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Republican party wants special investigation of Coakley

Campaign funds’ use in dispute

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

The Massachusetts Republican Party is asking Governor Deval Patrick to appoint a special investigator to look at Attorney General Martha Coakley’s use of her federal political account for questionable expenditures, along with accounting problems associated with that fund.

Kirsten Hughes, the party chairwoman, also said the party is filing complaints with state and federal campaign finance regulators, asking them to review postelection operations for the Martha Coakley for Senate Committee, the now nearly defunct federal account the attorney general used in her failed 2010 Senate campaign. Coakley is now running for governor.

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“These are serious problems,’’ Hughes said, referring to a Boston Globe report that cited $6,000 in expenditures, much of which appeared to be in violation of state campaign finance law. In addition, the story outlined the chaotic condition of the committee’s accounts and its failure to respond to federal campaign finance regulators’ warnings of the problem.

Hughes said that Patrick is the appropriate person to appoint an independent investigator since Coakley, in her role of state attorney general, oversees enforcement of campaign finance laws and thus cannot oversee an inquiry.

“She prosecutes people for campaign finance violations and makes a name for herself while she seems to be doing the same thing as those she goes after,’’ Hughes said. “She clearly can’t investigate herself.’’

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The governor told State House News Service that he would not appoint an independent investigator.

“We have an agency that is responsible for that,” he said. “If they have issues, they can take it over there.”

The state’s Office of Campaign and Political Finance is responsible for overseeing campaign finance law. The attorney general’s office is then responsible for prosecuting potential violations.

Hughes also called on Coakley to release the details of how her federal committee used a fund-raising database and whether that use was for state purposes.

State campaign finance law prohibits the use of federal funds for state campaigns.

Coakley’s political aides say the $35,000 the committee paid for the fund-raising database NGP VAN since the Senate election was not used for any state purposes. But Hughes said the committee should make the records public.

Her political aides acknowledge the committee made an error in some of the expenditures following the election.

Kyle Sullivan, Coakley’s spokesman, said, “As is usual in such circumstances, the Coakley committee is working with the FEC and will be filing an amended report shortly.”

The campaign also said the committee’s failure to respond to the FEC’s demands that it straighten out its accounts was because the communications were sent to an e-mail address that had been shut down. The committee never supplied the FEC with a new address.

Frank Phillips can be reached at frank.phillips@globe.com.
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