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L’Italien says $70,000 campaign loan came from account shared with her since-deceased mother

State Senator Barbara L’Italien is one of 10 Democrats running in the Sept. 4 primary for the Third District.
State Senator Barbara L’Italien is one of 10 Democrats running in the Sept. 4 primary for the Third District.(Globe Staff/File)

Under pressure to reveal the source of $70,000 she loaned her congressional campaign, state Senator Barbara L’Italien said Tuesday she pulled the cash from a joint account she held for decades with her mother prior her death last year.

L’Italien — one of 10 Democrats running in the Sept. 4 primary for the Third District — originally did not disclose the account’s existence on a federally required financial disclosure and only first acknowledged it last week. At the time, she said the loan came from a “joint family checking account” but did not say with whom she held the fund.

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Saying she takes “full responsibility” for the error, L’Italien said Tuesday she shared the account with her mother, Claire, for nearly 20 years until she died from Alzheimer’s in April 2017. Her mother lived in her Andover home, and L’Italien said she used the funds to “pay for and manage her care as she struggled with dementia in the last decade of her life.”

The account contained approximately $110,000 before L’Italian loaned her campaign $50,000 in December 2017 and $20,000 more three months later, according to Joe Katz, a campaign spokesman. It currently has $40,000 left, he said.

The Federal Election Commission caps loans from relatives at the same limit — $2,700 per election — that’s imposed upon contributions from any other individual.

But Katz said the loans did not violate any campaign finance laws, because L’Italien made the withdrawals after her mother died and when the senator was the sole owner of the account.

Katz did not provide a breakdown of how much of the account included L’Italien’s own funds, versus her mother’s, saying they “shared the account as a family does.”

“I am sorry for any confusion I caused and for the distraction from issues like health care and education that impact people’s daily lives,” L’Italien said of the questions about the source of the money. “I have spent the past few days making sure that my amendment would be thorough, complete and transparent.”

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Her campaign provided an updated financial disclosure that includes the account, and a separate checking account L’Italien has with her husband valued up to $15,000. It also includes two additional loans — a business loan her husband has and a cosigned student loan debt for her daughters — that she also didn’t originally disclose.

Brett G. Kappel, a partner and political campaign finance expert at the Washington, D.C.-based Akerman LLP, said while the case is “unusual,” L’Italien’s use of the money would likely only run afoul of the law if her mother’s will dictated the money should go elsewhere. Katz, L’Italien’s spokesman, said there was no such conflict.

Past that, “a candidate can spend as much [of their own] money as they want, either by making a contribution or loaning it to the campaign,” Kappel said. Registry of Deeds records filed this month show that, months after making the loans, L’Italien also took a $746,400 mortgage on her Andover home. But her campaign has not said whether she planned to seed any of that money into her campaign as well.


Matt Stout can be reached at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout.