STATE CAMPAIGN 26 years ago, financial regulators dealt with a case in which the circumstances were similar to a current one involving Republican Senator Ryan Fattman and his wife, Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester County Republican Probate Registry. The 1995 case ended with a disposition agreement requiring the cancellation of donations made through the Massachusetts Republican Party.
The Office of Campaigning and Political Finance has not disclosed what it has in mind regarding the Fattmans, but a lawsuit filed by the two politicians has revealed the existence of the investigation, the purpose of which appears to be a series of donations. According to campaign fundraising records, Ryan Fattman donated $ 25,000 last August from his campaign account to the Republican town committee of Sutton, which in turn made more than $ 30,000 in in-kind donations to the Stephanie Fattman’s re-election campaign over the course of several months.
The question appears to be whether these were two separate and unrelated transactions, or whether the Republican town committee of Sutton was acting as a go-between for the Senator to provide a large amount of campaign funds to the effort. re-election of his wife. The senator would have been limited to a donation of $ 100 if his campaign had given directly to his wife’s campaign.
The Republican Town of Sutton committee is chaired by Ryan Fattman’s brother and the senator serves as secretary. Parents of Stephanie Fattman and Ryan Fattman also sit on the 12-member city committee.
The case has attracted a lot of attention as the Fattmans are seen as rising stars in the state’s Republican Party. The Fattmans, in a lawsuit, alleged Michael Sullivan, the director of the Office of Campaigning and Political Finance, is biased against them. Six former heads of state of the Republican Party and one spokesperson for the conservative Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance wrote articles criticizing Sullivan’s handling of the case, while a former legal adviser in the Office of Campaigning and Political Finance wrote an editorial support Sullivan. A judge of the Superior Court alongside Sullivan in the lawsuit brought by the Fattmans.
The case in 1995 revolved around Harvey Hurvitz, who at the time was the chairman of the committee to elect Ronald Whitney to the legislature. Hurvitz made two donations to the Massachusetts Republican Party – one for $ 2,000 on September 11 and another for $ 1,560.51 on September 14. On September 11, the Massachusetts Republican Party made an in-kind donation to Whitney’s campaign committee of $ 3,560.51.
“Hurvitz intended to make $ 3,560.51 in contributions to the Whitney Committee through the Republican State Committee, in a manner that would disguise the true origin of the contributions and exceed the limits imposed by the law on the funding of the campaign, ”says the disposition agreement with the Republican state. Committee.
The disposition agreement required the Massachusetts Republican Party to reimburse Hurvitz $ 3,560.51 and that Hurvitz return the money plus an additional $ 1,500 in personal funds to the State of Massachusetts “as payment in kind. ‘civil confiscation’. In return, the Office of Campaign and Political Finance agreed not to refer Hurvitz to the attorney general for violations of state law.
The disposition agreement with the Republican State Committee stated that the committee “recognizes that a contribution cannot be made to a state party committee if the contribution of such contribution is conditional on a subsequent contribution from the state committee party to a particular candidate. Such an “assignment” of contributions would violate the General Laws of Massachusetts, Chapter 55, Section 10. “
It is not known whether Senator Fattman’s $ 25,000 contribution last August to the Republican town of Sutton committee was subject to conditions.
The 1995 disposition agreements were signed by Sullivan, who was already director of the Office of Campaigning and Political Finance. William Vernon, who was the executive director of the Massachusetts Republican Party at the time, signed the disposition agreement on behalf of the party. Jim Rappaport, co-author of the recent editorial supporting the Fattmans, was party chairman in 1995.
Rappaport said he does not recall the Hurvitz case and warned the public still does not know the exact nature of the Fattmans investigation. “The obvious difference here [in the Hurvitz case] is that there were clear symmetries between contributions and expenditures. I haven’t seen anything that indicates this is happening in the Fattman business, ”Rappaport said in an email. “Second, I know people contribute to the party because they want to help the cause or, in not so rare circumstances, specific people. Very few people give contributions to the RGA [Republican Governors Association] or the DGA [Democratic Governors Association] for the common good, but rather to help their candidate – one of the reasons I have supported disclosure as being more effective than putting in place laws and regulations that are nothing but speed bumps. ”
Paul Craney of the Massachusetts Fiscal Alliance said the Hurvitz case is so old that it does not appear on the Office of Campaign and Political Financing website. He said if the national campaign finance office saw contributions to states parties as a potential violation of earmarks, it could trigger a multitude of investigations as politicians on both sides do so all the time.
He reiterated a point he made in his editorial, that most cases like this are resolved through public resolution letters, not referrals to the attorney general’s office. He noted a recent case last month where Josh Mason, a Democrat candidate for the Legislative Assembly, listed a total of $ 16,200 donated to his campaign in the form of loans, when in fact the money was a inappropriate gift from his parents.