Local Democrats and political insiders are holding a fundraiser for Governor Deval Patrick next month and seeking up to $5,500 per person despite the Democrat’s assertion he will not seek a third term in 2014 or challenge Republican Senator Scott Brown next year.
A spokesman said the event is to help retire campaign debts while simultaneously boosting the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
The first $500 of each donation would go to Patrick, the maximum allowable annual contribution for individuals under state law. The remainder of any contribution would go to the party, which can accept up to $5,000 annually from individuals.
The party spent over $2.5 million on Patrick’s behalf last year during his re-election campaign, primarily for mailings and television ads.
It spent another $712,000 on Patrick during the first three years he was in office. During his 2006 campaign, his first as a political candidate, the party spent $2.4 million helping Patrick get elected.
The party is led by John Walsh, who managed Patrick’s 2006 campaign.
The fundraiser is being organized by three members of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, a South Carolina law firm that has a Boston office and is active in government lobbying.
The invitation for the March 7 gathering at the office lists the co-hosts as Peter Haley, a partner specializing in commercial law; Robert Crowe, a Democratic fundraiser who is co-chairman of the firm’s Government Relations practice, and; Christopher Greeley, who is managing director of the firm’s public strategies group.
Greeley is a registered state lobbyist whose clients include the Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams ale, and Bristol Community College, a public entity. He was in the public spotlight when he managed Senator John Kerry’s 1996 epic re-election campaign against Republican William F. Weld.
Greeley said today: "Bob, Peter, and I are longtime supporters of Governor Patrick, both when he ran in his first term and when he ran for re-election, and are happy to continue our support."
Greeley acknowledged he lobbies state government, as disclosed in annual filings with the secretary of state. But he said he had no idea if Patrick had any aspirations beyond eliminating his campaign debt.
"That's a question for the governor," he said.
Patrick would have to establish a federal fundraising account to run for the Senate, but the state party could help him whether he ran for state or federal office.
Patrick has ruled out seeking re-election or filling the Democratic void in what has the potential to be a high-profile Senate race.
Brown shocked the party in a special election last year and claimed the seat held for nearly a half-century by a liberal party icon, Edward M. Kennedy. Many political strategists say only Patrick or Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, has the stature to knock him out of the Senate.
A Patrick spokesman said the governor has over $200,000 in debts he is trying to repay and the fundraiser is for that purpose. The governor’s year-end campaign finance report showed a cash balance of $20,000 and nearly $88,000 in debts, including $20,000 to Doug Rubin, Patrick’s chief political strategist.
Strategists often delay fully billing a campaign until after an election, to preserve donations for campaign work and to avoid disclosing their fee while it could be problematic for a candidate.
Patrick’s campaign “left the re-election committee with a small debt,’’ spokesman Steve Crawford said in a statement. “The Massachusetts Democratic Party needs additional resources to meet its goal of continuing the strong neighbor-to-neighbor effort it undertook in the last election."
Despite Patrick’s public assertions, he has only heightened interest in his political intentions with his recent activities and travels.
He went to Washington last week to have dinner with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. He is charged with recruiting surrogate speakers for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Patrick could be a particularly effective counter-puncher if his immediate predecessor as governor, Mitt Romney, wins the GOP’s presidential nomination.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Patrick made an overnight trip to Chicago to meet with political strategist David Axelrod, who previously served as a Patrick political adviser and left the Obama administration last month to prepare for a re-election role.
Patrick was slated to see Obama himself today during a ceremony at the White House, but he cancelled his trip after falling ill.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.