Ethics panel reviewing freshman Democrat over campaign finance complaint

Ethics panel reviewing freshman Democrat over campaign finance complaint
© Greg Nash

The House Ethics Committee announced on Monday that it is extending a review of Rep. Lori TrahanLori A. TrahanEthics panel reviewing freshman Democrat over campaign finance complaint House Democrats inch toward majority support for impeachment Trump bashes Mueller for 'ineptitude,' slams 'sick' Democrats backing impeachment MORE (D-Mass.) related to how she made personal loans to her campaign during a contested primary last year.

The ethics complaint was made by the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT), a conservative watchdog group, in April. The House Ethics Committee has until Dec. 17 to announce its next course of action, but Monday's announcement is its first public acknowledgment of reviewing the complaint against Trahan.

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The freshman lawmaker is accused of failing to file complete financial disclosure statements during the campaign about the source of the personal loans.

Trahan won a 10-way Democratic primary and loaned her campaign $371,000 in the final weeks before the election, rising from fourth place in polling to a narrow victory.

FACT, in its complaint, questioned whether her campaign violated campaign contribution limits. While candidates can make unlimited contributions or loans to their own campaigns, other individuals — such as Trahan's husband — are limited to $2,700.

Trahan explained in a Medium post last week that she and her husband, Dave, signed a prenuptial agreement giving each other authority to spend and manage their pooled resources. She pointed to Federal Election Commission (FEC) precedent finding that candidates can use money from joint accounts with their spouses to support their own campaigns.

"I didn’t give much thought to which bank account to use. We considered all of the income that Dave and I earned to be ours, and I had the same right as Dave did to manage and spend it," Trahan wrote. "All of it — what I earned, what Dave earned — was our money, regardless of whether it was in my account, Dave’s account, or a joint account."

But Trahan admitted that the way she and her husband moved money around to support the campaign could have been done differently to avoid entering "a gray area in campaign finance law."

Trahan also acknowledged that her campaign made errors in personal financial disclosure statements and federal election reports, noting that she has since hired a law firm to handle all future campaign reports.

"For many first time candidates like myself, this is common," Trahan wrote. "I regret that there were inadvertent omissions and errors in my initial filings."

Trahan's office said in a statement that it will cooperate with the Ethics Committee investigation and expressed confidence that she would be cleared of wrongdoing by both the panel and the FEC.

"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. When the FEC completes its review, we are confident it will find in Congresswoman Trahan’s favor. With the FEC currently lacking a quorum, we will fully cooperate with the Ethics Committee toward this same conclusion," her office said.