Trahan disclosure shines light on finances

U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan

 

BOSTON — A newly filed personal financial disclosure by U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan suggests she had more than enough revenue and assets to secure sizable loans to her campaign last year, but watchdog groups that filed complaints against the congresswoman say her story still doesn't add up.

Trahan, a Westford Democrat, has been accused by two groups of violating campaign finance laws by loaning her campaign $371,000 in the months ahead of a contentious primary election. The complaints question the source the loans, alleging that Trahan's revenue and assets in 2018 weren't enough to secure them.

In her most recent disclosure to clerk of the House of Representatives, the freshman congresswoman lists $274,535 in revenue from her consulting firm Concire LLC in 2018, as well as assets that include a Bank of America checking account associated with the business, the value of which fluctuated between $250,001 and $500,000 in 2018.

The disclosure also listed the range of gross revenue for her affiliated consulting firm Concire Leadership Institute last year at between $1 million and $5 million.

Trahan loaned herself a total of $371,000 last year as part of her bid to win the 3rd Congressional District seat previously held by Rep. Niki Tsongas.

The campaign loans were made in several installments over a period of several months, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The money funded a last-minute advertising blitz that helped the political neophyte cinch a 10-way Democratic primary last September, which she won by 145 votes following a recount between her and Dan Koh. She went on to defeat Republican Rick Green and Independent Mike Mullen in the Nov. 6 election.

A complaint with the Federal Election Commission filed in March by the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based watchdog, argues that Trahan didn't have enough revenue and assets to cover those loans, based on her personal financial disclosures filed with the clerk of the House of Representatives.

Not satisfied

Corey Goldstone, a spokesman for the group, said Trahan's latest financial disclosure doesn't clear up the discrepancies raised in their complaint.

"This most recent filing doesn't justify her original story," Goldstone said in a statement. "We still feel that the Trahan campaign has violated federal law for failing to fully report loans, depriving voters of important information about the sources and amounts of money used to influence an election."

Another complaint, filed April 24 by the Washington D.C.-based Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, a conservative watchdog group, makes similar allegations about Trahan's filings and asks the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the source of the loans.

Kendra Arnold, the group's executive director, said Trahan was "required to file a full and accurate financial disclosure ahead of the election, so that voters could assess any potential conflicts of interest" but didn't do that. She said Trahan's most recent financial disclosure doesn't wipe away the violation of federal law.

"It wasn't until after the election that she filed a complete disclosure," Arnold said. "We believe that is a violation in itself, and there's no way to remedy it."

In a statement, Trahan said her revenue and assets were more than enough to secure the loans to her congressional campaign.

"This latest filing proves what I've said all along -- I had ample resources to make a loan to my campaign," she said. "While it was not ultimately necessary, the disclosure also clearly demonstrates I could have invested much more in my campaign if I had wanted to."

Trahan's most recent filing also lists jointly mortgages held jointly with her husband and lines of credit on her homes in Massachusetts and Maine.

A Boston Globe report, which first raised the allegations, suggested the campaign loans were backed by Trahan’s husband, David, a real estate developer.

While candidates can loan themselves unlimited funds, family members are limited to contributions of $2,700 per election cycle, according to federal rules.

Trahan has amended her personal financial disclosures filed with the House clerk multiple times over the past year, as questions about the source of the campaign loans were raised, adding a joint banking account and a $71,000 home equity loan. Her campaign has pointed out that such amendments are common, especially among first-time candidates.

Last year's race for the 3rd District was the state’s marquee congressional election and awash with campaign money.

All told, candidates spent nearly $12 million, according to campaign disclosures, making it one of the state's most expensive congressional races last year.

Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for The Salem News and its sister newspapers and websites. Email him at cwade@cnhi.com