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Trahan reports big legal bills

US Representative Lori Trahan.
US Representative Lori Trahan. Jessica Hill/Associated Press/FR125654 AP via AP

Representative Lori Trahan, who has faced a series of calls for federal officials to investigate her campaign financing, reported nearly $167,000 in new legal bills this month, all to a firm she said she hired to manage her financial disclosures.

Trahan disclosed the costs she’s run up with Perkins Coie in a fund-raising report she filed with the Federal Election Commission in mid-October, far outpacing what her peers in the Massachusetts delegation have reported spending on legal costs this year.

The Westford Democrat reported making a $10,900 payment to the firm in mid-September, in addition to running up $155,751 in unpaid legal fees, a debt she hadn’t reported previously.

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Combined with other earlier payments, Trahan now owes or has paid Perkins Coie more than $186,000 since the Globe reported in March on questions about the source of funds that helped lift her to a razor-thin victory last year in the Third District’s crowded Democratic race.

Trahan has faced a series of complaints targeting $371,000 she loaned her campaign, including hundreds of thousands of dollars that allowed her to launch a last-minute advertising blitz before the September primary.

Trahan did not disclose a key source of the money — a joint bank account with her husband — until after she won election in November, prompting calls from watchdog groups for federal officials to investigate.

Trahan aides have said the freshman lawmaker did nothing wrong, and said Friday that she made “some unintentional errors in her financial and campaign disclosures.”

“She doesn’t want that to be repeated, and therefore engaged the nation’s premiere campaign finance law firm, Perkins Coie, to ensure proper compliance with all disclosures and campaign legal matters moving forward,” Gretchen Grosky, a campaign spokeswoman, said in an e-mailed statement.

The legal bills far exceed what Massachusetts’s other House members have reported this year, with only two spending more than $2,500 so far on legal services or fees, a Globe review of records found.

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Both are also Perkins Coie clients. Representative Richard Neal, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, has paid the firm $14,895 this year while Representative Joseph P. Kennedy III, now a Senate candidate, has paid it $4,623. Neither reported any outstanding debts to the firm.

Trahan had disclosed in the spring that she had hired Perkins Coie. That included writing in an op-ed in The Eagle Tribune in April that she had retained the firm “to make sure our filings are in order and to make technical amendments that are typical for first-time candidates.”

Congressional candidates are required to file quarterly fund-raising reports with the FEC in non-election years. Members of the House must file financial disclosures each May.

All the while, Trahan’s financing has not lacked scrutiny.

In March — the same month Trahan first paid Perkins Coie $20,000 — the Washington, D.C.-based Campaign Legal Center filed a complaint with the FEC, alleging that Trahan may have used illegal donations to fund the loans.

Another complaint was filed with the FEC by a voter, Gene Blake of Andover, a supporter of the primary’s second-place finisher, Dan Koh.

A second watchdog group, the Washington, D.C.-based Foundation for Accountability & Civic Trust, also filed a separate complaint asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate, the Globe reported in April.

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Grosky did not directly answers questions Friday about whether Trahan’s payments were in response to the complaints themselves.

The questions have prompted Koh to openly consider challenging Trahan again in the 2020 primary, setting off a quiet, but contentious, shadow primary during which Koh commissioned a poll to gauge opinion of him and the incumbent. Trahan, meanwhile, has rolled out several endorsements, including from Senator Elizabeth Warren, to help burnish her credentials ahead of the possible rematch.

Koh should be familiar with Perkins Coie’s work as well. The Andover Democrat hired the firm during the 2018 campaign and to assist him in the recount in which he fell by 145 votes to Trahan, according to his campaign finance records.


Reach Matt Stout at matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on twitter @mattpstout