Boston Mayor Wu's inauguration fund raised $1.1 million, sparking concerns about potential conflicts
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu's extensive inauguration ceremony this week is funded by some of the largest developers, businesses and lobbying firms in the city.
The festivities are slated for Thursday, more than seven months after she was officially sworn-in, because of last winter's omicron surge. The ceremony and "summer block party" will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at City Hall Plaza.
Wu raised nearly $1.1 million to support the event.
Dewey Square Group, a political lobbying firm with offices in Boston, gave $25,000. The telecommunications giant AT&T also gave $25,000. Neither responded to questions from WBUR about their donations.
RISE Construction Management, which is developing several large apartment buildings across the city, gave $25,000, directly to the fund and another $25,000 through its development arm, RISE Together.
RISE Together chief executive Herby Duverné said the company was excited to support the block party model.
"As a local, minority-owned business – we recognize the need to get residents and visitors alike excited about coming back downtown," he said in an email. He said the business was eager to "celebrate alongside the first woman and person of color elected mayor of this great city.”
The Boston Red Sox and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft each donated $25,000. In a statement, the Red Sox said the team historically supports both gubernatorial and mayoral inaugurations. Kraft, who was traveling, could not be reached for comment.
The inauguration fund said it limited donations to the inaugural fund to a maximum of $25,000.
Asked about the donations, a fund spokesperson said the “mayor is proud of the support she has received from individuals and organizations across Boston, but that support does not influence decisions made at City Hall."
Previous mayors and governors in Massachusetts have also held lavish inaugurations funded by politically-connected donors.
Former Mayor Marty Walsh raised almost $1.4 million for his 2014 ceremony, while Gov. Charlie Baker raised a total of over $4 million to fund his two inaugurations.
"It's just a terrible system," said Maurice Cunningham, a retired professor at UMass Boston and an expert on Massachusetts campaign finance laws. "Because it's another way for money to come pouring into politics and government."
Cunningham said the donations are not necessarily nefarious, but creates a potential avenue for abuse.
"These are public events. The public should be paying for these," he said. "Not private folks who are seeking to ingratiate themselves to elected officials."
Correction: The story has been corrected to clarify that the inauguration fund, rather than the Wu campaign, limited the size of donations. The story has been updated. We regret the error.