SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

October 27, 2010

Campaign ads fact check: Hudak says Incumbent sticks up for crooked members of his family

By Matthew K. Roy
Staff writer

Republican Bill Hudak has taken Congressman John Tierney to court to challenge the veracity of claims the Salem Democrat made about him in a campaign ad.

But what about the anti-Tierney ad that Hudak's campaign produced? Is Hudak entirely forthright and honest in what he asserts about his opponent?

The ad, which is based primarily on the legal troubles of Tierney's wife, was on the front of Hudak's campaign website yesterday with the heading "John Tierney: Not Paying Taxes." Without viewing the ad, it would be easy to assume that its content details how the congressman avoided paying his own taxes. But it doesn't.

Here is a look at some of the claims Hudak makes in his ad:

Claim: "John Tierney's family engaged in racketeering and tax fraud."

Fact: Tierney's wife, Patrice, pleaded guilty earlier this month to four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false federal tax returns. Robert and Daniel Eremian, Patrice's brothers, were indicted in August on charges that included racketeering, money laundering and operating an illegal gambling business.

Claim: "Tierney defended their actions ..."

Fact: Tierney has not publicly defended the alleged actions of his brothers-in-law. During an interview with The Salem News, he did express frustration at the federal prosecutor's suggestion that gambling was the Eremian family business. "Bobby had a gambling thing, whether Danny was involved, I don't know. They're alleging that he is. That's the extent of it that I know of," Tierney said.

Addressing his wife's involvement, the congressman has said that he and his wife believed that Robert Eremian was in Antigua selling or licensing software to legal Internet gaming businesses. With her brother away, Tierney has said, his wife used the money ($7 million from 2003 to 2009) Eremian funneled to a Bank of America account to cover the expenses of the three teenage children he left behind in Lynnfield.

The night before Patrice Tierney's court appearance, the congressman released a statement that said his wife "accepts full responsibility for being 'willfully blind' to what her brother was doing."

Claim: "Tierney defended their actions, and that's not all. Tierney voted against a ban on offshore Internet gambling."

Fact: Tierney was one of eight Massachusetts congressmen to vote against the Internet Gambling Prohibition and Enforcement Act in July 2006. He said he voted against the bill because, "just like when one buys a lottery ticket or goes to the racetrack, this should be a personal decision."

He told The Salem News that, at the time, he assumed his brother-in-law was working legitimately in Antigua. "He was down there doing what the judge had authorized him to do, which is licensing software," Tierney said. "It didn't seem to make any connection with me (to his online-gambling bill vote)."

Claim: "It's sad. Tierney raises taxes on our families, but thinks it's OK for his own not to pay theirs."

Fact: Patrice Tierney broke the law while paying her brother's taxes. She provided information for Eremian's tax preparer, listing his earnings as "commissions" rather than "illegal gambling" income.

Claim: The ad includes shots of what appear to be newspaper articles with the headlines "Tierney's Family Committed Tax Fraud," "Tierney Defends Family Fraud," "Tierney Raises Taxes," "Tierney's Wife Pleads Guilty," "Thousands to Campaigns."

Fact: Three people connected to Hudak's campaign, including the candidate, could not verify that the headlines were real.

"I'm not sure. I don't know," Hudak said. "I had an ad agency put it together."