Chart of the Week: Breaking Down the Lobbyist Money in Boston’s Elections

In 2013, lobbyists could not ignore the election of a new mayor and several City Council members.

Lobbyists registered with the state of Massachusetts give a lot of money to politicians, but usually focus their funds on the statehouse lawmakers who they deal with most. In 2013, however, they could not ignore the importance of Boston’s city elections in which voters chose a new mayor and several new members of the City Council.

In all, those registered lobbyists contributed nearly $130,000 to candidates on Boston’s municipal ballots last year, according to my analysis of disclosures filed with the Secretary of the Commonwealth. More than two-thirds of that went to mayoral candidates.

That’s still just a fraction of more than $1 million those lobbyists gave altogether (I’ll break down the rest of that booty in future posts).

But it’s still a lot when you consider that lobbyists may give no more than $200 to any individual candidate in a calendar year.

This chart shows you who got how much of that lobbyist loot. As you can see, their favorites tended to end up as winners—but the causation is in large part in the reverse direction. Lobbyists usually like to curry favor with those they expect to be dealing with in office. Thus you saw money flowing to the frontrunners in the mayoral race and to incumbents in the City Council—along with newcomers Michelle Wu and Josh Zakim, who were perceived as likely winners of open seats:

Office Sought
Previous Office
Felix Arroyo$3,440MayorCouncil At-Large
Frank Baker$1,050Council District 3Incumbent
John Barros$700MayorNone
Ava Callender$400Council District 5None
Mark Ciommo$1,825Council District 9Incumbent
Dan Conley$7,150MayorDistrict Attorney
John Connolly$20,397MayorCouncil At-Large
Chris Conroy$25Council At-LargeNone
Rob Consalvo$11,800MayorCouncil District 5
Michael Flaherty$3,575Council At-LargeNone
Phil Frattaroli$200Council At-LargeNone
Annisa George$400Council At-LargeNone
Charlotte Golar Richie$4,275MayorNone
Tito Jackson$2,040Council District 7Incumbent
Jack Kelly$1,500Council At-LargeNone
Marty Keogh$100Council At-LargeNone
Sal LaMattina$200Council District 1Incumbent
Suzanne Lee$1,150Council District 2None
Bill Linehan$2,600Council District 2Incumbent
Tim McCarthy$475Council District 5None
Steve Murphy$6,200Council At-LargeIncumbent
Mike Nichols$600Council District 8None
Matt O'Malley$1,900Council District 6Incumbent
Catherine O'Neill$400Council At-LargeNone
Ayanna Pressley$3,885Council At-LargeIncumbent
John Ribeiro$25Council District 1None
Jeff Ross$1,045Council At-LargeNone
Mike Ross$4,200MayorCouncil District 8
Ramon Soto$90Council At-LargeNone
Mimi Turchinetz$875Council District 5None
Bill Walczak$3,950MayorNone
Marty Walsh$35,598MayorState Representative
Michelle Wu$4,722Council At-LargeNone
Charles Yancey$200Mayor/Council District 4Incumbent, District 4
Josh Zakim$2,300Council District 8None

Walsh’s lead with lobbyists was not, however, solely attributable to bandwagon-jumping. As an influential state representative, he already had good relationships with them. In fact, he had already raised quite a bit from them before anybody knew that there would be an open mayoral race.

The graph below shows when Walsh’s lobbyist contributions came in, compared with his overall fundraising. The first time-period is prior to Tom Menino’s announcement that he would not run for re-election. The next covers the early stages of the campaigns—up to the mid-July release of a poll showing Walsh and John Connolly in the leading positions. The third period goes from then until Labor Day—the traditional start of serious campaigning—followed by the final stretch to Walsh’s victory in the September 24 primary. Then there’s the first weeks of the general election; the final two weeks, as Walsh took the lead in polls; and finally the post-election period, when some people were offering donations as a peace offering after backing the wrong horse.

Few lobbyists waited until after the fact, though. Compared with others, they were early onto the Walsh bandwagon—for whatever that proves to be worth.

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David S. Bernstein
David S. Bernstein David S. Bernstein, Contributing Editor, Boston Magazine