Mayor Martin Walsh’s stuffed wallet is on track to be heading to Washington with him — unless he chooses to donate some of his campaign haul.
Walsh has built up a campaign account of more than $6 million — $6,189,899.72, to be precise. He’d been fundraising as though he was going to run for a third term as mayor — and indeed most around him believed that’s what he would be doing — but when President-elect Joe Biden came calling with a job as Labor secretary, Walsh took it this week, meaning he’s likely not running to be the city’s chief executive.
If Walsh is confirmed by the U.S. Senate, he’ll be headed to D.C.
After Walsh’s nomination was announced, a spokeswoman for the mayor declined to comment on the future the cash.
On this front, more money does not mean more problems. Politicians can leave their campaign accounts open more or less in perpetuity, either keeping the cash stationary or spending from it for years, even when they’re not running for anything.
Politicians have some latitude in how they spend their campaign haul. Of course, it can go to any campaign-related expenses, like staffing, headquarters, fliers, advertising and polling. It also can go to setting up events — anything from a coffee outing to a banquet.
Politicians also frequently donate money, sponsoring Little League teams or helping local charities. Walsh himself gave $500,000 from his campaign account to the Boston Resiliency Fund last year to help residents struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Several years ago, then-U.S. Rep. Michael Capuano shelled out $53,000 from his to the MBTA to make the Fairmount Line free for two weeks.
One thing Walsh can’t do is simply dump a couple million over to whomever his chosen successor ends up being. He only can transfer up to $100 a year to to any given candidate from his account, according to the state Office of Campaign & Political Finance.
If candidates do decide to finally close up shop and dissolve their accounts, they have to donate the “residual funds” to the state, the city or town, a charity or a scholarship fund. It can’t go to another candidate.
City Councilors Andrea Campbell and Michelle Wu already were running for mayor, looking to challenge Walsh in this year’s elections. They could be joined by a range of other candidates now with Walsh appearing to be exiting, including City Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, state Sen. Nick Collins, state Rep. Jon Santiago, Boston Economic Development Chief John Barros, Police Commissioner William Gross and City Council President Kim Janey, who would become acting mayor when Walsh leaves.