Weird that the Boston Globe Editorial Board endorsed Charlie Baker for Governor of Massachusetts after the paper’s own coverage back in June about the connections between Baker and the pay-to-play scandals of the Chris Christie Administration in New Jersey:
Baker’s new-found notoriety in the Garden State came to a head when the New Jersey State Investment Council agreed to seek a legal review of the $10,000 donation he made to the New Jersey GOP in May 2011 — just seven months before General Catalyst, the investment firm where he is listed as an “executive in residence” principal, received $15 million from the state’s pension fund.
The council’s decision sparked a series of headlines across the state that has put Baker in the middle of the ongoing media feeding frenzy that is swirling around Christie and his administration.
Just last week, a Washington-based campaign finance watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called on the Securities and Exchange Commission, the New Jersey attorney general, and the state’s Election Law Enforcement Commission to investigate a possible connection between the donation and the investment.
Here’s a sampling of some of the headlines over the past month: “N.J. pension fund’s investment draws pay-to-play inquiry” is the way the Philadelphia Inquirer’s website, philly.com, headlined its story. “Christie administration to investigate pension investment tied to Massachusetts Republican” topped the story in the Newark Star Ledger. The Asbury Park Press and the Bergen Record covered the meeting with stories detailing the controversy.
The Inquirer website salted the wounds with a huge photo of Christie on a stage with Baker, then the 2010 GOP gubernatorial nominee, when the New Jersey governor came to Massachusetts to campaign for him. It also carried a head-shot of Baker farther on in the story, with the phrase “pay-to-play” in the caption. The controversy is also drawing national media. Businessweek ran a piece about the council’s decision, Fortune magazine has weighed in, and CNN’s website has also followed the story.
According to David Sirota, writing in the International Business Times last week, Chris Christie is now actively suppressing information related to the inquiry into Baker’s involvement in the situation in New Jersey.
As chairman of the Republican Governors Association, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has helped Charlie Baker with millions of dollars worth of ads supporting his Massachusetts gubernatorial campaign. But that’s not the only way he may be boosting the GOP candidate in the final weeks of a close election: Christie officials are blocking the release of the findings of New Jersey’s pay-to-play investigation into Baker.
The documents being withheld pertain to an investigation of Baker’s $10,000 contribution to the New Jersey Republican State Committee. The contributions came just months before Christie officials gave Baker’s company, General Catalyst, a contract to manage New Jersey pension money. New Jersey’s pay-to-play rules prohibit contributions to state parties from “any investment management professional associated” with a firm managing state pension money.
When the campaign donations and subsequent pension contract came to light in May, Democrats criticized Baker, who was then launching his 2014 campaign for governor of Massachusetts. In response, New Jersey launched a formal investigation into Baker’s contributions. The Newark Star-Ledger reported at the time that Christie officials “said the review would take several weeks.”
In a reply to International Business Times’ request for the findings of the audit under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act, Christie’s Treasury Department said the request is being denied on the grounds that the documents in question are “consultative and deliberative material.” Despite officials’ assurances in May that the probe would take only weeks, the New Jersey Treasury said in September that the investigation is still “ongoing” — a designation the department says lets it stop the records from being released.
As a reminder: If the governor of Massachusetts has to resign for some reason — which, between scandals and promotions to Federal offices, is pretty common for U.S. governors in general these days — the lieutenant governor becomes Acting Governor of Massachusetts. From New York to Arizona, in the last six years, we’ve seen some pretty terrible lieutenant governors fail to rise to the challenge when suddenly promoted. If Charlie Baker becomes governor, and his term ends unexpectedly early for any reason, his current running mate, anti-gay Karyn Polito, would be the acting governor of Massachusetts.
She wasn’t my first choice for Governor of Massachusetts, but here are 5 big reasons to make sure Martha Coakley wins in November, instead of Republican Charlie Baker.
Above: Atty. Gen. Martha Coakley. (Credit: Fogster – Wikimedia)
- Veto Wielder: No matter who you supported in the Democratic primary, nothing genuinely progressive you wanted to see happen is going to get done to advance Massachusetts if Charlie Baker becomes governor and wields the veto pen. No matter how liberal he claims to be, he still identifies as a Republican, rather than a conservative Democrat, and that tells you where his priorities will lie. It definitely won’t be in pushing progressive laws and expanded investments in our state’s future, and it will likely mean vetoing them on so-called “fiscally conservative” grounds or for the benefit of Big Business.
Even with strong Democratic majorities in the legislature, there is enough of a conservative wing in the Massachusetts Democratic Party to sustain Baker vetoes or derail and water down legislation toward elusive “compromises.” We saw what happened when we let Mitt Romney hold the veto pen: health insurance reform cost-controls were ripped out and the state’s health costs ballooned. We wouldn’t even be looking seriously at a “healthcare executive” to run the state if it weren’t for the last Republican’s horrible job of trying to make health care policy in the first place. We need a Democratic Governor to prevent that from happening all over again. Time and again, Democratic governors across the country have proven more fiscally responsible than their “fiscal conservative” counterparts in the Republican Party.
In contrast, Martha Coakley has been running on a progressive platform this year with a long list of ambitious agenda items. She’ll work with the legislature — not against them — to make some of those ideas happen.
- Lieutenant Governorship and the Republican Platform: You might think the lieutenant governor (elected on a ticket with the governor in the general election) is unimportant, but if the governor has to resign for some reason — which, between scandals and promotions to Federal offices, is pretty common for U.S. governors in general these days — the lieutenant governor becomes Acting Governor of Massachusetts. We had two Republican Lieutenant Governors become Acting Governors in Massachusetts from 1997-2001. One even had to deal with 9/11’s impact on the state, after two flights from Boston were hijacked and ended in disaster. Fortunately, she was reasonably up to the job, but this is not something to leave to chance. From New York to Arizona, in the last six years, we’ve seen some pretty terrible lieutenant governors fail to rise to the challenge when suddenly promoted. So who did Baker select for that job?
Supposedly inconsistent with his own views, Charlie Baker chose an anti-marriage equality “stalwart” (as the Boston Globe put it) as his running mate, to please the fringe base of the rapidly dwindling Massachusetts Republican Party. Last time around, Baker actually had the guts to run with an openly gay state senator, who this year was forced to boycott the state convention because it was set to adopt an anti-gay, anti-choice platform in the year 2014 in Massachusetts. Baker isn’t even in office yet and he’s already catering to the lunatic right-wing, while trying to convince us he’s more liberal than ever.
If Charlie Baker becomes governor, and his term ends unexpectedly early for any reason, anti-gay Karyn Polito would be the acting governor of Massachusetts. That’s unacceptable. If Martha Coakley becomes governor, in the number two spot we’ll get Steve Kerrigan, a competent and progressive former Ted Kennedy staffer. The contrast in backup governors could not be clearer.
- Nominations: This is pretty straightforward. I would rather have any Democratic governor nominating people to the state’s courts and cabinet positions than Charlie Baker nominating them. His first nomination so far — his running mate, see #2 — has already given us a strong hint that he would use nominations as a way to appease conservatives who think he’s too moderate.
Appointed officials and judges tend to be the people residents end up most affected by, whether they realize it or not. They are the people who make the big decisions on how to implement what the lawmakers approve or how to interpret those laws. If you don’t want your rights and programs in the hands of unqualified, right-wing Republican Party favorites, Martha Coakley needs to become governor instead of Charlie Baker.
- Executive Orders: When faced with an opposing party’s control of the legislature, executives start getting creative with executive orders. Sometimes that’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s a way of circumventing the normal legislative process and making or suspending rules and regulations by fiat. Again, there’s a legitimate role for executive orders, but I would trust Coakley over Baker on executive orders. Plus, she won’t need to rely on them as heavily, because she can go to the legislature controlled by her own party.
- National Implications…
– Implementation of Federal laws: From the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansions to any number of other Federal laws that allow flexibility to state governments, we’ve seen in the past several years what the consequences can be of allowing Republicans to become governor. Don’t let Charlie Baker on Beacon Hill help Capitol Hill Republicans block President Obama’s agenda even more.
– Baker for President? Charlie Baker, much like the last Republican governor of Massachusetts, Mitt Romney, has already flipped-flopped a lot to try to reposition himself for a second attempt to win office. If Baker becomes Governor of Massachusetts, it will immediately position him on the shortlist for the Republican nomination for president in 2020 or 2024. The media and the party opinion-makers love it when somebody doesn’t quite fit the partisan mold and manages to become governor of a state that is traditionally associated with the other party. These narratives are always overblown and oversimplified, but they sure fuel a lot of presidential campaign bids. Let’s not help Republicans find an electable, flip-floppy moderate to run for the White House.
While I recognize that state party platforms are often pretty meaningless and individual candidates often don’t agree with them anymore, I think it’s still worth noting — nay, stopping still to stare in open-mouthed amazement at — the fact that the Massachusetts Republicans’ 2014 platform is, drumroll please…
- opposed to same-sex marriage
- opposed to abortion rights
Let’s check in on where folks in Massachusetts stand on that:
a September poll [in 2013] found that 85% of Massachusetts voters saw a positive or little to no impact from gay marriages in the commonwealth. In the poll, voters in the state support legalizing gay marriage 60% to 29%.
In the same poll, if you go to the crosstabs, you find
- 78% of Democrats say same-sex marriage should be allowed
- 53% of independents agree
The platform is actually consistent with the 60% of Massachusetts Republicans saying they do not think same-sex marriage should be allowed…but that’s in large part because everyone else became independents or Democrats to escape the crazy, leaving the Republican Party to be a mirror opposite of state opinion.
And more importantly, identifying with the 29% of overall voters who oppose same-sex marriage — in a state where 85% say it’s been a positive or had no impact a decade after legalization — is not a good way to get Republicans elected in the state. Without significant support from Massachusetts independents, who tend to be fiscally conservative but socially indifferent, Republicans remain a tiny majority out of power.
It seems kind of needlessly self-destructive too, including that in the platform, considering even 61% of Republicans in that poll admitted same-sex marriage had had no impact on their lives.