BOSTON — U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan has been hit with yet another complaint that accuses her of violating financial reporting rules ahead of the 2018 election.
The complaint, filed Wednesday by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, alleges that Trahan may have broken campaign finance laws by making sizable loans to her campaign in the months ahead of a contentious primary election. The conservative watchdog group based in Washington, D.C., asks the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate the source of the loans.
"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," Kendra Arnold, the group's executive director, said in a statement.
Trahan, a Westford Democrat, loaned herself a total of $371,000 last year as part of her bid to win the 3rd Congressional District seat previously held by Rep. Niki Tsongas.
The money helped fund last-minute advertising that some say helped the political newcomer clinch the Democratic nomination in a 10-way primary last September, which she won by 145 votes following a recount between her and Democrat Dan Koh. She went on to defeat Republican Rick Green and independent Mike Mullen in the Nov. 6 election.
The complaint is similar to one filed three weeks ago with the Federal Election Commission by the Campaign Legal Center, a Washington D.C.-based watchdog. It suggests that Trahan didn't have enough revenue and assets to cover those loans, based on her personal financial disclosures filed with the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Gretchen Grosky, Trahan's spokeswoman, denied any wrongdoing and criticized the latest complaint for "containing a number of inaccuracies."
"Rep. Trahan complied with regulations set forth by the FEC and the Committee on Ethics regarding her campaign finances and personal financial disclosures, and this complaint is without merit," Grosky said in a statement.
Trahan used personal assets, including $265,000 in income from her consulting business, a home equity loan and joint checking accounts, to finance the campaign loans, Grosky said.
A Boston Globe report, which first raised the allegations, suggested the loans were backed by Trahan’s husband, David, a real estate developer.
While candidates can loan themselves unlimited funds, family members are limited to contributions of $2,700 per election cycle, according to federal campaign finance rules.
Trahan amended her personal financial disclosures filed with the House clerk multiple times, adding a joint banking account and a $71,000 home equity loan, after questions were raised about the money she’d given to her campaign.
The campaign loans were made over a period of several months, according to disclosures filed with the Federal Election Commission.
Trahan's personal financial disclosures listed revenues and assets ranging from $2.4 million to $8.2 million, most of which belong to her husband. They include $361,000 in income from her job in 2017, as well as a handful of joint bank accounts.
The largest asset Trahan personally owns is her consulting business, valued at between $250,001 and $500,000 at its peak last year.
The group behind the most recent complaint has called for investigations into dozens of Democrats since it was founded in 2015. Its targets have included former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and California Sen. Kamala Harris, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks spending by third-party electioneering groups.
Most of its funding comes from "dark money" sources, according to the center, making it nearly impossible to trace who is paying its activities.
The group's former executive director was Matthew Whitaker, a former U.S. attorney tapped by Republican President Donald Trump last year to serve temporarily as attorney general.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites. Email him at email@example.com.