A Washington D.C.-based watchdog group has called on the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate US Representative Lori Trahan’s campaign spending, alleging the freshman lawmaker was either “grossly negligent” or “willfully concealed” the true source of a last-minute infusion of cash into her campaign.
Trahan already faces two other federal complaints related to her spending in a heated 10-way Democratic primary when she loaned her campaign $371,000. Trahan did not disclose a key source of the money — a joint bank account with her husband — until after the election, raising questions about her transparency.
“The Code of Ethics for Government Services holds public servants should uphold the law and Constitution, not evade it,” wrote Kendra Arnold, executive director of Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust, or FACT. Arnold wrote that Trahan failed to provide voters with a “full and accurate accounting” of her finances during the campaign, making it impossible for them to determine whether she had potential conflicts of interest.
Trahan’s spokeswoman said Trahan did nothing wrong.
“Congresswoman Trahan used personal funds to finance the $371,000 loan to her campaign and properly disclosed those loans on her filings with the Federal Election Commission,” said the spokeswoman, Gretchen Grosky, in a statement. “She drew from personal assets, including a home equity loan and joint checking accounts.”
Grosky also questioned the objectivity of FACT, calling it a right-wing organization formerly led by President Trump’s acting attorney general. FACT, which calls itself nonpartisan, has filed complaints against Democrats and Republicans alike.
The complaints against Trahan came after the Globe reported in March on questions about the source of funds that allowed Trahan to launch a last-minute advertising blitz. Trahan moved from fourth place in a pre-primary poll to narrowly win the primary by 145 votes.
During the campaign, Trahan’s financial reports did not list sufficient personal funds to make the loans. After the November general election, she filed multiple amendments with both the Federal Election Commission and the House clerk to show she had sufficient personal funds to do so.
In late March, another watchdog group, the Washington D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center, filed its own complaint with the FEC, alleging that Traham may have used illegal donations to fund the loans. A second complaint was filed with the FEC by a voter, Gene Blake of Andover, a supporter of second-place finisher Dan Koh.
The complaint filed by the Campaign Legal Center pointed out that Trahan changed her reports multiple times and said her explanation that the money came from her own assets was not plausible.
It could take months before either the FEC or the Office of Congressional Ethics acts on the complaints, experts said.
Meanwhile, Trahan has also come under fire separately for allegedly violating her own pledge to accept no corporate PAC money.
“I firmly believe that we need to root out the corruptive influence if money in politics, which is why I refuse to take any money from corporate PACs,” she wrote during the campaign.
But The Intercept and Bloomberg News have reported that Trahan accepted cash from trade assocation PACS representing all sorts of corporate interests including beer wholesalers, grocery, hotel, hospital, and cable industry groups.
Trahan has argued that, under FEC definitions, trade group PACS aren’t technically corporate PACS, so she didn’t violate her pledge. Yesterday, spokeswoman Grosky stood by Trahan’s record, noting that she has strong support from good-government groups.
“She was endorsed by End Citizens United during her election for taking the No Corporate PAC Pledge, and she continues to be a supporter of the no corporate PAC money pledge set forth by End Citizens United, which has confirmed that she has adhered to their terms and standards,” Grosky said.
Andrea Estes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.