow Mr. Fisher on the ballot.

"It's going to happen. My clients approved it," he said of GOP Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes and GOP Executive Director Rob Cunningham agreeing to certify Mr. Fisher's qualification for the ballot. - Worcester Telegram, 5/10/14

So yeah, pretty ridiculous.  Meanwhile, things are getting a little heated in the Democratic primary:


Democratic hopeful Steve Grossman has spent the last month or so trying to portray rival Martha Coakley as an NRA ally. His reasoning: The NRA opposes limiting gun purchases to one a month; Coakley opposes limiting gun purchases to one a month. Therefore, Coakley is taking the NRA’s position.

But let’s suppose you’re not a member of the Faulty Syllogism Club. You might just find yourself wondering whether Coakley, who supports closing the gun-show loophole and banning assault weapons, can fairly be lumped with the NRA.

Then, when you learn her last grade from the NRA was a big red F, you might find yourself asking a different question: Is Treasurer Grossman really that easily confused — or does he just think that his fellow Democrats can be?

If Grossman wants to offer a fairer criticism of Coakley, there’s an obvious target: the AG’s “don’t let the people vote” stand on the proposed ballot question to repeal casino gambling. The attorney general is supposed to be the people’s lawyer; given that, you’d think she’d be in favor of certifying petitions whenever legally plausible.

But in disallowing the casino question, Coakley has adopted this odd corporatist stance: Ballot questions can’t take property. Contracts can be considered property. The application process for a casino license imparts implicit contract rights to the casino companies. Therefore, casino-gambling repeal can’t be on the ballot.

As Coakley’s point man on ballot questions told the Supreme Judicial Court this week, that (highly inventive) argument was first offered up by the gambling interests. So there, Grossman could fairly charge Coakley with adopting their position. - Boston Globe, 5/9/14

Democratic frontrunner, Attorney General Martha Coakley (D. MA), scored a big endorsement recently:


Calling her a “tireless champion for women’s health,” Planned Parenthood today announced that it is endorsing Martha Coakley for Governor of Massachusetts.

“Her long and consistent record of fighting for health care access, public safety, and reproductive rights distinguishes her among the field of candidates,” said Martha “Marty” Walz, President of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund. “Massachusetts can count on Martha to be a leader for health care access, family planning funding, and comprehensive sexuality education.” - Boston Globe. 5/8/14

But of course when you're the frontrunner, your primary opponents are going to come after you pretty heavily:


A newly aggressive Juliette Kayyem plans to use a Saturday afternoon rally in Arlington to lay out her case about why she would be a better governor than her opponents in the Democratic primary, particularly frontrunner Attorney General Martha Coakley.

"This is a race, and it's a fight for the future of the Democratic Party," Kayyem said in an interview with The Republican/MassLive.com. "It is not too soon to start talking about both the substantive differences and the experiential differences that I have with the candidates."

Kayyem, a former Homeland Security official, is fighting for support at the June Democratic convention. A candidate must get support from 15 percent of convention delegates to appear on the Democratic primary ballot. Coakley and Kayyem are competing with treasurer Steve Grossman, former Medicare and Medicaid administrator Don Berwick and biotech executive Joe Avellone.

Kayyem has been growing increasingly aggressive recently, accusing Coakley of "hypocrisy" in a dispute over campaign financing and saying Coakley is "interested in scoring pointless political points" due to her stance on the Massachusetts Health Connector.

Coakley's campaign manager Tim Foley said Coakley looks forward to a competitive primary and welcomes debating her fellow candidates. "People are supporting Martha all across the Commonwealth because they know she has spent her career fighting for them – holding big banks accountable to keep people in their homes, successfully challenging the Defense of Marriage Act, and working to lower health care and energy costs," Foley said. "Democrats will win in November by fighting for our values and working to create a Commonwealth that is fair and prosperous, and that is exactly why Martha has the support of so many people across the state." - The Republican, 5/9/14

We'll see how this goes.  At least our candidates are debating real issues and our values.  The Republicans are just making asses of themselves.  But this showcases how Christie as RGA chairman is toxic for GOP candidates and one can only hope he takes down a lot of them this year.

Originally posted to pdc on Sun May 11, 2014 at 11:13 AM PDT.

Also republished by Massachusetts Kosmopolitans, The Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party, and Christie Watch.

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