The Massachusetts Republican Party today called on a Democratic state representative to return thousands of dollars in campaign contributions because he appeared to have violated election finance laws by using a government employee as treasurer of his political committee.
The lawmaker, first-term Representative Mark Cusack of Braintree, refused that demand but said he immediately replaced his treasurer after learning of the prohibition.
“When he started as my treasurer, he was not a public employee. It was a complete oversight issue on my part, and I take complete responsibility for it. No excuse,” Cusack said during an interview.
State law expressly prohibits a government employee from serving as a campaign treasurer, since their job could lead them to both solicit or receive political donations.
Yet records filed with the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance show that Cusack had listed Christopher Griffin - assistant to Braintree Mayor Joseph Sullivan - as his campaign treasurer since his first campaign finance report. It covered activity beginning Jan. 1, 2010.
Griffin has remained as treasurer and held that title in Cusack’s most recent report, filed Feb. 7 for the period from July 1, 2011, to Dec. 31, 2011.
“No person employed for compensation, other than an elected officer, by the commonwealth or any county, city or town, shall directly or indirectly solicit or receive any gift, payment, contribution ... for the political campaign purposes of any candidate for public office,” says Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 55.
An additional advisory opinion by the OCPF states: “It has been a long-standing and consistent interpretation by this office that an individual subject to the provisions of this section may not be the treasurer of a political committee, given the responsibilities imposed on that office by C(hapter) 55.”
Cusack said that he hired Griffin, a politically aspiring family friend who attends the same church, in April 2010. Griffin wasn’t hired in Braintree until March 2011, to take a job vacated when Cusack ran for the Legislature, the representative said. Since then, Cusack has filed two campaign finance reports, and he said Griffin was not involved in either of them.
The representative said, “I do all bookkeeping,” and he personally e-filed his 2011 mid-year and 2011 year-end reports.
“He was my treasurer,” said Cusack. “At no time did he participate in fund-raising. His name was not on any fund-raisers or appeals. That was all under my name.”
The representative said he selected a new treasurer on Monday, after first learning of the ban.
Reached at the mayor’s office in Braintree, Griffin said, “I’ve got no comment right now.”
In a statement, the Massachusetts GOP noted that Cusack had raised $54,000 while running for and serving as a state representative. Under Cusack’s accounting, though, Griffin simultaneously served as treasurer and a government employee while he raised just $19,000.
“If Representative Cusack did indeed violate the law, he should immediately return all funds received with the aid of this public employee,” Nate Little, the party’s executive director, said in a statement.
Cusack replied: “Absolutely not going to happen. ...As of today, there are not plans to do that. Obviously, if OCPF tells me differently, we will reexamine that.”
Cusack was in the news last year after he and a female State House aide were found alone in a darkened House chamber amid a party in the speaker’s office. A subsequent investigation determined there had been no wrongdoing.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.