House Ethics Committee Clears Rep. Trahan In 2018 Campaign Finance Investigation

July 17, 2020 Updated: July 17, 2020

The House Ethics Committee has cleared Rep. Lori Trahan following an investigation into allegations against the Massachusetts Democrat over possible campaign finance violations.

The Committee voted unanimously in its report released July 16 to dismiss allegations related to her 2018 congressional campaign, noting that the first-term congresswoman did not violate house House Rules, laws, regulations, or other standards of conduct with respect to campaign contribution limits.

“The Committee found that the funds used to source Representative Trahan’s personal loans to the Campaign were marital property to which Representative Trahan had a legal right of access and control,” the Committee wrote in its report. “Accordingly, the loans were sourced from Representative Trahan’s personal funds, not excessive contributions from her husband.”

According to a report released Dec. 17, 2019 by the Board of the Office of Congressional Ethics, Trahan may have accepted impermissible campaign contributions and then improperly reported them.

The report (pdf) stated that throughout 2018, Trahan and her husband, David Trahan, deposited $300,000 into a joint checking account. She was accused of using the money to make personal loans to her campaign committee, exceeding campaign contribution limits.

She was also accused of noting in Federal Election Commission (FEC) reports that her personal loans were sourced from personal funds, which would make the sum comply with federal law. However, the $300,000 was sourced from her husband, making the contributions exceed federal contribution limits, the report suggests.

Lawyers representing Trahan had argued that the funds were her personal funds because the couple signed a premarital agreement under which Trahan and her husband have equal rights to the management of all marital property. The committee appeared to agree with this notion in its ruling this week.

Following the release of the committee’s report, Trahan, who beat Dan Koh of Andover in a 10-way Democratic primary race by 0.1 percent following a recount, said she welcomed the ruling.

“The respected House Ethics Committee — made up of Democrats and Republicans — investigated this matter thoroughly and has now unanimously confirmed what I’ve always maintained: that my campaign acted ethically and that these baseless accusations were just politics,” she said in a statement after the report’s release.

“Serving the people of the Third Congressional District continues to be the greatest honor of my life, and I will continue to focus on addressing the needs of the people I represent,” she added.

Under campaign finance law, candidates are permitted to loan money to themselves but are not eligible to take loans from relatives or friends.

The Ethics Committee said that under Massachusetts law, the funds coming from Trahan’s husband’s account “satisfied the definition of a candidate’s personal funds under FECA.”

“As such, the loans Representative Trahan made using Mr. Trahan’s salary and income were her personal funds and not excessive contributions from Mr.Trahan,” they wrote.