Metro

Even after reelection, Ayanna Pressley spent heavily on advisers

City Councilor Ayanna Pressley says she’ll run against US Representative Michael Capuano in the primary.
Katherine Taylor for The Boston Globe/File 2018
City Councilor Ayanna Pressley says she’ll run against US Representative Michael Capuano in the primary.

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley used her council campaign account to pay campaign staff and consultants after winning reelection and as she geared up to announce a challenge to US Representative Michael E. Capuano.

A Globe review found that Pressley’s City Council campaign committee continued to spend thousands of dollars on her political team after the November vote. The amounts were much larger than those she paid after past elections, according to the review of her city campaign account records.

Candidates exploring potential congressional races must abide by federal campaign finance laws, including a ban on using money raised for state or local races. It’s not clear from Pressley’s records whether she violated that restriction. And even if she did, resource-strapped election regulators are not often aggressive in pursuing these cases.

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In the months after the election, close to 90 percent of the nearly $35,000 spent by Pressley’s City Council committee went to political operatives, including a Washington, D.C.-based fund-raiser who is now working for her congressional campaign; her former City Council campaign manager, who became communications director of her congressional committee; and a field organizer who is now on the councilor’s City Hall staff.

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Pressley’s aides said the payments after the election were necessary for wrapping up one of the most costly of her five campaigns for at-large city councilor. They said none of the consulting costs from her City Council committee went to laying the groundwork for her congressional campaign, which was announced on Jan. 30.

“Her staff worked across all of Boston’s 22 neighborhoods throughout the campaign,’’ Wilnelia Rivera, Pressley’s congressional campaign manager, said in an e-mail. “Staff work continued after November 7th to thank key supporters, host holiday events and manage giving, wind down campaign operations, and contribute to other grass-roots organizing efforts around Boston.” 

Rivera did not explain why Pressley’s City Council committee spent far more than it had in the past in the postelection weeks, especially on consultants. She said Pressley would not be available to comment.

Pressley’s 2017 City Council campaign manager, Ryan Hand, collected $9,337 from her City Council political committee in various payments in December and January. Until several weeks ago, when the Globe raised the issue, Hand’s LinkedIn page listed him as starting in December as communications director for the congressional committee. Hand’s LinkedIn page has since changed to show a January start with the congressional campaign.

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Her current congressional campaign finance director, Gina Christo, who came to Boston in December from the Democratic women’s fund-raising group Emily’s List, received $4,335 as a consultant in two payments in January from the Pressley City Council campaign committee.

Pressley’s aides said Christo’s work did not involve congressional fund-raising prior to the councilor announcing her bid. However, in the first few days after she officially announced her congressional candidacy, the Pressley campaign said it had raised more than $100,000.

Another consultant, Colin Remal, who had worked in Ohio on political campaigns, signed on in early October as a field organizer for Pressley. He collected three payments totaling $4,500 between Oct. 2 and the November election. In the weeks following the election, he received $7,000 from her City Council campaign, including a $1,500 payment in January after he was put on her City Hall payroll.

Remal is now serving as Pressley’s full-time administrative assistant at City Hall, dealing with constituent services, city records confirmed. He receives $653 a week for the position, which is set to expire March 30.

Pressley spent $88,883 on her City Council campaign from Oct. 1 through Nov. 15. Her first reelection race in 2011 — the most expensive of her five campaigns — cost $101,620 during the same weeks.

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But in 2011, her committee spent $14,587 from Nov. 15 through Jan. 31. In the same postelection weeks following the 2017 campaign, the committee spent $34,809.

Postelection spending larger than usual

In 2011, there were no payments made to consultants after her election, only expenditures such as rent and holiday party expenses. After last year’s election, the committee spent $30,513 — just short of 90 percent of all spending for the period — for a team of political consultants.

Pressley aides dismissed any notion that the payments from her council campaign to her political aides were used for work on her congressional campaign. They said the cost for that work will be reflected in the reports by the federal committee that was created Jan. 31, the day she announced her candidacy.

They declined the Globe’s request to review their federal spending records. The Federal Election Commission reports will not be public until after the second week in April.

Rivera, who does not show up on the council committee payroll, said that she put together Pressley’s congressional campaign roll-out, not the consultants on the City Council campaign account.

“I headed up all that,” she said. “I volunteered my time and made sure things were in place and put together what she needed in terms of infrastructure.”

While the use of funds for congressional races that are not raised under federal campaign finance is illegal, the FEC has not in recent years vigorously pursued those sorts of violations.

Then-attorney general Martha Coakley used more than $25,000 in her state campaign funds for staff and consultants who quietly set the stage for a pending US Senate campaign in 2009, just days before Edward M. Kennedy died and his seat was up for grabs in a special election.

The commission’s legal staff, after a review of a state Republican complaint, said enough evidence existed for the agency’s commissioners to authorize a limited investigation. But the FEC cited “prosecutorial discretion,” saying the agency had limited resources and noting the minimal amount of political funds involved.

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