Past state GOP chairs raise OCPF concerns

Former party leaders urge more transparency in Fattman campaign finance case

WE, AS SEVERAL past chairs of the Massachusetts Republican Party (MassGOP), have had a unique perspective on the role that the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) has played over the years. Under our leadership, we have dealt with this agency and, specifically with Michael Sullivan, the outgoing director of OCPF. In fact, one of us even initially voted for director Sullivan in 1994, when he first was sworn into his role at OCPF.

We have great respect for the professional staff at OCPF and each of us take our state’s campaign finance laws extremely seriously. We write today because of our great concern regarding Sullivan. On March 19, through the legal action taken by Republican state Sen. Ryan Fattman of Sutton and Worcester County Register of Probate Stephanie Fattman, it became public that Sullivan told the Fattmans that he “targeted” them and that he “didn’t care about the law” after the Fattman’s attorney read the specific law Sullivan had accused the Fattmans of violating. Also troubling was the fact that Sullivan said he disliked lawyers and stated, “I feel like you violated the law.” This cavalier attitude concerns us, and it should concern every citizen, not just Republicans.

According to the legal action initiated by the Fattmans, Sullivan refused to produce all the evidence of any wrongdoing so the Fattmans could defend themselves. Sullivan held a hearing while Sen. Fattman was in a Senate session and refused to accommodate any other possible dates that could work for the senator and his family. This process is an extremely unusual way for the outgoing director of OCPF to carry out the non-partisan duties of the agency during his last few days in the director’s position. A new director of OCPF is set to take the reins on April 12, the first new director since 1994.

The Fattmans have been left in the dark, as has been the public. However, the Fattmans voluntarily released a public statement and all the legal briefs they filed in court so that the public could have some transparency. From those documents, the public clearly sees that OCPF’s actions in this matter likely revolve around candidate-to-candidate donations, which are limited to $100; candidate to party donations, which are unlimited; and party to candidate donations, which are unlimited for in-kind contributions. All during our time as chairs of the MassGOP, these rules were in place and donations of these types were commonplace.

According to publicly available data on the OCPF website, Sen. Fattman’s campaign donated campaign funds to the MassGOP and the Sutton Republican Town Committee and those organizations supported other Republican candidates, including Stephanie Fattman’s campaign. Speculation abounds about what precisely Sullivan is investigating, and the Fattman’s court challenge failed to pry lose more information.

During our time leading the MassGOP, the MassGOP and its Republican candidates have benefited from state campaign finance law allowing for Republican candidates to donate an “unlimited” amount of funds to the MassGOP. And the MassGOP may use those funds to benefit Republican candidates in a way that the MassGOP sees fit. This practice is not partisan. Our counterparts at the Massachusetts Democratic Party and their candidates routinely benefited and continue to benefit from this rule. This rule is rooted in the law and in common sense. Partisan party committees are there to support their candidates and their candidates are there to support their committees.

In order for OCPF to preserve its non-partisan nature, if there is a serious matter worth pursuing it should be handled by the new incoming director. If OCPF wants this rule changed, that is a matter for the Legislature to address.

Meet the Author

Jim Rappaport

Former chair, 1992-1997, Massachusetts Republican Party
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Robert Maginn

Former chair, 2011-2013, Massachusetts Republican Party
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Jeanne Kangas

Former chair (2011 interim), Massachusetts Republican Party
Meet the Author

Jean Inman

Former chair (1997-1998, 2002-2003 interim), Massachusetts Republican Party
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Peter Torkildsen

Former US Rep and Party chair (2007-2009), Massachusetts Republican Party
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Jennifer Nassour

Former chair (2009-2011), Massachusetts Republican Party
We strongly urge Sullivan to pursue a transparent process where all facts are clearly put forth and all parties are treated fairly and with the right to participate in that process.  It is imperative in these increasingly contentious times that those overseeing our political finance process are deemed as fair arbiters.

This op-ed was written by six past chairs of the Massachusetts Republican Party: Robert Maginn (2011–2013), Jeanne Kangas (2011 interim), Jennifer Nassour (2009–2011), Peter Torkildsen (2007–2009), Jean Inman (1997-1998, 2002-2003 interim), and Jim Rappaport (1992-1997).