Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patricks plan to become a leading defender of the new health care law has some questioning whether he is seeking a new job.
The nonprofit, based in Washington, has regular strategy sessions with the White House political team, sources familiar with the organization said. That coordination is not a violation of election laws so long as the group does not expressly advocate Obama or attack his opponents, but it raises concerns about who is directing millions of dollars that could influence voters next year.
“I do consider it a violation of the spirit of the tax code and the election code,” said Craig Holman, a government affairs lobbyist at the watchdog group Public Citizen. “It’s an example of the type of coordination I’d like to see banned.”
As a corporation, the group is not required to disclose its donors and can make unlimited expenditures on political activity. However, in order to maintain its status as a tax-exempt social welfare organization, electioneering cannot be its primary activity.
It is increasingly common for elected officials to set up a variety of money-raising entities, but Patrick’s commitment to the presidential race, still 18 months away, is unusual for a sitting governor.
His recent travel, including a two-week book tour to promote an Obama-esque autobiography, has not gone unnoticed at home.
“He’s doing everything to try to get on the radar screen,” said Holly Robichaud, a Republican consultant in Massachusetts. “Who knew being governor would be part time? He didn’t tell us this last November.”
Even fellow Democrats wonder privately if his ambitions go beyond Beacon Hill, despite promises to complete his second term.
“My sense is that he’s positioning himself to take on a larger political role — either appointive or elective,” said a former aide to Gov. Michael Dukakis (D). These groups “give him a national forum, both to support the president’s health care agenda, as well as to broaden his national political standing.”