Who is Josh Kraft?

If you follow Boston politics at all, you may have seen recent items that Josh Kraft is planning to run for Mayor against Michelle Wu in 2025. The Boston Globe in particular has been pumping up this candidacy. This despite the fact that Josh Kraft has never lived in Boston (though an LLC recently purchased a home in the North End where he claims to be living, though he hasn’t sold his home in Brookline, so it looks like more of a pied à terre situation to me).

But apart from his dubious residency, what do we know about Josh Kraft? Well, the current articles will probably mention that he is the son of billionaire Bob Kraft and that he was CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Boston for many years. He’s also the current board chair at the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

In the feudal era, older sons would inherit the family wealth and younger sons would be sent to the priesthood. A similar principle seems to be at play in the family of American oligarch Robert Kraft. Oldest son Jonathan runs the family business while younger son Josh was put in charge of reputation laundering, i.e. philanthropy. (For an in-depth look at how philanthropy serves the interests of the wealthy, check out Anand Giriharadas’ Winners Take All: The Elite Charade of Changing the World. Or just use your common sense—why would billionaire oligarchs have any interest in changing a world that has made them among the wealthiest people in history?)

So yes, Josh Kraft worked at the Boys and Girls Club for a long time. But, of course, any nonprofit hiring a billionaire’s son knows this is a pipeline to serious cash for the organization. I don’t know anyone who works at the Boys and Girls Club, but if it’s like any nonprofit I’m familiar with, its successes can usually be laid at the feet of the hardworking, underpaid folks at the bottom levels of the organization, who often manage to do good in spite of, or at least without any meaningful assistance from, upper management.

But maybe Josh Kraft really was an excellent CEO. This doesn’t change the fact that the man owes his entire career to his father’s money. Which leads me to my first point that I believe disqualifies Josh Kraft from being Boston Mayor. How can a person who has never once in their entire lives had the thought “I don’t know if I can afford this” empathize with the lives and struggles of ordinary Bostonians, especially in an era when the cost of living is one of the biggest challenges of living here? How can he understand the importance of schools to Boston’s families and neighborhoods? How can he understand really anything about being a non-wealthy person in Boston?

I initially thought that The Globe’s enthusiasm for Kraft’s candidacy was based on just this. Because the Globe’s point of view on all things Boston is to prioritize the interests of people who come to Boston over people who live in Boston. So I figured they’d prefer a mayor who will cater to suburbanites and CEOs rather than one who prioritizes Boston residents.

But then I decided to look into some publicly available documents. First I found that Josh Kraft’s home in Brookline is owned by a trust—I have no idea why one does this, but I assume it’s one of those legal but morally questionable tax avoidance things that rich people do. Anyway, there it is. He’s signed over the deed to his Newton home to his wife Carolyn, who is a bit of a local activist in Newton, speaking out against rezoning to make housing more affordable and against the Newton Public Schools’ Diversity, Equity and Inclusion efforts.

Then I looked at ocpf.us, the site that tracks Massachusetts campaign donations. And here’s where I found another possible source of the Globe’s enthusiasm for Kraft’s as-yet-unannounced candidacy. He gave $1k to Andrea Campbell in the last mayoral election as well as $1500 to the Better Boston PAC that supported her candidacy and whose donor list is a who’s who of anti-public-education rich people. Reed Hastings! Chris Gabrieli! Jim Walton! Stephanie Spector! Eleanor Laurans! Stig Leschly! (hedging his bets, he gave $1k to Michelle Wu as well).

Okay, so clearly The Globe wants a mayor who will work to charterize the Boston Public Schools, and it looks like Josh Kraft is that guy.

But let’s head over to opensecrets.org and look at Josh’s donations on the national scene! Because here’s where things get really interesting! There are a lot of donations, mostly to Democrats, including familiar names like Joe Kennedy, Richard Neal, Ayanna Pressley, Mike Capuano, Dan Koh (lol) and Jake Auchincloss. But there are a few donations here that should be extremely worrisome to Bostonians.

In 2019, Josh Kraft gave $1500 to Ohio Representative Bob Latta. Four years earlier, Latta cosponsored a bill to amend the Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. In 2020, Latta signed on to the amicus brief in the Texas v. Pennsylvania lawsuit that sought to overturn the 2020 Presidential election. In May of 2021, he voted against authorizing a commission to investigate the January 6th insurrection.

In June 2020, Josh Kraft made a $1500 donation to help Illinois Representative Mike Bost stay in office. Bost was another cosponsor of the bill to amend the Constitution to outlaw same-sex marriage. In 2017, Bost explained he didn’t do town hall meetings because he didn’t support “cleansing that the orientals used to do.” Bost also signed on to the amicus brief in Texas v. Pennsylvania.

In July 2020, Josh Kraft donated $1500 to Georgia Representative Buddy Carter, cosponsor of a 2011 act to criminalize abortion nationwide under all circumstances. Buddy Carter is also against LGBTQ rights and said in 2017 that “we should teach the Bible in schools.” Oh yeah, he’s another signatory to the amicus brief in Texas v. Pennsylvania.

In February 2022, Josh Kraft donated $1500 to Wisconsin Representative Glenn Grothman. Grothman’s career is littered with more hateful and idiotic stances and statements than I have room to list. Here’s his Wikipedia page, and here’s a link to a video about Grothman from Last Week Tonight With John Oliver’s “People Who Somehow Got Elected” series. In 2022, anyway, Grothman got elected with help from Josh Kraft!

In September 2022, Josh Kraft rewarded Ohio Representative Bob Latta for his anti-democracy actions with another contribution: this time for $2900.

I understand that rich people and corporations give money to politicians for access, not ideology, which is why Kraft, like many rich people and corporations, gives to people from both parties. I assume Kraft’s donations to out-of-state Republicans are tied to business interests his dad’s company has in those districts or that are overseen by committees these guys are on. But the Krafts are sitting on more money than they could possibly spend in their lifetimes. They could certainly afford to take a financial hit by not supporting hatemongering congresspeople. But Josh Kraft chose to support them anyway.

I don’t know Josh Kraft’s positions on bodily autonomy for women, whether LGBTQ people should have the same rights as straight people, or whether the 2020 election should have been overturned. But I do know this: Josh Kraft has actively supported people on the wrong side of those issues.

I don’t know what, if anything, is in Josh Kraft’s heart, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. If he believes in the subjugation of women and LGBTQ people and the undermining of democracy, these things make him unsuitable to be Boston’s mayor. And if he doesn’t believe in the subjugation of women and LGBTQ people and the undermining of democracy, but he’s given monetary support to those who do, he’s shown such little regard for the lives and welfare of all Bostonians that he is unsuitable to be Boston’s mayor.

Seriously, we ought to be past the idea that a rich guy is going to ride in on his white BMW and save us all. Shame on The Globe for puffing up this candidacy, and while we’re at it, shame on the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts for making a man who supports hatemongers its board chair.

#politics #Boston #BosPoli