Power 2008: The Elements of Influence


Case Study: Paul Grogan, president and CEO, the Boston Foundation

IN NEW YORK, power is money; in L.A., it’s fame. In Boston, it’s philanthropy. "It’s fundamental to how we think of ourselves as a city," says Geri Denterlein, founder of Denterlein Worldwide Public Affairs, a stalwart of the scene. "It’s central to our self-image."

Few understand this better than Paul Grogan. Since taking the reins at the Boston Foundation in 2001, the former aide to mayors White and Flynn has doubled the foundation’s assets to nearly $1 billion and shifted it into a policymaking force — taking the lead on pilot schools, affordable housing, and inner-city crime, to name a few. Currently, Governor Patrick is using a foundation study to support his push to reform the state’s controversial criminal-records law. "[Grogan] is absolutely key to the progress that this city is trying to make," says Jack Meyer, founder of Convexity Capital Management and a Boston Foundation board member.

Grogan frequently turns up as a possible mayoral candidate, and while he has pledged not to run in ’09, that’s done little to ease the long-standing tension between him and Mayor Menino. He is "very interested in being a leader, and being viewed as a leader," says Cindy Rizzo, a former foundation director of grantmaking. "He’s strong-willed, and the mayor’s strong-willed. That’s a difficult dynamic." The friction springs in large part from the media’s affinity for Grogan, a prodigious (and often bracingly candid) quote machine. "The press has made him viable by talking about him all the time," says one political insider, "and he’s made himself viable by being smart, and by playing himself well politically." Indeed, it’s a testament to Grogan’s clout that he’s the one potential threat the mayor can’t publicly move to squash: The veritable cloak of benevolence makes him politically bulletproof. —Joe Keohane