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With Baker and Polito out, what happens to the campaign cash they raised?

Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks at a press conference with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at the State House after announcing the they will not seek a third term. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker speaks at a press conference with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at the State House after announcing the they will not seek a third term. (Robin Lubbock/WBUR)

Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito have amassed more than $3 million in their campaign accounts. Now that they’ve decided not to run for re-election, they’ll have to figure out what to do with all that cash.

Both have been accomplished fundraisers, accepting donations right up until the day before they announced this month they were not running for a third term.

Polito now has just under two $2.5 million in her campaign war chest, while Baker has another $884,000, as of the end of November.

Baker campaign advisor Jim Conroy said they’re considering what to do with the money.

Conroy said they are happy to provide refunds to any donors who ask. Baker and Polito still have a small staff that must be paid, as well as other legal and administrative expenses, until they wind down their campaign operations.

But that could still leave them with a substantial sum to spend. One option would be to throw picnics, cocktail parties and other gatherings to thank supporters.

“Further down the road, we’re focused on the work now, but the governor and lt. governor have a lot of people they’re going to want to thank,” Conroy said.

The pair originally scheduled a fundraiser later this month in Springfield. But now they’ve turning it into a holiday party with supporters and will no longer solicit donations.

Ray La Raja, a political science professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst said Baker only has a handful of other options to spend the money under state law.

“He can donate to a charity, a bona fide charity, if he wants. He could even give it back to the general fund of the commonwealth, which I doubt he’ll do,” La Raja said.

Massachusetts law permits candidates to keep their campaign funds open indefinitely if they are considering someday running for state office again. That means Baker could make donations to other campaigns until he finally closes down his campaign account for good.

“He could still be a player,” La Raja said. La Raja said he doubts Baker will turn all the money over to the Republican party, but could make contributions to individual candidates he supports. Or he could hold onto the money in case he eventually decides to run for office again.

State law bars candidates from taking money they raised for state or local office and using it to run for Congress — or the White House.

But even if Baker and Polito are done with Massachusetts politics, it’s up to them to decide exactly when to dissolve their state campaign committees and disburse the remaining funds.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick kept his campaign open until just a few months after he left office in early 2015.

By contrast, former Gov. Mitt Romney’s account stayed active for five years after he stepped down.

Romney used some of his leftover funds to pay for his official portrait that hangs outside the Governor’s office.

Could Baker use some of his funds for a portrait as well?

Conroy, Baker’s campaign finance advisor, said he has no idea: “You’re the first one to mention it to me.”

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

Copyright 2021 WBUR

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