Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, President-elect Biden’s nominee for secretary of labor, paid his girlfriend’s fundraising consulting firm over $1 million, campaign filings show.
The payments account for more than half of LB Strategies’ political business since 2013. Payments have steadily increased over the years, but since May 2019 the campaign’s account has paid the firm $14,650 each month. The last payment listed was Dec. 4, 2020.
Walsh was first elected mayor in 2014 and again in 2018, raking in $2.7 million in fundraising in the year leading up to his reelection alone. At the start of this month, the war chest had over $6 million in cash on hand, according to Massachusetts' Office of Campaign and Political Finance.
The Democrat mayor could have run for reelection in 2022, as there are no term limits on the office, but he never officially announced he would. Instead, he was plucked for labor secretary. His departure for a Cabinet position would trigger a special election to fill his vacated post.
Lorrie Higgins, Walsh’s girlfriend, has served as a fundraising consultant for the company since 2014, according to her LinkedIn page. The small company oversees the operations of Walsh’s campaign office and campaign mailings, as well as scheduling, managing, and attending his fundraisers, among other tasks, Walsh spokesperson Megan Costello told the Boston Globe in 2019. She said the duties go beyond what LB Strategies provides for other clients.
LB Strategies’ other clients have included former State House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo and two statewide officeholders.
Higgins’ work for Walsh does not violate campaign finance rules but could draw scrutiny with Walsh’s rising profile.
"It’s the kind of thing that voters are concerned about. It looks like nepotism in some form," Maurice Cunningham, a University of Massachusetts - Boston professor who has written extensively about campaign finance issues, told The Globe.
Walsh spent $40,000 on polling numbers in the month of November, though he hadn’t announced a run for reelection. Walsh, a former union boss and state rep from Dorchester, polls strongly in the city and would have been a formidable candidate to beat in 2022.
The Boston mayor didn’t take questions Friday in his first news briefing since Biden announced his labor secretary pick.
"I just want to thank the people of Boston for their strength and resilience over this past year and always, and I want to say thank you for all the well wishes and kind words I received over the past week," Walsh said, before handing the mic over to Boston Public Schools Superintendent Brenda Cassellius and Health Chief Marty Martinez. "I will not be taking any questions," he said.