Briefings: Charlie’s Back to Visit! Just Kidding, He’s Raising $$$…
Guess who’s back in town?
Gov. Charlie Baker, no longer a stranger to Springfield and Western Massachusetts, is in the area again this evening. However, as with his last visit last month, the reason is not entirely about checking in with the common folk of the 413. Rather the governor is here for yet another fundraiser, this time at the Marriott in downtown Springfield.
Once again the host raises at least a few eyebrows. While MassMutual CEO Roger Crandall is not quite in the same league as someone trying to develop a rival to MGM Springfield in Connecticut, the head of Springfield’s largest and most prominent financial firm sent ripples through the city—or should have—only last month.
In September Crandall made waves when he warned MassMutual, one of the commonwealth’s largest companies—and the only one of its scale based in Springfield—may not be in Massachusetts forever.
According to an invitation obtained by WMassP&I, Crandall’s fundraiser starts tonight at 5:30 pm. Suggested donations range from $125 to $1000, the annual contribution limit in Massachusetts.
Because both Baker and his lieutenant governor, Karyn Polito, have separate campaign accounts, individuals can effectively donate up to $2000 to the ticket. Polito is also expected to attend. Additional funds can go to the state and national GOP’s joint account used to influence down ballot races, such as state rep and senate elections.
Reaction to Crandall’s speech, reported by the Boston Business Journal, was relatively muted, but the prospect of the life insurance giant, whose subsidiaries cover a far wider range of financial services, would chill even those most ebullient about Springfield’s future.
In context, Crandall’s remarks may have been somewhat overstated vis-à-vis MassMutual. He appeared to be talking about the competitiveness of Massachusetts’s business climate overall. For example, he cited sky-high energy costs and rising minimum wages as issues firms do not experience in other states. Neither are a particular damper on the mutual insurance firm, which is owned by its policyholders.
Poor financial literacy in the region and law population growth could have a more direct impact on MassMutual. At the same time, Crandall cited the state’s cybersecurity and technology workers as a huge asset that anchors his company here.
MassMutual is among Springfield’s largest taxpayers, excluding properties that make non-tax paymentss under agreements with the city such as MGM. With the decline of major industrial plants, MassMutual’s State Street headquarters has perhaps the city’s largest single tax bill, exceeding $1 million.
That Crandall would host a fundraiser for Baker is no surprise. The Boston Business Journal said he praised Baker along with former Governor Deval Patrick for being attentive to business. However, given the proximity to Crandall’s comments it could cause some to wonder. If there really is a threat to MassMutual’s presence in Springfield and Crandall is raising money for Baker, does the state have any leverage here?