BOSTON (CBS) – An Eversource spokesman denied any connection between several company executives cutting checks to Gov. Charlie Baker’s re-election campaign after the governor tasked Eversource to lead restoration efforts in the wake of the Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

“To try and draw a correlation between our company supporting communities in crisis and politics is completely absurd,” Eversource spokesman Mike Durand said Tuesday.

According to a Boston Globe article citing state records, Eversource executives donated more than $12,000 to Baker’s campaign in the weeks after Baker tapped the utility to take over restoration efforts from Columbia Gas after a series of gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley last month.

“Our employees are active in the political process and we encourage them to support various candidates in any way they see fit,” Durand said.

charliebaker Eversource Defends Executives Campaign Donations To Charlie Baker

Gov. Charlie Baker speaking about the gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley on on Sept. 14, 2018. (WBZ-TV)

In a statement, Terry MacCormack, a spokesperson for Baker’s reelection campaign, said the campaign contributions from Eversource were received through an event “previously scheduled months ago” and before the state emergency.

“Governor Baker and Lt. Governor Polito are proud to have broad bipartisan support from across the Commonwealth, and the contributions in question were received as part of an event previously scheduled months ago and unrelated to any incidents in the Merrimack Valley, where their focus remains on working with stakeholders to help impacted residents and communities recover as quickly as possible,” said MacCormack.

Baker put Eversource in charge because it was one of only two utilities in the state with large-scale emergency operations. The other, National Grid, had locked out workers. Eversource was removed from the operation September 21 when the DPU put Joe Albanese in control.

Sept. 21 is also the same day two Eversource officials first donated to Baker, the Globe reported, with most of the donations coming a week later from executives including James J. Judge, Eversource’s president and CEO; Philip Lembo, the company’s chief financial officer; and Gregory Butler, its general counsel. Each gave the Republican $1,000 — the maximum allowable under state law.

Durand said Eversource employees “dropped everything when their expertise was needed, but this is not a job we asked for.”

“Our singular focus was on restoring customers affected by this tragedy and helping people in any way we could,” Durand said. “We were called upon to help support people in a time of need and would do so for any governor, or any fellow company, at any time.”

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