Gov. Baker enjoys brisk fundraising pace in first 6 months

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Charlie Baker won’t face re-election for another three years, but he’s already stockpiled more in campaign donations than his two recent predecessors in the governor’s office.

During the first six months of the year, Baker raised nearly $940,000 for his campaign account, according to an Associated Press review of state campaign finance reports.

That’s nearly three times the $352,000 raised by former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick during the same period in his first year.

Baker has even eclipsed the $663,000 fellow Republican Gov. Mitt Romney raised through the end of June during his first year in office.

As of June 30, Baker had a balance of more than $896,000 in his account, a sizable down-payment on a potential campaign that won’t happen until 2018, if he seeks a second term. During the same six months, he reported nearly $324,000 in expenditures.

Baker is being helped in part by a new law that kicked in this year that allows supporters of state candidates to donate up to $1,000 a year — double the previous $500 annual cap.

According to the AP’s review, close to half of Baker’s haul for the first half of the year came from 410 donors maxing out with $1,000 individual contributions.

All told, Baker has collected about 2,500 donations since the start of the year — almost double Patrick’s nearly 1,400 contributions during his first six months in office, but slightly less than the more than 2,800 contributions Romney received during his first six months.

Who’s donating to Baker?

About 300 of the donors — or more than one in ten of all contributors — identified themselves as an attorney or lawyer. And 200 more listed their profession as CEO, president or chairman.

They include those whose businesses could be touched by state policy, such as the heads of health insurance and medical firms, construction and real estate developers, transportation executives, higher education officials, public workers, and utility and power company executives.

Baker Finance Director David Drummond said the contributions to the governor reflect the broader public support for his policies.

“Gov. Baker’s results-oriented, commonsense approach is resonating with people across the commonwealth,” Drummond said in a statement. “We’re grateful for the strong support as the governor continues to work hard for the people of Massachusetts.”

Baker has enjoyed significant public backing during his first months in office as the state grappled with record snowfall and worked to close a projected $1.8 billion gap in the 2016 fiscal year state budget.

Pam Wilmot, executive director of Massachusetts Common Cause, said incumbents have an advantage over potential challengers because they can begin putting away money well ahead of the next campaign.

“Our concern with money that comes in at the beginning of an administration is that it is even more heavily weighted to interests seeking to influence public policy than the money that comes in during the heat of the campaign,” she said.

The contributions to Baker include donations from multiple individuals working for the same company, including some of the more politically-connected law firms and lobbying firms in the state.

The change in the campaign donation limit was part of a larger bill passed by lawmakers and signed by Patrick last year designed to tighten reporting requirements for independent political expenditures, including spending by political action committees known as super PACs. The $500 limit had been in place for 20 years.

The higher donation limits and the readiness of supporters to open up their checkbooks could make it easier for Baker and other statewide candidates to more quickly amass larger campaign war chests well ahead of any re-election campaign.

Baker raised more than $5.8 million for last year’s campaign for governor under the old $500 contribution limit, according to the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance. His Democratic challenger, Martha Coakley, raised more than $3.7 million.

Those totals didn’t include the $16.9 million in political spending by outside groups. In 2014, most independent spending was from super PACs, much of it to support Baker and Coakley.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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