BOSTON – A super PAC run by a Leominster developer with ties to Gov. Charlie Baker has raised more than $652,000 since the primary election, and has begun spending heavily on digital advertising and direct mail over the final weeks of the election, blanketing voters in many competitive legislative districts.
The Massachusetts Majority super PAC purchased $31,615 in Facebook ads in recent days, and has active ads supporting candidates in 29 different races, according to data available through Facebook. Many of those same candidates have also received support through direct mail sent by the political action committee, which is backing mostly Republicans this cycle, but has also spent in support of some Democrats.
The largest beneficiary by far of the super PAC’s spending seems to be Republican Jerry McDermott, who is running for Norfolk County sheriff against a Democrat with the same last name, Patrick McDermott.
Mass. Majority, in two separate filings made since Friday with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, reported spending $104,682 on direct mail in support of McDermott since Oct. 15, and another $5,125 on digital ads.
The support for McDermott was part of the super PAC’s $528,535 spending spree since Oct. 15 on mail and digital advertising for a host of candidates. The beneficiaries range from Republican incumbents like House Minority Leader Brad Jones and Weymouth Sen. Patrick O’Connor, who both have opponents this cycle, to GOP contenders for open seats like Steven Xiarhos, the retired Yarmouth deputy police chief running for retiring Rep. Randy Hunt’s seat on Cape Cod.
Campaigns cannot coordinate with super PACs like the Massachusetts Majority independent expenditure committee, which was started by real estate developer Gregg Lisciotti to supports candidates “who are common sense, bipartisan, fiscally responsible leaders.”
Lisciotti was appointed by Baker to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority board, and was also a member of his transition committee in 2014.
The spending has been supported by a list of well-heeled donors led by Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish, who wrote Massachusetts Majority a check for $150,000 on Oct. 22. Fish has been a donor to Gov. Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, as well as many prominent Democrats over the years.
The super PAC also reported receiving $100,000 in combined contributions from James Mooney and his wife Lisa Mooney. Mooney is a partner with the Boston hedge fund Baupost Group. Other prominent donors include Wayfair CEO Niraj Shah, who gave $35,000 on Sept. 28 and $25,000 each from auto dealers Herb Chambers and Dan Quirk.
Jay Cincotti, a veteran Democratic political operative, said in competitive races like some of the ones targeted by Massachusetts Majority, direct mail can make a difference if done correctly.
“It can be the most cost effective tool available to you, but you have to hit the right people,” Cincotti said.
This cycle, Cincotti is working for the Democratic McDermott in the Norfolk County sheriff’s race, and has seen the mail flooding into the district for his opponent.
“The only way a Republican is truly going to be competitive in this kind of environment is by opening the floodgate of super PAC money because candidates can’t raise that money on their own,” he said.
Massachusetts Majority is supporting some Democrats this election, including state Rep. Jerry Parisella, a veteran from Beverly, and Thomas Hoye, the former Taunton mayor who is running for election as Bristol County register of probate after being appointed to the post by Gov. Baker in late 2019.
The super PAC has also not spent any money to support Sen. Dean Tran, one of just four Republicans in the Senate who is in a tough reelection battle against Democrat John Cronin after being disciplined earlier this year by the Senate for allowing his staff to perform campaign work using public resources during business hours.
“I find it surprising that Dean Tran was not included on the list considering he represents 25 percent of the GOP in the state Senate and is one of two minority members,” said Paul Craney, of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance. “With eight days to go, you would think a PAC with some Republican leanings would want to support a Republican in a tight race.”
OCPF records show that Cronin has benefited from nearly $21,000 in super PAC spending on his behalf this cycle from a handful of labor and environmental independent expenditure committees.