By Neil H. Dempsey
---- — Democratic candidate Seth Moulton accepted a contribution from a Republican-leaning political action committee out of New Hampshire last September — and Moulton himself once contributed to a right-wing candidate in Kentucky, a representative acknowledged yesterday.
Moulton is running against Congressman John Tierney for the 6th District seat and hopes to attain the Democratic nomination in this year’s primary.
The White Mountain PAC, based out of Rye Beach, donated $1,000 to Moulton’s campaign on Sept. 19, making him the only Democrat among the 10 candidates it sent funds to last year, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Other recipients of White Mountain money included Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, and candidates from Wyoming, Idaho and Texas. In previous years, the leadership PAC has been associated with former New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg, and supported Mitt Romney’s bid for president and Scott Brown’s campaign for the Senate.
Moulton has repeatedly pointed to his fundraising in the third and fourth quarters of 2013 as evidence of his campaign’s strength. He has also repeatedly said that 98 percent of his campaign contributions have come from individuals.
According to Carrie Rankin, Moulton’s communications director, the Moulton for Congress Committee wrote a check back to White Mountain refunding the full amount, though apparently not until Feb. 15, nearly five months after the donation was received. Moulton originally accepted the money.
“We initially processed the check, but after reviewing contributions, we recognized White Mountain as a Republican PAC and returned the donation,” Rankin said in an email.
The Salem News was unable to speak with Moulton; Rankin said he was busy with meetings.
In an email statement yesterday, Ryan Matthews, Tierney’s campaign manager, faulted Moulton for taking money from a “group that is funding the most extreme wing of the Republican Party” and suggested that Moulton had solicited the funds.
“Seth is playing into Republican leaders’ hands by quietly soliciting their money to attack Democrats,” Matthews said. “Last cycle, Republicans spent millions attacking Congressman Tierney. ... This cycle, they’re trying to fund a so-called ‘Democrat’ to do the work for them.”
Marisa DeFranco, who is also running for the Democratic nomination and has pledged to run a “clean money campaign,” faulted Moulton for taking PAC money in the first place.
“When I hear about somebody taking PAC money, No. 1, I don’t approve, because the PAC money and the big money is the problem with the system,” DeFranco said. “If you take money from Republican individuals, that’s fine ... but PAC money is not.”
Another money issue that cropped up for Moulton this week involved a campaign contribution he’d made himself — $50 in February 2010 to Ryan Quarles, a candidate for Republican state representative in Kentucky.
Quarles has been endorsed by the anti-abortion Kentucky Right to Life PAC and the National Rifle Association, according to numerous online sources. In the 2010 race, he defeated his Democratic opponent by a margin of fewer than 300 votes and remains in office.
“I have been, and will continue to be, a staunch supporter for the rights of the unborn,” Quarles wrote on his campaign website in 2012.
Rankin said Moulton and Quarles had been classmates at Harvard and that Moulton’s financial support did not equal political support.
“He made a modest contribution to a friend, not knowing his politics,” Rankin said.
Rankin said in an email that Moulton believes “in a woman’s right to choose” and “that we urgently need gun control.”
Quarles’ office did not return phone calls yesterday. Neither did H. Scott Flegal, a New Hampshire lawyer listed as treasurer of White Mountain on the Federal Election Commission website.
Neil H. Dempsey can be reached at email@example.com.