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Massachusetts Governor, Who Called for a Hyatt Hotels Boycott,
Not Swayed with Campaign Contributions from Pritzker Family

By Dave Wedge, Boston HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

October 23, 2009 -- Gov. Deval Patrick, who has called for a boycott of Hyatt hotels for firing 98 Hub housekeepers and "substandard" treatment of workers, has hauled in $3,000 in campaign cash from Hyatt honchos, the Herald has learned.

Patrick, who is hosting a high-profile re-election fund-raiser with President Obama tonight, received six maximum $500 donations in 2005 and 2006 from the Pritzker family, the powerful Chicago clan that operates Hyatt.

News of the contributions comes as Patrick wages a battle with Hyatt over the layoffs, going so far as to write letters to hotel executives and call for a boycott.

"It's disingenuous for the governor to grandstand on this issue while taking in campaign contributions from fatcat owners of Hyatt," said state Sen. Robert L. Hedlund (R-Weymouth). "If the governor wants to be honest and consistent, and is serious about standing in solidarity with the laid-off workers, he would return campaign money from the Pritzker family."

Patrick's campaign director, Charlotte Golar-Richie, fired back: "These contributions were made years ago and clearly have not influenced the governor's efforts to get these women their jobs back. The Republicans should stop playing these cheap political games. We will not refund the money."

Among the donations from the Chicago family is a maximum $500 contribution in Oct. 2005 from Hyatt chairwoman Penny Pritzker, who chaired Obama's campaign. Pritzker, 50, is one of the nation's most generous campaign donors, having given more than a half-million dollars to Democrats since 1987, including $5,000 to Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.). A spokeswoman for Pritzker did not respond to a request for comment.

Other Pritzker family members who gave maximum donations to Patrick include Jay Pritzker, chairman of the family's investment arm, The Pritzker Group, and Mary Pritzker. The billionaire clan is annually near the top of Forbes magazine's list of the nation's richest families.

Janice Loux, president of the hotel workers' union, Unite Here! Local 26, said she has "no problem" with the donations.

"I think the money is well-spent on a governor who is supporting these workers," Loux said.

Hyatt has come under fire nationally after firing the Boston hotel workers in September and replacing them with lower-paid employees from a Georgia company. Adding salt to the wound, the Hub workers were reportedly made to train their replacements.

One of the laid off-workers, Serandou Kamara, expressed shock that Patrick received Hyatt campaign cash, but reserved judgment.

"Oh my goodness," she said. "But that is his choice. As long as he's helping us to get our job back, that's all I need from him."


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