As Republican Charlie Baker gears up to offer Massachusetts a re-run of his failed 2010 gubernatorial bid, there will be numerous extreme positions, gaffes, and efforts to mislead voters from his 2010 bid that Baker will no doubt try to sweep under the rug or Etch-A-Sketch away. Here is a reminder of a “baker’s dozen” of Republican Charlie Baker’s most embarrassing episodes, many of which he still has yet to fully explain to the voters of Massachusetts.
1] Charlie Baker desperately and dishonestly tried to pass the buck and deflect responsibility for his senior role in Big Dig financing.
On Friday, I went over to Baker’s campaign office to ask him about his role in the Big Dig. He was the state’s chief budget writer in the 1990s when the massive project was put under the control of the Turnpike Authority and the decision was made to borrow $1.5 billion against future federal highway funds. These days, the financially crippled authority has been eliminated, and we’re still paying off that debt. When I asked Baker about his influence in either decision, he said, “I was one of about 50 people.’’ That would make for an interesting campaign slogan. But he was the state secretary of Administration and Finance, the most prominent fiscal adviser to the governor. “So what,’’ he replied. “My approval meant nothing.’’
“Not sold on Charlie Baker,” Boston Globe, 3/3/10
Throughout his campaign for governor, Republican Charles D. Baker has sought to minimize his involvement in the $15 billion Big Dig. When he launched his candidacy last summer, Baker said he played a “small role in the Big Dig.’’ Days later, his campaign said that, as the state’s budget chief under governors William Weld and Paul Cellucci, he had a “limited role in the financing process.’’ And in March, Baker told a Globe columnist that when it came to figuring out how to pay for the massive project at one critical juncture in the 1990s, he was only “one of about 50 people’’ involved. But those statements are sharply at odds with a picture of Baker’s financial leadership of the project that emerges from hundreds of pages of memorandums, letters, and other documents culled from his four-year tenure as secretary of the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, from 1994 to 1998. The documents show that Baker was the chief architect of a financing plan to sustain the project during its peak construction years, just as federal support was diminishing substantially.
“Baker’s role in Big Dig financing process was anything but ‘small’,” Boston Globe, 6/13/10
Charlie Baker appears to have a small memory problem. An investigative story in the Globe yesterday outlined his deep involvement in financing the Big Dig, from which Baker had previously distanced himself. Although Baker has consistently portrayed himself as barely involved, it now seems he played a huge role in raising money for the money-eating project. […] Baker was secretary of administration and finance in the late 1990s when the Big Dig’s financing became a major problem. […] Baker came up with a plan to raise $3 billion, much of it through selling bonds, known as grant anticipation notes, that were secured by future highway appropriation grants. Critics now estimate that taxpayers will eat about $840 million in interest on the bonds, which will not be paid off until 2015. They also argue that the plan diverted too much money from other capital projects, an argument that our state’s crumbling infrastructure would seem to support. […] The real problem, at least for me, is the relentless effort to spin this. The notion that Baker had almost nothing to do with the Big Dig is false and is debunked, the story tells us, by reams of documents that detail his role. He wasn’t just “one of 50 people” who had something to do with the project, as he suggested not long ago. He was steeped in it.
“Digging deeper,” Boston Globe, 6/14/10
2] Charlie Baker not only opposed an important LGBT equality measure, but he joined extremist social conservatives in derisively mocking it.
Nearly two weeks after it emerged as an unexpected political football for GOP gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker, a bill that would add transgender people to the state’s anti-discrimination laws — referred to by critics as the “bathroom bill” in reference to potentially loosened restroom restrictions on restrooms in schools, and public and private venues — has remained in the forefront of the governor’s race, with Baker renewing his pledge to veto the bill, against the wishes of his running mate, state Sen. Richard Tisei (R-Wakefield), who represents Melrose. […]
Baker was panned by advocates of the bill last week after his campaign distributed fliers at the state Republican Party convention, referring to the legislation as the “bathroom bill,” a phrase viewed as derogatory by proponents of the transgender bill. The move was interpreted by some as an entreaty to social conservative delegates who had criticized Tisei’s support for the bill. […]
When a reporter noted that Baker’s derision of the proposal as “the bathroom bill” during the GOP convention had sparked outrage among gays and lesbians, Baker said, “I think we’re in pretty good shape with most of the folks we’ve been talking to.”
“Tisei downplays split with Baker on transgender bill,” Melrose Free Press, 4/29/10
3] Charlie Baker ran for Governor as a staunch ally of the gun lobby, and described gun safety efforts as “misguided.”
Affirming his support for the Second Amendment, Republican candidate for governor Charles Baker said he’d received a score of 94 on a Gun Owners Action League questionnaire […] Baker said he was concerned that gun control efforts were a “little misguided,” saying the state’s gun laws are already among the “most strict” in the nation.
“Charlie Baker: Check-in requirement could curb witness intimidation,” State House News Service via Boston Herald, 10/4/10
4] Charlie Baker praised Sarah Palin and the far-right-wing conservative Tea Party movement.
Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker said today he supports the civic engagement that Sarah Palin and the Tea Party Express, headed to Boston next week, bring to the political landscape. […] “To me, what makes the Tea Party work is the involvement of thousands of people on the local level across this country.”
“GOP’s Baker praises Tea Party contribution to politics,” Boston Globe, 4/5/10
5] Charlie Baker was revealed to have blown off his responsibilities while serving on a key state education board.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker – who casts himself as a champion of school reform – blew off a third of all meetings of a key state education panel, missing crucial votes to identify failing districts, expand charter schools and craft rules for scrapping bilingual education. Baker was a no-show at 18 of 56 regular and special meetings while a member of the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education from 1999 to 2003, according to board minutes obtained by the Herald. […]
The Baker campaign refused to answer questions about the absences.
“No-shows litter Charles Baker’s ed record,” Boston Herald, 7/27/10
• Charlie Baker’s disregard for responsibility at the state level was similarly acknowledged at the municipal level while a Swampscott Selectman.
According to records in Town Hall, Baker missed 12 out of 74 selectmen’s meetings, including three held during the annual Town Meeting where the budget is set. According to selectmen’s minutes recorded during his term, the few motions he sponsored, such as asking the board to approve overhanging signs, restaurant licenses, and bills from law firms, were generally rubber-stamped. […]
Amid the plaudits, there were also criticism of Baker’s performance. While many give Baker high grades for bringing a businesslike approach to the Board of Selectmen, some say his single term was overrated. “He had a minimal impact on the government in this town,” said Bill DiMento, a Swampscott lawyer and former School Committee member. “He didn’t take hold of this government. He was just another selectman who missed a lot of meetings.” Marianne Marino said that when she went before the board to complain about a local quarry’s dust and blasting schedule, she felt Baker listened intently and took the issue seriously. But Marino was disappointed when he didn’t pursue her concerns. “He listened, but he didn’t follow through,” she said. “Being the person he is and the political clout he had, he could have done a lot more.”
“Baker left his mark as a selectman,” Boston Globe, 7/14/09
6] Charlie Baker repeatedly ducked questions on climate change, refusing to take any position even as his ambivalence was recognized as potentially harmful to Massachusetts’ economy.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Charles Baker has a reputation as a smart guy, but he said last week he wasn’t smart enough to form an opinion on the hottest environmental topic of the day. Climate change: Does he believe in it, or doesn’t he? “I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t,’’ he told the Globe on Friday, a day after dodging the question at a public forum on Thursday. “You’re asking me to take a position on something I don’t know enough about.’’ He added, “I absolutely am not smart enough to believe I know the answer to that question.’’ Asked during a speech at Suffolk Law School on Thursday whether he agrees with the “scientific majority’’ that climate change is caused by human activities, Baker ducked. “I don’t think whether I believe that or not matters in this conversation,’’ Baker said. “What I do believe is that our overreliance on foreign oil is a big problem for national security and an economic point of view.’’
“Baker ducks climate query,” Boston Globe, 2/7/10
Changes in climate caused by greenhouse gases are the premier environmental issue of our day, so it is surprising to see Republican candidate for governor Charlie Baker evading questions on the issue with feeble claims about not being smart enough. The former CEO of Harvard Pilgrim Health Care first ducked a question on the human role in global warming after a speech last week at Suffolk University Law School. “I don’t think whether I believe that or not matters in this conversation,’’ Baker said. When a Globe reporter quizzed him further the next day, the Harvard-educated head of administration and finance under Governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci pled ignorance: “I’m not saying I believe in it. I’m not saying I don’t. You’re asking me to take a position on something I don’t know enough about. I absolutely am not smart enough to believe that I know the answer to that question.’’ Asked for more clarification yesterday, he again declined to state a conclusion but promised to read the 2007 report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Baker’s views actually matter a great deal. Along with California, Massachusetts is a leader in technologies, from high-tech batteries to cellulosic ethanol, that promise to make the world less dependent on fuels that emit the most common greenhouse gas, carbon dioxide. A governor who has not informed himself on the science that links carbon dioxide to global warming is going to be an unconvincing proponent of those technologies.
“Charlie Baker’s willful ignorance,” Boston Globe editorial, 2/11/10
7] Charlie Baker hypocritically criticized Governor Deval Patrick on revenue increases despite Baker’s own record of supporting tax hikes.
Republican Charles D. Baker is campaigning for governor as a fiscal hard-liner, repeatedly attacking Governor Deval Patrick and Democrats in the Legislature for raising taxes and showing little discipline on spending. […] But Baker’s own experience in the public and private sectors – as a one-term selectman in Swampscott, as the state’s top budget official, and as the chief executive of a major health insurer – muddies his critique. In all three roles, Baker either relied on new revenue to balance the books or had the luxury of a booming economy, obviating the need for drastic cuts. In Swampscott, he helped build local budgets that imposed higher property taxes on home owners and supported an override of Proposition 2 1/2. At Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, he presided over insurance premium increases that averaged 10 percent a year. And while he was secretary of administration and finance in the 1990s, robust tax proceeds were flowing into the state treasury. […] The tax increases during his time as a Swampscott selectman, Baker said, mostly came in the form of voter-approved Proposition 2 1/2 overrides, one to build a high school and another for operational budget increases, which he supported. […] “I’m a no-new-taxes guy,” he said when he launched his campaign last summer. “Read my lips: `No new taxes.'” But as a selectman in Swampscott, a town of 14,000, Baker approved budgets that raised property taxes, and he supported a tax levy override to fund town operations that raised taxes beyond the cap set by Proposition 2 1/2. In one of the three years he served, the tax rate climbed nearly 8 percent because of the override. […] Minutes from selectmen’s meetings and local news reports offer no indication that Baker opposed increasing the local tax burden. He voted to approve annual town budgets, voted to place the override on the ballot, and later voted for the override at the ballot box. Baker said he backed the override to support town services, and he made a distinction between voters choosing to raise taxes and lawmakers imposing tax increases from on high. […] But Harvard Pilgrim also raised premiums to generate revenue. Facing skyrocketing charges from providers, including hospitals and doctors, the insurer continued to raise premiums through the next decade, as many other insurers did. To help remain solvent, Baker and his board approved average rate increases of about 10 percent or more annually.
“Baker relied on revenue increases,” Boston Globe, 4/28/10
As selectman, Baker had supported in 2006 a $2.3 million override of the town’s Proposition 2 1/2 tax limit. Now, some local folks are remembering another override that Baker supported – this one for $2.5 million in 2001. Baker made out a $1,200 check to the campaign, the biggest single donation made to the effort, according to one of the leaders of the effort.
“Anderson stands by her antitax candidate,” Boston Globe, 5/2/10
Tell the truth. You failed to do that one recent night when Janet Wu of Channel 5 asked you whether you supported the Proposition 2 1/2 overrides while you were a selectman in Swampscott, and you said, “I don’t remember.’’ You told the Globe’s Frank Phillips two weeks before that you supported overrides.
“Truth or consequences,” Boston Globe, 5/14/10
During his three-year term as Swampscott selectman, Baker voted to place almost a dozen override questions on the ballot to let voters decide which services, if any, they favored. But when asked whether he personally voted for any of the overrides at the polls, he blanked. “I don’t remember,” Baker said. Baker also could not recall which way he voted on an override ballot question in January to build a new police station, even though he told The Salem News on election night that he voted for it. At the time, he said he felt the station could be built without raising taxes because another Swampscott debt would be simultaneously discharged.
“Baker talks taxes and the GOP ticket,” Gloucester Times, 9/27/10
8] Charlie Baker referred to his $1.7 Million CEO salary as a “middle-class” salary.
Lt. Gov. Tim Murray yesterday called out GOP rival Charles Baker for an eyebrow-raising claim that his three children may not be able to afford to settle down in Massachusetts under four more years of the Patrick-Murray administration. “Charlie Baker made more money in a week than most people make in a year,” Murray said yesterday. On Saturday, the GOP gubernatorial nominee and former Harvard Pilgrim Health Care CEO expressed fear at the state party convention in Worcester that he’d have to get on a plane to see his future grandchildren if the cost of living in the Bay State remains high. “I find it another stretch of credibility when Charlie Baker, whose pay went from $500,000 to $1.7 million, says his kids are gonna go hungry,” Murray said, referring to Baker’s increasing salary as the head of Harvard Pilgrim, which he is credited with turning around. “If he can’t live on that and provide for his kids, I’m worried about what type of manager he really is.” […]
Asked to clarify yesterday, Baker said, “My kids are gonna have to find their way in the world the same way everybody else’s middle-class kids are gonna have to find their way in the world.”
“Candidate dismisses trust (fund) issues,” Boston Herald, 4/19/10
9] Charlie Baker wanted to require homeless people to present “proof of residency” at homeless shelter.
Baker said he thought people who come to the Pine Street Inn for shelter should have to show proof of residency. “I think we should require it for everything,” said Baker, a former budget chief under GOP governors Bill Weld and Paul Cellucci.
“Baker would require residency, ‘lifestyle analysis’ for services,” State House News Service via Sharon Advocate, 5/4/10
Republican gubernatorial candidate Charles D. Baker yesterday backed away from a proposal he made Tuesday to require anyone seeking help from a Boston homeless shelter to prove he or she is a legal resident of the country. […] “Baker’s proposal to require homeless shelters to turn away people, including veterans and even families with children, if they can’t produce proof [of] residency is inhumane and wrong,’’ [Governor Deval] Patrick said in the statement. […] [Baker spokesman Rick] Gorka said yesterday that the Pine Street Inn offers both long-term housing and emergency services and that Baker was referring only to those needing long-term assistance. “It’s not in contradiction, or anything like that,’’ Gorka said. Baker did not draw that distinction, however, during the initial news conference when the question was asked.
“Baker says shelter position misrepresented,” Boston Globe, 5/6/10
10] Charlie Baker supported right-wing extremist “birther” and fellow Republican Bill Hudak for Congress in 2010 while Baker was also running for Governor.
Bill Hudak, Republican congressional candidate in John Tierney’s district, has not been universally embraced by mainstream Massachusetts Republicans — in fact, when Hudak announced that Scott Brown had endorsed him, Brown quickly denied it and forced a retraction. That cold shoulder is due to some rather disturbing and, some might say, nutty opinions Hudak has expressed, such as once suggesting to journalists that he had documentation proving that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. But Charlie Baker has no problem appearing with the guy. A couple of weeks ago, Baker accepted an invitation to speak at a large Hudak event; he came, took the stage with Hudak, and briefly addressed the audience. The photo above, obtained by the Phoenix, shows Baker speaking at the event, gesturing to the bow-tied Hudak. “Charlie was speaking to voters,” campaign spokesperson Rick Gorka told me, when I asked about Baker choosing to associate with Hudak. “We’re going to talk to voters everywhere.”
“Baker Palling Around With Hudak,” Boston Phoenix, 8/5/10
Sixth district congressional candidate Bill Hudak isn’t just your garden variety political eccentric. If he were, no one would care that Republican gubernatorial nominee-to-be Charlie Baker recently attended one of Hudak’s fund-raisers, lending his centrist credibility to Hudak’s congressional campaign. […] For example, during the 2008 presidential campaign, Hudak put up a sign in front of his Boxford home portraying Democratic nominee Barack Obama as Osama bin Laden. Here’s the way the Tri-Town Transcript described it: “One large . . . sign stands . . . up against their house, with words – such as socialist, Marxist, and lazy – surrounding the . . . picture of Obama dressed as Osama bin Laden.” When the paper asked about his sign, Hudak offered a revealing glimpse into his intellectual interior. “Hudak asserts that Obama was not born in the United States but in Kenya, according to affidavits that he made available to the Tri-Town Transcript,” the article says. “He said that Obama has ties to the Muslim faith through an extremist cousin that is from Kenya. `There is a lot more going on here than anyone knows,’ Hudak said.” […] It’s quite another thing, however, for Baker to show up at one his events. (Kudos to the Phoenix’s David Bernstein for first calling Baker out on the July 18 appearance, which wasn’t included on his public schedule, and for Dan Kennedy of Media Nation for chronicling the Hudak controversies.) The usually accessible Baker stalled and ducked on this one. Spokesman Rick Gorka says his boss stopped by the Hudak event just to speak to voters. Calling Hudak’s views “offensive,” Gorka says Baker’s appearance “is not an endorsement.” But Hudak has certainly used the appearance to boost his credibility. His campaign website now features a photograph of the two at the event. “We were thrilled to have Charlie stop by, say a few inspirational words, and help unite those in attendance to work hard all the way through election day,” Hudak says in his campaign blog. […] Yet a candidate is also known by the company he keeps. And it speaks poorly of Baker that he’s willing to countenance Hudak to court his supporters.
“Backpedaling through the bile,” Boston Globe, 8/13/10
Baker also said he supports Republican Bill Hudak’s candidacy for Congress, though it took a lengthy line of questioning to draw it out of him. Is he supporting Hudak’s campaign? “I certainly support the Republican ticket,” Baker said. “… I hope Mary Connaughton wins. I hope Karyn Polito wins. I hope Bill Campbell wins. I hope Brett Schetzsle wins.” Does he hope Hudak wins? “I’m supporting the ticket,” Baker said. Is he supporting Hudak? “Yup.”
“Baker talks taxes and the GOP ticket,” Gloucester Times, 9/27/10
11] Charlie Baker hypocritically failed to identify dozens of top campaign donors just months after calling for increased penalties on candidates for exactly that type of inability to identify such donors.
Massachusetts Republican gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker has proposed tough new penalties for candidates who slack off on identifying the professional backgrounds of top donors to their campaigns. But Baker himself has failed to identify dozens of donors easily located with a simple Internet search or by crosschecking the state’s campaign finance database, according to an Associated Press review of records filed with the Office of Campaign and Political Finance. Topping that list is Kerry Healey, the state’s former Republican lieutenant governor. […] It’s not just Healey. Other unidentified Baker donors include a former NASA chief, the former CEO of one of the world’s largest investment management companies, the head of a highway construction firm, a vice chairman of a local town finance committee and top state and federal GOP donors. Incumbent Democrat Deval Patrick and independent candidate Timothy Cahill also have some gaps in their donor lists, but it was Baker who made it an issue early in the campaign. In March, Baker said any candidate who fails to meet the reporting requirements for 80 percent of their top donors — those giving more than $200 — should pay a penalty equal to half the total value of the undisclosed contributions. “The disclosure piece has to be primary,” Baker told reporters. “That’s why we talked about creating some sort of legitimate penalty for people who don’t do a good job on reporting on the employment and occupation of the people who are contributing to their campaign.” At the time, Baker was responding to reports about Cahill’s lax donor reporting.
“Massachusetts gubernatorial candidate Charlie Baker fails to ID dozens of top donors,” Associated Press via Springfield Republican, 6/21/10
12] Charlie Baker opposed hundreds of millions of dollars in federal assistance for Massachusetts, a position that could have “hurt tens of thousands of people” in Massachusetts.
It worries me that he calls US Senator Scott Brown “absolutely right’’ to oppose hundreds of millions in extra federal funding for state unemployment benefits and disability services, a position that could hurt tens of thousands of people in the state.
“Stumped on the stump,” Boston Globe, 6/24/10
13] Charlie Baker could not name a single Democrat with whom he was able to work successfully.
As a Republican in a heavily Democratic state, Baker was asked about working with Democrats and specifically who he’d been able to work with successfully in the past. After an 11-second pause, he could not name anyone.
“Baker talks taxes and the GOP ticket,” Gloucester Times, 9/27/10