Super PACs spent big in preliminary campaigns

New Balance chairman Jim Davis (right) is spending money on City Council races through a super PAC called Forward Boston. (Image via Jeremiah Robinson/City of Boston photo archives)

Outside groups, also known as super PACs, laid out six figures in the preliminary election earlier this month, focusing their efforts on District 3, which is anchored in Dorchester, and District 5, which includes Hyde Park, Mattapan, and Roslindale.

In District 3, the super PAC primarily funded by New Balance chairman Jim Davis funneled $9,000 to the head of the Cape Verdean Association, ostensibly for a get-out-the-vote effort as seven candidates vied for the open City Council seat, according to publicly available campaign finance filings.

The super PAC’s preferred District 3 candidate was John FitzGerald, a Boston Planning and Development Agency official who lives in Adams Village. Out of all the candidates supported this cycle by the super PAC, known as Forward Boston, FitzGerald received the most backing, even as his campaign made clear he isn’t interested in help from super PACs. Last Friday, FitzGerald’s campaign reiterated his stance when asked about Forward Boston.

Super PACs can raise and spend money without limits. They have separate campaign accounts, but they are prohibited from coordinating with the candidates. In Massachusetts, they are typically funded by wealthy individuals and unions.

FitzGerald, who has been endorsed by a wide array of unions and former mayor Marty Walsh, topped the preliminary. He will face Joel Richards, a schoolteacher and pastor who lives in Fields Corner, on Nov. 7.

Campaign finance filings offer a peek into the activities of outside groups, as well as campaigns, that sometimes tap individual operators as part of an effort to pull voters to the polls.

A few days before the Sept. 12 preliminary, Forward Boston reported spending $9,000 on “pollsters, phone bankers, and drivers,” with the money going to a company called Amado Associates. The company lists a single-family home in the St. Mark’s neighborhood as its main address, and Paulo De Barros, who owns the home, as its manager. De Barros is also head of the Cape Verdean Association in Boston, and is involved in Bowdoin Geneva Main Street, an independent nonprofit focused on improving the area’s business district. He previously worked for Catholic Charities and as a teacher in Boston Public Schools.

A review of campaign finance records shows De Barros’s company has pulled in $72,500 from local elected officials since 2019, including state Sen. Nick Collins, who represents South Boston and Dorchester, and Frank Baker, who opted against running for reelection to the District 3 seat this year. Baker reported paying De Barros $15,000 during his last campaign in 2021, while Collins has paid De Barros just over $34,000 since 2019. The campaign finance filings list the purposes as consulting and “outreach,” including to the city’s Cape Verdean community.

De Barros, whose name was briefly in the mix as a potential candidate to run for Baker’s seat earlier this year, said a Forward Boston representative reached out to him “over the summer” for help with get-out-the-vote efforts. He did not name the representative.

“In the District 3 race it is important to reach out to the Cape Verdean speaking and Spanish speaking voters,” De Barros said in a text message. “In the past we have worked successfully, providing these services to other city, state and county campaign committees. Overall, our client is happy with the results of the preliminary.”

Since the company was organized in 2019, Amado Associates has not filed annual reports with Secretary of State William Galvin’s office, which stores records for entities organized or registered to do business in Massachusetts. A spokesman for Galvin said that Amado Associates was “administratively dissolved” by the office, a move that typically occurs after failure to file two consecutive annual reports. The spokeswoman said the dissolution, which occurred at the end of 2022, doesn’t mean they’re no longer operating as a business, but that they can’t get a “certificate of good standing” as a limited liability company until they file their annual reports and all filing fees.

There appear to be other connections between the Forward Boston super PAC and De Barros. The Cape Verdean Association of Boston bills itself as a nonprofit and has ties to Regan Communications, the public relations company led by George Regan, who also represents Jim Davis and worked with him and former police commissioner Willie Gross on a super PAC opposing then-Councillor Michelle Wu in the 2021 mayoral race. Regan’s firm sent out press releases on behalf of the Cape Verdean Association in 2022, touting a new computer lab.

Additionally, the Forward Boston super PAC is paying Pierce-Cote, an Osterville-based company under the Regan umbrella, to handle advertisements. Regan Communications did not respond to an email seeking comment about the Davis super PAC and the $9,000 payment to De Barros.

It remains unclear whether De Barros played a role in getting out the vote for FitzGerald, who topped the preliminary with 43 percent and doesn’t appear to need outside help with money, since his campaign has raised more than $181,000 over the last four months. For example, Uphams Crossing, located in an area with a heavy Cape Verdean presence, has two precincts that vote inside the building. In one, FitzGerald tied for third with former nonprofit leader Ann M. Walsh, behind Richards and Matt Patton, a labor lawyer who also ran for District 3. In the other precinct, FitzGerald came in fourth, behind Richards, Patton, and Walsh.

Overall, Forward Boston was the super PAC among other outside groups that spent the most money, much of it on advertising, in the city’s preliminary, totaling just under $100,000 in its efforts to boost FitzGerald, as well as a District 5 candidate, retired police officer Jose Ruiz, and IT director William King in District 6, which includes Jamaica Plain and West Roxbury. It also backed Ben Weber, another District 6 candidate. Like FitzGerald, they all decried the super PAC’s involvement.

The group spent thousands of dollars to advertise and promote Ruiz, who came in second place behind Enrique Pepen, a former top aide to Mayor Wu. Ricardo Arroyo, who had held the seat since 2020, came in third and was knocked out of contention for the Nov. 7 final election.

Arroyo was also targeted by an outside group aligned with Democrats for Education Reform. He and District 6 Councillor Kendra Lara became the first incumbents in 40 years to lose a City Council preliminary. Weber, who, like Pepen, was backed by Wu, topped the District 6 preliminary while King came in second.

Arroyo and Lara did see some outside spending on their behalves: Hispanic Latino Leaders Now, a super PAC primarily funded by East Longmeadow’s Cesar Ruiz, CEO of Golden Years Home Car Services, spent more than $10,000 on ads for the pair, though the bulk of its spending went to Western Massachusetts races. Western Mass Politics & Insight first reported its Boston expenditures.

Al Maiorino, a spokesman for the Hispanic Latino super PAC, stressed they are a statewide entity and they will continue to support candidates “we feel would align with our mission.” Asked whether they would be endorsing in the District 5 race between Pepen and Ruiz, Maiorino said the group is in the “process of evaluating the candidates.”

Other outside groups such as Mijente and Chinese Progressive Political Action were also involved in the unsuccessful effort to save the candidacies of Arroyo and Lara, who both faced summertime scandals involving an ethics violation and a car crash, respectively.

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