The House Committee on Ethics is reviewing a confidential report on U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan’s 2018 campaign finances.
The confidential report originated in the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent entity that reviews allegations of misconduct.
The OCE initially investigated a complaint made by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust — a non-profit watch-dog organization based in Washington, D.C. — which alleged Trahan failed to properly disclose the source of $300,000 in personal funds contributed in the weeks before the primary election in September 2018.
The House Committee on Ethics will announce whether it plans to further investigate the accusations by Dec. 17.
Before investigating any complaint, the OCE must first find “reasonable basis to believe an allegation exists.” Then the OCE board recommends that the House Committee on Ethics either dismiss or further investigate the complaint.
“The Committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the Committee,” House Committee on Ethics Chairman Theodore Deutch (D-Fla.) and Ranking Minority Member Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) said in a news release.
Trahan admitted last week that about $300,000 earned by her husband, Dave Trahan, had been deposited into the couple’s joint bank account in 2018. She said she loaned her campaign similar amounts from this account.
Trahan’s campaign spent $331,000 on television advertising on Aug. 23, 2018, around two weeks before the primary election, according to FEC data.
Trahan beat challenger Dan Koh for the seat by 145 votes, after a recount. Koh challenged Trahan to release bank statements and other documents relating to the finance complaints.
According to the Federal Election Commission, candidates may contribute an unlimited amount of funds to their own campaign, but other individuals are limited to contributing $2,700.
“I now know that the way I contributed those funds constitute a gray area in campaign finance law,” Trahan said in a recent statement. “I also know that the Federal Election Commission’s past rulings suggest what I did was not a violation.”
Mark McDevitt, a spokesman for Trahan’s office, said the representative and her husband decided in a premarital agreement to share their income.
“Representative Trahan had the right to manage and dispose of her husband David’s income under an agreement they entered into before they were married,” McDevitt said.
“Under the agreement and state law, the funds used by Congresswoman Trahan to loan money to her campaign were her ‘personal funds’ and were eligible for use in the campaign,” he said.
The Federal Election Commission is currently shut down due to a lack of members, with three of six seats vacant.
In its complaint to the OCE, the trust criticized Trahan for failing to amend her disclosure reports until after the election.
“Generally, many times we are alerted to issues from media stories and reporting. I do remember this (Trahan’s matter) being a case where there were significant media reports and citizen distrust regarding her (Trahan) campaign finance issues,” FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold said in an email.
Another non-profit watch-dog group, the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, D.C. filed a complaint about Trahan’s campaign finances to the FEC in March.
Both the OCE and the House Committee on Ethics declined to comment about the content of the confidential recommendation.
“We’re looking forward to this whole thing being resolved,” Trahan said during a Lowell event this week.