The House Ethics Committee is reviewing whether to open a full-scale investigation into allegations that Democratic freshmen Rep. Lori Trahan (Mass.) failed to properly disclose the source of $300,000 in personal funds she loaned to her congressional campaign in 2018.
Trahan is the second Democratic freshmen caught up in ethics issues in recent weeks, although this case is far less serious than the allegations that brought down former Rep. Katie Hill (Calif.), who resigned last week.
The Office of Congressional Ethics, the independent ethics watchdog, referred the Trahan case to the Ethics panel on Sept. 18, according to a statement released on Monday. The Ethics Committee is taking another 45 days to evaluate the matter before deciding whether to go forward with a full investigation or dismiss the case. The panel was required to disclose the OCE referral publicly.
The 46-year-old Trahan, a businesswoman and former congressional aide, won a heavily contested Democratic primary in 2018, winning by just 145 votes over Dan Koh, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s former chief of staff. Trahan then romped to victory in the general election by a big margin.
But conservative outside groups filed complaints against Trahan alleging that she failed to properly disclose her personal financial assets until after the November election. Trahan later acknowledged mistakes with her initial disclosure filings and campaign finance reports and filed amended versions of those documents.
But Koh, who is considering challenging Trahan again, has demanded she make clear the source of the disputed funds.
Trahan has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing. She released an lengthy document on Medium last week outlining how her husband Dave, a home builder, had moved funds into a joint-checking account held by the couple, money that was then loaned to Trahan’s congressional campaign.
“So, over the course of the campaign, we decided to move $300,000 from income Dave had earned to our joint checking account; Dave deposited $50,000 and $55,000 into our joint checking account before I filed my first and second quarterly reports in 2018, and in August, he deposited an additional $200,000,” Trahan wrote. “I now know that the way I contributed those funds constitute a gray area in campaign finance law. I also know that the Federal Election Commission’s past rulings suggest what I did was not a violation….”
In a statement Monday, Trahan spokesman Mark McDevitt said the Massachusetts Democrat properly followed campaign finance regulations during the campaign.
“This review involves the same issues raised by a right-wing group formerly headed by Donald Trump’s Acting Attorney General with a long history of attacking Democrats,” McDevitt said. “A candidate may make unlimited contributions to her campaign from her ‘personal funds.’ In cases involving Jane Fonda and Bob Dole, the FEC has treated spouses’ funds as the candidates’ ‘personal funds,’ when the candidates had the right to manage and dispose of those same funds under state law.”
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