AP NEWS

Watchdog Group Files Complaint Against Trahan

April 25, 2019

LOWELL -- A nonprofit watchdog organization filed a complaint with the Office of Congressional Ethics alleging U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan failed to file “true, complete and correct” financial disclosure statements during last year’s campaign.

The complaint, filed Wednesday by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, raises questions about the origins of a late source of funding the organization says gave Trahan an advertising advantage during her close 2018 primary election race against Daniel Koh.

Trahan went on to win the Sept. 4 Democratic primary for the 3rd District, beating Koh by 145 votes after a recount.

According to a press release issued by FACT, Trahan failed to disclose three asset accounts in her 2018 financial disclosure report filed on May 21, 2018. This included a bank account valued at $50,000 and her sole ownership of a consulting business called Concire Leadership Institute that had an estimated value of $15,001 to $50,000, the release states. Trahan also had a $15,000 asset in a software company called Stella Connect.

These assets were included in later reports by Trahan, which FACT said only came out after media sources started asking questions. Two of the reports did not come until after the general election was over, the release states. Her report filed in February showed that total assets held solely by Trahan or jointly with her husband had doubled from $115,000 to $230,000 in roughly nine months, according to FACT.

FACT’s complaint states Trahan’s financial omissions were in violation of a public financial disclosure requirement, which “requires candidates to file a personal financial disclosure report. Each report is required to provide a full and complete statement with respect to income and interest derived from income exceeding $200.”

“Rep. Trahan’s repeated failure to properly disclose her assets was at best grossly negligent, and at worst, a willful and deceitful effort to conceal those assets and campaign funding in direct violation of federal law,” said Kendra Arnold, executive director of FACT.

The complaint also states two weeks prior to the Democratic Primary, when Trahan was trailing in a 10-person candidate field, a $331,000 payment was made by her campaign for TV advertising. By the day of the Primary, Trahan made four personal loans totaling $371,000 to her campaign, the complaint states.

“These very significant funds far exceeded the assets listed in both her 2017 and 2018 financial disclosure reports, which also raises questions about whether Trahan and her campaign violated campaign contribution limits,” FACT states.

Trahan’s spokeswoman Gretchen Grosky countered FACT’s complaint, calling it without merit and that Trahan complied with regulations set forth by the Federal Election Commission and the COE.

Trahan used personal funds to finance the $371,000 loan to her campaign and properly disclosed those loans on her filings with the FEC, according to Grosky’s emailed statement. Trahan drew from personal assets including a home equity loan and joint checking accounts.

Grosky also said the group behind the complaint against Trahan is “a well-known right-wing organization funded by untraceable dark money formerly headed up by Donald Trump’s Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker.”

“The source of the complaint itself is largely based on a personal finance disclosure statement that was filed in May 2018 -- a full three months before then-candidate Trahan made the personal loan to the campaign,” Grosky states.

She goes on to state Trahan earned $274,535 in revenue from her consulting business in 2018, some of which was not collected until the May 2018 financial disclosure statement was filed. The full income amount will be reported as required by law in the personal financial disclosure statement Trahan will file in May 2019.

“The complaint also contained a number of factual inaccuracies,” Grosky said. “Rep. Trahan’s campaign proactively retained the services of Perkins Cole, a top-tier campaign and compliance law firm to make sure that all filings were accurate, a process which included making a handful of routine amendments that are common -- particularly for first-time candidates.”

Follow Aaron Curtis on Twitter @aselahcurtis