It looked like state Senator Brian Joyce was raking in the campaign donations despite his legal woes and his decision not to seek reelection.
Campaign regulators said his extra campaign finance report, filed in April as part of a settlement of charges he misused campaign funds, showed he has raised money in 2016. But they wouldn’t release the report, saying they weren’t sure it was public.
A day later, when they decided the document was public, the report showed that Joyce, a Democrat from Milton, had received more than $50,000 in January and February. But the money didn’t come from constituents, voters, or anyone else. Nearly all of the $53,000 came from Joyce himself, who loaned his campaign $25,000 twice. Most of the rest came from a former campaign aide who, Office of Campaign and Political Finance investigators found, had withdrawn cash from the campaign bank account without permission.
Joyce was required to file the April report as part of his settlement with the agency after it found he used campaign funds to pay part of the cost of his son’s high school graduation party. He also had to pay $4,617 to charity.
He was also required to hire an outside vendor as his campaign treasurer to make sure he complies with campaign finance rules. But after paying the vendor for a few months, he replaced the company with an employee of his law firm, the Joyce Law Group. Campaign finance regulators approved the change.
OCPF is also requiring Joyce to provide all bank statements, so state auditors can review the paperwork for compliance.
The new treasurer, Kristie McDevitt, was also named treasurer of his new legal defense fund. The fund was created on April 13 as a federal grand jury continues to investigate whether Joyce used his position to benefit himself and his law practice.
Donors to these funds are not limited by the same rules that apply to regular campaign accounts. They can give any amount — not just $1,000 a year like other campaign contributors.
Even before Joyce’s law office was raided by the FBI in February, he had already spent nearly $70,000 in campaign funds on legal fees to Todd & Weld, according to his campaign finance reports.
Though Joyce has never had trouble raising money before, it’s unclear whether loyal donors will continue to give and risk possible scrutiny themselves.
No action fromEthics Commission
Folks trying to prod the State Ethics Commission to investigate a Senate junket to Israel have discovered that the watchdog agency does not have quite the bite they might have hoped.
The commission, it turns out, is doing what its self-imposed regulations dictate: taking for granted the words of the public officials it is supposed to bring to heel.
And indeed, relying solely on the lawmakers’ filings with the commission, the agency has concluded that 10 state senators were clear of any potential ethics issues when they took a free junket to Israel worth $4,000 per person.
That gift to them came shortly after they and their colleagues unanimously passed pro-Israel legislation lobbied by the Boston-based pro-Israeli group which arranged the trip and which is a registered State House lobbying outfit.
The commission sent a letter to Massachusetts Peace Action, which had filed a complaint about the trip, telling the group it was not taking any action. The reason: The senators said the trip was in the public interest, and they had filed the proper disclosures to the commission before they left for the 10-day tour.
“Prior to traveling, the subjects of your complaint filed the required written disclosures, which included their determination that the travel served a legitimate public purpose,’’ the commission’s deputy chief of investigations, Katherine E. Gallant, told the peace group in an April 7 letter.
In this case, the public purpose, as defined by the commission’s regulations, would be “activities that promote tourism, economic development, charitable, public health, environmental, or educational goals.”
No matter that little in the itinerary, arranged by the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Boston, came close to that definition.
Still, the senators insist the Commonwealth benefited from the trip. “This trip will strengthen the partnership with Israel on a number of topics that are important to the Commonwealth such as tourism, energy, and higher education to name just a few,’’ wrote Senate President Stanley Rosenberg, who led the Senate delegation, in his disclosure form.
Nowhere on their forms did the senators mention their unanimous approval of the pro-Israel resolution over a controversial issue — pushed by the JCRC — several weeks before the trip.
The commission’s defenders say it has to depend on officials’ own words because it does not have the resources to police all the issues brought before it.
And surely the Legislature is not about to beef up that agency budget.
GOP caucuses overlap with Passover
The state GOP has stirred up a hornet’s nest among some Orthodox and other observant Jews after setting April 30 as the date for its caucuses to chose delegates for the July national convention. It’s the last day of Passover.
Adding to the hard feelings is the fact that, when the chairman of the Newton Republican City Committee, Tom Mountain, sent off an e-mail last week to complain, he never got a reply.
“It’s annoying and insulting,’’ said Mountain. “They are shutting out a whole Republican constituency.”
Mountain said he plans to recommend to 200 or so members of Newton city committee that they put a hold on any more donations to state party.
The party said it is bound by its rules and the national party’s to a tight calendar that all but required the April 30 date. Ironically, there would not have been any conflict had conservatives not blocked the establishment’s plans to abolish the caucuses altogether.
“We regret that the structure of the delegate selection plan this year led to this unfortunate scheduling conflict,’’ said MassGOP spokesman Terry MacCormack.
A party official noted that they made sure to avoid the Passover Seder but could not avoid the entire eight-day holiday.
Ex-Kennedy aide raises money for GOP
Ted Kennedy was worth a lot of money for Republicans while he was alive, the frequent subject of right-wing fund-raising efforts through scare tactics that both parties employ by highlighting prominent members across the aisle.
Now that he’s gone, one former Kennedy aide is making sure his work goes on, though as a slightly more willing participant. Will Keyser, who worked for Kennedy and other Democrats before joining Republican Charlie Baker’s 2014 gubernatorial campaign, will join prominent Republican strategists on a panel for a Baker finance committee meeting in May.
Keyser will be joined by another staple of the Baker political operation, adviser Jim Conroy, along with two longtime Mitt Romney hands, Beth Myers and Peter Flaherty, according to a MassVictory Committee obtained by the Globe.
The May 5 meeting at the Fairmont Copley Plaza requires a minimum $5,000 contribution.
A City Hall makeoveron the cheap
Something cushy is softening City Hall’s Eagle Room, the concrete boardroom where the mayor holds court with reporters and department heads.
Gone are the aging wooden chairs with fading floral patterns and sunken-in cushions. Gone, too, is the worn, dusty carpeting. Now the gleaming hardwood floors are exposed. And nearly 20 plush black conference room chairs surround the chipped conference room table.
The chairs didn’t cost the city a dime, said Patrick Brophy, the city’s chief of operations. They were actually being mothballed after the School Department moved from Court Street to its spiffy digs in Dudley Square. The old chairs didn’t match the new decor.
City Hall is trove of old furnishings, some languishing for years. The black chairs now have a home. And the Eagle Room has a fresh feeling.
“We are always looking to reuse existing furniture,’’ Brophy said, “and be as prudent as possible with taxpayers’ money.”