L’Italien Dressing Down Koh on Donation

October 22, 2017 GMT

A Sun Staff report

THOUGH NOT a candidate -- yet -- state Sen. Barbara L’Italien took a shot at likely 3rd Congressional District foe Daniel Arrigg Koh over a donation with ties to the Trump White House.

Koh received a $2,700 donation from Joshua Kushner, a former Harvard University classmate and New York venture capitalist whose brother, Jared, is son-in-law and key advisor to the president.

L’Italien demanded that Koh give the money back. In a statement sent to reporters, L’Italien questioned Koh’s scruples in trying to “buy this seat” in being “willing to accept donations regardless of the source.”

Joshua Kushner has donated tens of thousands of dollars to Democratic causes and races over the years. In 2011-12, he donated to Democratic committees in eight states, and a total of $12,500 to two Barack Obama re-election PACs; the following cycle, he donated to Democratic candidates for Congress, including $5,200 to Rep. Seth Moulton’s re-election bid.

Several media outlets have noted that Joshua, while still close with Jared and the Trumps, remained publicly neutral. He did attend the Women’s March on Washington.

An L’Italien spokesman told the State House News Service that the senator has no issue with Joshua Kushner, but sees a conflict in his de facto connection to the White House.

“The contribution to the Moulton campaign is irrelevant as it was made long before the Trump campaign launched and long before we were facing the very real possibility of a constitutional crisis with an unstable President at the helm,” spokesman Matt Wilder told the State House News Service.

Koh told The Sun that he and Kushner overlapped as undergraduates at Harvard University and both graduated Harvard Business School in 2011.

“I don’t think what one family member does for a living is reflective of other family members,” he said.

KOH RAISED about $805,000 in September, as disclosed last week in quarterly Federal Election Commission filings.

Many donors are from metro Boston -- including Mayor Marty Walsh, for whom Koh worked as chief of staff, and former Red Sox President Larry Lucchino, and top officials at a number of Boston-based law and construction firms.

Koh told The Sun that he does not believe donations from Boston, rather than in-district residents, should define the early days of his campaign.

“At the end of the day, money’s not everything,” he said. “What’s going to win the race is not money. What’s going to win the race is being out in the district, working hard, hearing people’s concerns.”

Koh said he has been touring the district in recent days as his “full-time job.”

Political observers also pointed out that 3rd District candidate Lori Trahan from Westford, who raised about $250,000 in the last two weeks in September, proudly notes that she worked for then-Rep. Marty Meehan as his chief of staff.

Trahan doesn’t mention another former boss, Tim Cahill. Trahan, then Lori Loureiro, left Meehan’s office to work for the incoming state treasurer in 2003, Cahill ran for governor in 2010. It was a disaster, including charges of scheming to use $1.5 million of state lottery money for an ad campaign designed to boost his gubernatorial campaign. His case ended in a mistrial in December 2012; he was later fined $100,000 by the state.

STEVE KERRIGAN has been busy. Kerrigan married a few weeks ago, then announced last week he will run for 3rd District in what looked like a 2017 version of Lady Bird Johnson’s 1964 whistle-stop tour with a stop at the Owl Diner in Lowell.

This morning, Kerrigan will be at Lenzi’s in Dracut, where he will pick up the Greater Lowell Area Democrats 2017 Distinguished Democrat Award.

GLAD will also recognize Volunteer of the Year Howard Savard, of Dracut, and Chelmsford resident and congressional staffer Philip Geoffroy as “Rising Star.”

The Lowell Democratic City Committee will recognize the long service of its former chairman, Mike Demaras.

Rep. Niki Tsongas will deliver the keynote address. Many of the region’s top Democrats are expected to attend.

NO ONE can replace the late Fred Simon as the guy who spearheaded the Salvation Army’s Christmas fundraising campaign, which last year set a record in collecting $200,000 to help the region’s needy at Christmas. Simon, who lived in Tewksbury, passed away in early May.

Someone who’s pretty well-respected in this region has been selected to try and fill’s Simon’s enormous shoes. Warren Shaw, of Dracut, who provides the effort’s brawn each year, wants to keep the man’s identity under wraps until the Salvation Army Breakfast on Nov. 2.

Shaw reports that the effort’s first fundraiser, the Driven to Give event last Saturday at Gervais Auto Group in Lowell, raised $8,000.

“A great start to the year,” said Shaw. “Now we gotta keep it going.”

A FAMILIAR issue reared its head last week when the city agreed to pay $750,000 to settle three federal lawsuits alleging that narcotics detectives failed to adequately vet confidential informants who may have planted drugs,

Howard Friedman, the attorney for all three plaintiffs, said Lowell police had long had a policy in place requiring that informants be vetted, but that it was not enforced.

Former detective Thomas Lafferty testified that he never saw the policy until he was preparing for a deposition in connection with the lawsuits.

The same issue arose in the case of Alyssa Brame, a 31-year-old woman who died of alcohol poisoning while in Lowell police custody in 2013.

In the Brame case, officers and detention attendants implicated in the incident said they had never seen a department policy requiring that prisoners be checked on in person every 30 minutes.

The city eventually settled a lawsuit over Brame’s death for $232,500.

The policy issue had the attention of police Superintendent William Taylor when he was appointed in 2013. One of Taylor’s first moves was to order a review and update of all department policies and procedures.

The department purchased a program called Compliance Bridge that distributes the policies and procedures electronically, requiring employees to verify that they have received and read them.

Had those steps been taken just a couple years earlier, perhaps the city could have saved taxpayers nearly $1 million.

CITY COUNCIL candidates got a chuckle at last week’s campaign event in Centralville in discussing subcommittees they’d like to serve on if elected Nov. 7.

Former Councilor Vesna Nuon touched the third rail when he said “Public Safety I’d like to be on if I could, but it’s up to the mayor.”

“I do care about building trust with the local law enforcement community,” said Nuon, who highlighted his years working in the Middlesex District Attorney’s office.

Nuon filed a false-arrest lawsuit against the city in 2011. He agreed to accept a $50,000 settlement and something unusual: an apology from a Lowell police officer.

A year later and a member of the council, Nuon was appointed to chairs the Public Safety Subcommittee. He stepped down when his appointment angered some members of the city’s Police Department.

VETERANS ADVOCATE John MacDonald may lack the money and network that his 2018 foe, state Sen. Eileen Donoghue, has developed over four terms in the Statehouse.

MacDonald does have a wedge issue: the Lowell High School project.

Republican MacDonald held a kickoff event at the VFW hall on Plain Street, with several councilors who support a new high school at Cawley Stadium on hand.

“I’m not into endorsing people, but I think the world of him,” said Councilor Rita Mercier, adding that she thinks MacDonald will make a great senator. “I think he’s a wonderful person. Don’t we always say challenge and competition is healthy?”

Councilors Rodney Elliott and Dan Rourke, also pro-Cawley, were there.

“I’m not going to endorse any candidate,” Elliott said. “I have worked very closely with John on veterans issues. He is a champion of veterans.”

Rourke could not be reached for comment.

MacDonald began his campaign criticizing Donoghue, a downtown site supporter, and her staff for playing politics with the high school issue.

As a state senator, Donoghue’s only formal role has been to lobby the Massachusetts School Building Authority on Lowell’s behalf and introduce special legislation to lift conservation restrictions on the land near Cawley Stadium where the high school is slated to be built.

CHELMSFORD TOWN Meeting representatives arrived on Monday night to find the book of warrant article presentations was full-color glossy and textbook-quality, rather than the usual black-and-white copy paper booklets.

Some reps questioned why the town would spend big bucks on something that will be thrown away once Town Meeting is over.

Town Manager Paul Cohen said it was a printer’s mistake.

The town usually prints and collates the books on town copiers. This time, they were double the usual size at 75 double-sided pages, so the town decided to send them to a local printer, Cohen said.

Finance Director John Sousa placed the order, then delivered a black-and-white copy of the handout and with a thumb drive that had a copy of the original file.

“We were surprised when the boxes were opened to see the color handouts,” Cohen said.

Alpha Road-based Red Mill Graphics, apologized for the error, Cohen said.

MIDDLESEX SHERIFF Peter Koutoujian was recently elected president of the Massachusetts Sheriffs’ Association.

Gov. Deval Patrick appointed Koutoujian as sheriff in 2011. Koutoujian then won the 2012 election, and was reelected in 2016. As sheriff, Koutoujian has been involved in efforts to address the opioid epidemic. The Middlesex Sheriff’s Office has been designated as a Center of Innovation by the National Institute of Corrections for its medication-assisted treatment program for individuals with opioid use disorders. In addition, Koutoujian helped create the state’s only unit for incarcerated veterans.

Koutoujian begins his two-year term as MSA president in January.

TEWKSBURY SELECTMAN Mark Kratman will run for a second term, holding a campaign kickoff Wednesday from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Tewksbury Country Club.

“There’s a number of things that I promised I wanted to do and I want to see it all through,” Kratman said. “I want to finish the job I started.”

Kratman has worked with the board to get part of Route 38 resurfaced, has been a strong advocate for economic development in town and also wants to see sidewalks in place to make the community safer for pedestrians and handicap accessible.

“I just like working with the community. I love going out and meeting people. It’s fun to go out and talk with everybody,” Kratman said.

Contributing to The Column this week: Chris Lisinski in the 3rd Congressional District, Todd Feathers and Robert Mills in Lowell, Alana Melanson in Chelmsford, Kori Tuitt in Tewksbury, Rick Sobey in Billerica, and Enterprise Editor Christopher Scott.