Under Hughes, MassGOP Employees and Close Associates Steered Millions(?) to…. Themselves
by Lonnie Brennan
Following on the heels of financial releases this past summer which showed that the MassGOP under former Chairwoman Kirsten Hughes lived the high life off millions in contributions (dinners, parking, travel, lodging, cell phones, etc.), ongoing investigations into MassGOP financial dealings show certain MassGOP employees and close associates steered what may amount to millions to themselves or businesses they created or controlled.
In a partial release of expenditures, former MassGOP employee David Drummond takes center stage, along with former employee Caroline Alcock, and MassGOP former fundraiser John Cook.
Salary of $54,000, but takes in $636,996
In 2017, Drummond was working for an annual salary of $54,000, yet records from the Massachusetts Secretary of State show the entity DBP, LLC was formed on January 7, 2017, listing Drummond as the manager of DBP, LLC. In a MassGOP memo under new chair Jim Lyons who has formed a team to investigate what has been termed the fleecing of nearly $15 million in contributions, “between 2017 and 2018 DBP, LLC, received $427,809″ from the MassGOP.
The document goes on to detail additional funds received by Drummond from the Charles D. Baker Committee and the Karen Polito campaigns from 2017 through early 2019, which, when combined with the MassGOP funds, steered a “combined payments total $636,996” to Drummond/DBP/DBP Consulting.
Salary of $75,000, but takes in $303,000
In a similar arrangement, Alcock, who was working for a salary of $75,000 in 2017 and $75,000 in 2018, received an additional $123,586 from the MassGOP’s victory fund, and “approximately $30,000 from the Baker and Polito campaign committees,” for a total of $303,000. While Drummond, Alcock, and Cook may have worked hard for their money, without details, backup, and with the apparent steering of funds to insiders, Lyons sought an explanation. Instead, he saw Cook take control of the MassGOP database.
How Exactly Cook Stole the Database for the Baker Committe
“John Cook instructed Gavin Davis, an employee of the Baker Committee, to notify Salesforce [the database software company] that a payment made in November of 2018 from the MassGOP was “from the wrong account.” On January 23, Gavin Davis, at the direction of Cook, sent an email to Salesforce regarding invoice #1327113. He said, “We have already paid it, but it was paid out of the wrong account. Attached is our new check that should act as proof of payment. It will be put in the mail today.” The check was in the amount of $12,273.79, written from The Baker Committee.”
After learning of the lockout from their own database, the MassGOP subsequently challenged the stealing of their donor detailed database, and Salesforce investigated the validity and legality of the switch of payments which locked the MassGOP out of their database, and reversed the action and restored access rights to the MassGOP, locking Cook out.
Hughes & Cook, Invoices without details
For Cook’s part, he’s attributed to be the major fundraiser for the MassGOP, and an exchange of e-mails between Hughes and Cook, confirmed the pair called the shots on how a bulk of the $15 million was spent.
In one line item of interest, “the review revealed $35,000 in payments to entities owned or controlled by John Cook,” which included meals, phone, office supplies (including $348.91 expended at CVS), and 40 Uber charges, all during a time when “no fundraising occurred.”
$40,000 Requested for a Democrat Strategist
Most troubling for new chair Lyons in his first two weeks in his new position was finding an invoice authorization by Cook to pay a “Will Keyser, democrat strategist and principal at Keyser Public Strategies” $40,000. Cook had provided authorization for payment to the now former MassGOP’s finance (campaign compliance and payments) firm, Red Curve out of Beverly, Mass., run by former MassGOP Chair Darrell Crate’s brother Bradley Crate.
Lyons Put Pause on Payments, Seeks Documentation/Backup for Alleged Services
On January 28, 2019, 11 days into his new job, Lyons slammed a hold on all Cook outstanding invoices which totaled $129,000 to consultants and employees of the Charles D. Baker Committee. Lyons said he would not lift the hold “until Cook provided him with: (1) contracts, (2) scopes of work, and (3) dates of performance” to support each invoice. Four days later, Lyons met with Cook but the two did not see eye to eye, with Lyons reiterating that he could not recommend to his governing board an expenditure of $40,000 to a Democrat consultant, and that he needed backup documents requested. According to Lyons, Cook responded saying he would “get rid of that.”
Subsequent to that meeting, according to records in the ongoing MassGOP financial investigation, Cook forwarded an email exchange in support of his authority to have invoices under scrutiny paid. “The emails are the only documentation Cook offered in response to the request for contracts, scope of work, and dates of performance. The exchange, between former MassGOP Chair Kirsten Hughes and Cook occurred between June 21, 2018 and June 25, 2018.”
“John Cook came to the MassGOP Headquarters at 85 Merrimac Street, Boston and met with Lyons. [MassGOP Interim Director] Wakeman was also present. In this meeting Cook demanded the invoices be paid. Lyons re-iterated his previously stated position that he would pay them only with proper documentation, and that what he has been provided thus far was not satisfactory. Cook said, “It’s my money… Fundraisers have ways of making you pay,”” apparently indicated future payback to the MassGOP.
Indeed over the past months, the MassGOP notes that several responses made their way to the MassGOP, indicated that Cook and other Baker committee actors were telling MassGOP donors to not donate to the MassGOP, and instead steering donations to to the Baker Committee, or new entities created to receive funds to support Baker’s candidates.
FEC/OCPF Campaign Documentation Skimpy?
“Lyons told Cook that he thought Red Curve’s performance as compliance officers (filing the Federal Election Commission reports and OCPF reports) was questionable. Cook asked why. Lyons said that Red Curve entered invoices totaling $129,000 without any backup.”
“Also, Red Curve’s drafts of the Federal Election Reports due the following day contained inaccurate information. Red Curve listed $84,926.50 outstanding debt to Majority Strategies. In fact, the balance due from the federal account was only $36,949 according to a year-to-date statement provided by Majority Strategies to Lyons. The FEC report as drafted by Red Curve thus overstated payables by $47,977.”
In addition to concerned raised about federal election reports, the Boston Broadside’s initial look into MassGOP filings submitted to the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) appear to have certain data and backup documentation missing at this time.
According to ongoing MassGOP inquires, the MassGOP and its now fired accounting/compliance/payment firm Red Curve are required to maintain detailed records for all expenditures for seven years, but Red Curve has refused to release backup data unless the MassGOP will indemnify (shield/protect) them from all wrongdoing, and any civil, criminal, FEC and or OCPF judgements, fines or other actions. –