John Brennan Jr. Hits the Primaries

In a big way. Also: twice. What?

John Brennan Jr. is a familiar figure around Beacon Hill, but I really can’t say I expected his name to ever come up as an issue in a competitive election —let alone two.

Brennan, a former state legislator, runs a lobbying firm that ran into some trouble this year. The Attorney General’s office—aka the office of gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley—claims that the Brennan Group set up an illegal contingency relationship with Franciscan Hospital for Children. Last week, the AG’s office came to a settlement, in which the firm will repay $100,000 to Franciscan.

Steve Grossman, who is chasing Coakley in the Democratic primary, criticized the settlement during a forum earlier this week at Stonehill College, and spoke to me about it afterward. He points out that the $100,000 is not even all of the $370,000 the Brennan Group made off of Franciscan, and partial repayment is not much of a punishment. “I didn’t see any penalty,” Grossman said in an interview.

“I think the Attorney General exercised poor judgment on this one,” Grossman said, adding that “good judgment and clear decision-making” are critical traits for a governor.

Coakley’s office has argued that a number of issues, including the statute of limitations on the nearly decade-old activities, and a problematic witness, made it tough to go any further with the case.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Bill Galvin gave a heavy whack at Coakley by launching his own investigation into the Brennan Group allegations and telling the Boston Globe that “[t]he agreement raises more questions than it answers.” Ouch.

Now in comes Maura Healey, candidate for Attorney General and, prior to the launch of her campaign, an employee of Coakley at the AG’s office. The State House News Service reports today that Healey said she would have gone further with the case than Coakley, calling it “incredibly important” to hold people accountable in cases like this one.

Healey’s opponent Warren Tolman didn’t go quite as far with the State House News Service, but did say that “had concerns.”

Ah, but here’s a concern about Tolman: it turns out that four key people at the Brennan Group—Brennan himself, Patricia Brennan, Lynda Bernard, and Daniel O’Brien—have all given to Tolman’s campaign this year. All four have given the maximum allowed: $200 each from John Brennan, Bernard, and O’Brien, who are registered lobbyists, and $500 from Patricia Brennan, the firm’s former administrator.

So we have headlines in two big races, less than three weeks from the primary, stemming from activities of a Beacon Hill insider a decade ago. Who’da thunk it.