Politicians Cash In on New Massachusetts Campaign Limits

Governor Charlie Baker and Mayor Marty Walsh are among those reaping the benefits.

The doubling of Massachusetts’s meager $500 annual campaign contribution limit was a long time coming—and much needed. In the long run, it should allow challengers to raise the necessary funds to mount serious competitions.

But the timing of the change, which took effect at the start of this year, is proving a boon to the newest electees, most notably Governor Charlie Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh.

Both are quickly amassing war chests early in their four-year terms, at a faster clip than they could have prior to the new limits, passed into law last year.

Baker has led the way in the first six months of the year. According to my analysis of records at the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF), 434 individual donors gave more than $500 to Baker—420 of them giving the new $1,000 maximum.

In all, Baker raised an additional $212,610—a healthy 30 percent more than the total he would have under the old $500 cap.

His running mate, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito, also benefited, raising more than $100,000 in contributions above the previously allowed amount.

Walsh, who raised $1.6 million in 2014, his first year in office, raised more than $1 million in the first half of 2015. Close to $200,000 of that, or an additional 23 percent, would have been above the old individual limit.

Subcontracting company Century Drywall, of Lincoln, Rhode Island, took greatest advantage, with 11 different employees each giving Walsh $1,000 in early June.

Others starting new four-year terms are off to a slower start. Attorney General Maura Healey has raised around $25,000 extra thanks to the new limit, and Treasurer Deb Goldberg has raised less than $20,000 extra.

The new limits have not yet made a huge impact on this year’s Boston City Council races: none have raised as much as $20,000 extra from the new limit so far. Josh Zakim has made the most, followed by Michael Flaherty, Ayanna Pressley, and Tito Jackson, according to my analysis.

On the other hand, the new limits are having an impact just to the south in Quincy’s high-profile mayoral race. Incumbent Tom Koch raised $260,000 in the first six months of the year, including $1,000 each from 58 individual donors. That’s $58,000 that would have been just $29,000 under last year’s rules.

Meanwhile, state legislators’ campaign contributions have not yet been reported for this year.