A Hit To Baker From a Fellow Weld/Cellucci Guy? [Updated]

It looks like Jeff McCormick is going to get a little help from his friends.

On Tuesday, a new Independent Expenditure Political Action Committee (IE PAC) formed, claiming as its purpose “to promote the election of independent candidates to public office in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts,” and to provide “alternatives to the candidates running for election to public office as Democrats or Republicans.”

Paul W. Johnson, who is the committee’s Chairman and Treasurer, has not yet responded to my inquiries. But Joe Malone, the former state Treasurer—and former Republican—who is supporting McCormick’s independent bid for governor, tells me that “my guess is that Jeff will be benefiting from that organization.”

Malone says that he has had no involvement with the effort—by law, the McCormick campaign cannot coordinate with any independent committee—but that he has been aware of “a group of folks who were kicking around the idea that they wanted to help Jeff in some way,” including Johnson. Malone adds that he does not know for certain whether this new PAC is the result, or if McCormick would be the only candidate they plan to support.

Johnson’s involvement might raise an eyebrow or two. He lives in Swampscott, the same town as presumptive Republican gubernatorial nominee Charlie Baker; and the two also worked together in the Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci administrations. Johnson, who had previously worked as an assistant US Attorney under Weld, became his chief legal counsel in 1996, and continued in that role under Cellucci. For at least two years, Johnson was the top lawyer while Baker was running the budget as Secretary of Administration and Finance.

As an IE PAC, the committee can pretty much raise and spend unlimited amounts of money. If it is planning to support businessman/investor McCormick, there’s a fair chance that there could be some number of wealthy business/investor types (as Malone is these days as well) willing to kick in contributions dwarfing the $500 a head McCormick can raise for his own campaign committee.

UPDATE: Johnson confirms that the PAC will likely support McCormick, although he says that the goal is to more broadly support independent candidates. “The two-party system in Massachusetts is broken,” he said Thursday. “But this extends beyond Jeff McCormick, and beyond 2014.” Johnson denies that the effort is directed against Baker, saying that “I have great respect for Charlie.” As for specific goals, strategies, or fundraising, Johnson says he is still figuring all that out.[Clarification: Johnson did not say that the PAC will support McCormick; he cited McCormick as an independent candidate who has new ideas and a track record of implementing them.]