Groma is not a particularly well-known Boston company. It’s a smallish real estate development and management firm, mostly running some of the city’s ubiquitous triple-decker homes. But, its principals have greater ambitions. Among other projects, Groma is part of a group hoping to develop Parcel 8 in Roxbury into a major multi-use “gateway to Nubian Square.”
Perhaps that helps explain why Angelo Drake, Groma’s managing partner, contributed $1,000 — the maximum allowed for the calendar year — to Acting Mayor Kim Janey’s campaign committee. And he didn’t stop there. Drake, whose previous contributions to local pols consisted of a single $100 gift to Marty Walsh, gave $1,000 each to three other candidates for mayor: John Barros, Andrea Campbell, and Jon Santiago. Groma’s two other executives did the same, and its top advisor has given the maximum to Barros, Janey, and Santiago.
Playing the field is not unusual in local politics. I have identified 185 individuals who, as of reporting in late June, have contributed $1,000 each to more than one of the six main candidates for mayor this year. Together, those 185 are responsible for $438,000 of the $4.4 million total raised by those candidates in 2021, or just about 10 percent.
There are 12 others, in addition to the Groma folks, who have given the max to four of the six. They include some better-known names, among them developer Howard Cohen; Cheryl Cronin, CEO of Boston Public Market; The Boston Foundation chair Sandra Edgerley; philanthropist Amos Hostetter Jr.; nightclub owner Edward Kane; New England Patriots president Jonathan Kraft; and Eastern Bank chairman Bob Rivers.
There’s nothing wrong with giving to more than one competitor for a single office. Many people with business in the city develop relationships with many politicians over time.
It is worth noting, however, that maximum donors are critical to the candidates’ ability to compete. Though campaigns tout their grassroots fundraising, roughly 58 percent of all the money raised by Boston’s six mayoral candidates thus far in 2021 has come in $1,000 increments from individuals. Michelle Wu has depended the least on those funds, receiving 48 percent of her funding that way. Santiago has most heavily relied on them, at 65 percent.
Nearly one-quarter of those who have given $1,000 to Santiago have also given the maximum to at least one other mayoral candidate. The same goes for Janey. Barely one in ten of Wu’s $1,000 donors has given to a competitor as well — in most cases, Andrea Campbell.
More than 30 people have given the maximum to both Campbell and Wu this year; some of them also gave in 2020, as both challengers entered the race early. The most common overlap has been Janey and Santiago, with 56 individuals maxing out to both. Annissa Essaibi-George and Santiago have 40 $1,000 donors in common; Campbell and Janey, 37. The least common combination: Essaibi-George and Wu. Kane is the only maximum contributor to both of them.