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Michelle Wu raised more than $1 million from Boston business leaders for her inaugural festivities


“Every inauguration has the same problem: the perceived risk of undue influence.”

Michelle Wu, during her election victory party in November.

Mayor Michelle Wu raised more than $1 million for her inaugural festivities, with the bulk coming from Boston’s traditional brokers, including big business, lobbyists and real estate developers with projects before the city, campaign finance data show.

As an unapologetic progressive with ambitions to transform the city, Wu has made it clear that she intends to be a different kind of mayor. But its inaugural fund, while smaller than that of its predecessor, places it squarely in an age-old political tradition: harnessing the rich and powerful to fund festivities where top donors gain access to the city’s new leader.

The event, originally scheduled for January, was postponed to this spring due to the pandemic, and the fund hasn’t cashed in since the first week of the year. Wu raised less than his predecessor, although both relied on a similar crowd of high-value donors. For his first transition and inauguration in 2014, former Mayor Martin J. Walsh raised $1.4 million. For its first inauguration in 2015, Governor Charlie Baker raised $2.4 million.

Many Wu contributors have business before the city, or will soon. This “raises red flags,” said Geoff Foster, executive director of Common Cause Massachusetts. “Every grand opening has the same problem: a perceived risk of undue influence,” Foster said. But the requirement that donations be made public helps allay those worries, as ethics watchdogs will be able to track “if any of these developers appear to have undue influence,” he said.

A spokesperson for Wu’s inaugural committee said the donations did not present a conflict of interest.

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