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Campaign 2010

In flip from ’06, parties spending more than candidates

National factions are also active in governors’ race

By Brian C. Mooney
Globe Staff / October 31, 2010

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Four years ago, the candidates for governor spent a ton of money while the political parties played supporting roles. In this year’s contest, it’s the opposite: Candidates are spending less, and the parties have stepped in to fund much of the campaign.

Grimy negative ads are certainly saturating the airwaves, and pieces of mail are littering the political landscape this fall, but this year’s campaign will fall short of the spending record from 2006, when candidates for governor and lieutenant governor spent a total of $49 million.

This year, the candidates for governor and their running mates are on pace to spend less than half that amount, according to a Globe analysis.

The two parties’ national committees have spent heavily in the competitive governor’s race, led by the Republican Governors Association, which has already spent more than $6.4 million. That has paid for negative ads aimed at Democratic incumbent Deval Patrick and state Treasurer Timothy P. Cahill, who is running as an independent, along with comparative ads designed to boost Republican challenger Charles D. Baker. The Republican Governors Association was not a factor in 2006.

The Democratic Governors Association has spent an undisclosed amount, paying at least $3.1 million for anti-Baker TV ads funded by a front organization called Bay State Future. The Massachusetts Teachers Association and Service Employees International Union Local 1199 also paid part of the cost of those ads, but the full amounts have not yet been reported to the Internal Revenue Service. Bay State Future is a nonprofit political organization known as a 527, referring to the section of the tax code it operates under.

The teachers association has also spent at least $2.7 million in independent expenditures, mostly on TV ads criticizing Baker and promoting Patrick, whom the union endorsed. The teachers’ union spent $2.3 million in 2006.

The state parties have spent far more this cycle than they did in 2006 as well. The state Democratic Party is on track to spend more than $5 million, much of it on ads supporting Patrick. In 2006, the state party spent about $1.7 million. In the past two weeks, the Democratic Party has raised nearly $1 million, bank-deposit records filed with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance show. That’s almost four times the amount collected by the Massachusetts Republican Party in that period.

State Democratic Party chairman John Walsh said the party began raising money aggressively early in this cycle, a task he said was made easier with Patrick as the incumbent. Walsh also said the high-profile nature of the 2010 campaign has helped.

“As people really started focusing on the races and people saw what was at stake, the fund-raising really picked up,’’ he said.

The state GOP has played a much bigger role this year as well and is on pace to spend more than $2.6 million, much of it to help underwrite the cost of Baker’s TV advertising. In 2006, the state GOP spent a little more than $1 million, state campaign-finance records show, although the party spent significantly to help Mitt Romney in 2002.

Baker’s campaign manager, Tim O’Brien, said that in order to compete with the union and special-interest money, the campaign has had to “utilize every available finance option to put us in a place to win.’’

“Charlie Baker will be outspent by Deval Patrick and his union allies, and the state party has been a vital resource to compete with those dollars,’’ O’Brien said, noting that Baker is the first Republican challenger in years not to dip into his or her own deep pockets.

One reason for the reduced candidate spending compared to 2006, when three gubernatorial candidates spent a combined $22 million of their personal wealth in losing bids, was the lack of any primary contests for governor or lieutenant governor.

Four years ago, Democrat Christopher Gabrieli spent about $10 million, and more than $9 million of his own funds, in losing the three-way gubernatorial primary won by Patrick. The trio spent more than $21 million in that primary, and there was also a $4.7 million, three-candidate Democratic primary for lieutenant governor won by Timothy P. Murray.

The Republican candidate for governor in 2006, then-lieutenant governor Kerry Healey, spent more than $9 million of family money on the way to losing to Patrick in the November election. And businessman Christy Mihos, running as an independent, spent almost $3.7 million of his own money and finished a distant third. Mihos ran as a Republican this year but failed to qualify for the GOP primary ballot at the party convention.

Four years ago, Patrick spent $5.7 million to win the primary and another $3.2 million in the general election. Since last year, Patrick has spent roughly $5.4 million but has benefited from Murray spending more than $3 million on the ticket’s behalf.

Baker will spend more than $7 million, and his running mate Richard Tisei will spend more than $1.7 million. Cahill, who amassed a large war chest before leaving the Democratic Party, is on pace to spend more than $5 million this year. Green-Rainbow Party candidate Jill Stein will spend a little more than $200,000.

Brian C. Mooney can be reached at bmooney@globe.com.