State probes likely on Winn-financed donations

Federal probe says $32,000 was illegally funneled to state and local Massachusetts politicians

The federal investigation of illegal campaign contributions to four Massachusetts congressmen arranged by a top executive at WinnCompanies is likely to trigger probes by state officials into similar donations made to a variety of state and local politicians.

Federal investigators on Tuesday charged Martin Raffol, an executive vice president at Winn, with soliciting campaign contributions for the congressmen from three unidentified contractors and then reimbursing the contractors for those donations with phony markups on invoices and artificial marketing expenses.

The federal probe is focused on $12,000 that was paid to US Reps. Steven Lynch, William Delahunt, Barney Frank and Michael Capuano. Federal investigators said another $32,000 was illegally funneled in the same way to a variety of state and local politicians, including candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, the Massachusetts House and Senate, Boston mayor, and Boston City Council.

Court filings indicated Raffol solicited funds on behalf of a number of politicians between September 2003 and October 2009. “Raffol engaged in a continuing scheme to falsify, conceal, and cover up material information to the Federal Elections Commission and similar state authorities,” the federal charging document says.

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance said it could neither confirm nor deny it is investigating the allegations raised by the federal probe, but state statutes are similar to federal laws that prohibit schemes designed to conceal the true source of political contributions. A spokeswoman for Attorney General Martha Coakley said she could not confirm nor deny launching any investigation.

A spokesman for Winn said the company had not been contacted by state officials and insisted the federal probe was confined to Raffol. Raffol was fired by the company on Tuesday and is apparently cooperating with federal investigators.

Raffol’s attorney, Douglas S. Brooks, issued a statement to The Boston Globe in which he acknowledged his client violated federal laws.  “As an employee, Marty was directed to raise large amounts of money for politicians,” the statement said. “The pressure was immense, and in his attempts to satisfy these directives, some of the contributions violated federal campaign finance laws and regulations. Marty never personally benefited from these efforts.”

Arthur Winn, his family, and many Winn executives are big donors to many politicians. The allegations contained in the federal probe suggest those donations were supplemented by money given by business officials with ties to Winn. The federal charging document on Raffol says the money he solicited from contractors was bundled together and delivered to the campaigns of the four congressmen by a senior Winn executive.

CommonWealth reported two years ago that the Winn network of associates donated a large amount of money to the campaign of Secretary of State William F. Galvin. Winn development projects in Massachusetts were, in turn, the biggest recipient of historic rehabilitation tax credits, a source of financing over which Galvin’s office had control.

According to the CommonWealth story, historic rehabilitation tax credits worth more than $28 million were awarded to eight different Winn projects across the state. Winn and his family personally donated $9,000 to Galvin’s campaign committee as of July 2008, while other associates kicked in $16,300.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Meet the Author

Paul McMorrow

Associate Editor, CommonWealth

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

About Paul McMorrow

Paul McMorrow comes to CommonWealth from Banker & Tradesman, where he covered commercial real estate and development. He previously worked as a contributing editor to Boston magazine, where he covered local politics in print and online. He got his start at the Weekly Dig, where he worked as a staff writer, and later news and features editor. Paul writes a frequent column about real estate for the Boston Globe’s Op-Ed page, and is a regular contributor to BeerAdvocate magazine. His work has been recognized by the City and Regional Magazine Association, the New England Press Association, and the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. He is a Boston University graduate and a lifelong New Englander.

A spokesman for Galvin had no immediate comment.

State House News Service reported that Gov. Deval Patrick returned campaign checks it had received from Raffol, his wife, and employees of WinnCompanies.  The news service said the campaign was also reaching out to the Department of Justice to find out whether other donations should be returned.