GOP couple settle with AG over 2020 campaign finance allegations

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A pair of Massachusetts elected officials say they didn’t break the campaign finance laws but have nevertheless agreed to pay hundreds of thousands to end an inquiry into activities surrounding their 2020 campaigns and donations.

Attorney General Andrea Campbell announced she has reached a settlement with the campaigns of Worcester state Sen. Ryan Fattman and his wife, Worcester County Register of Probate Stephanie Fattman, who have agreed to pay almost $200,000 over allegations the senator’s campaign funneled money through the state party that was then used to further his wife’s 2020 campaign.

The campaigns of the senate Republican and his wife will pay the “largest amounts ever paid by candidate committees to the Commonwealth to settle campaign finance allegations,” according to the Attorney General’s office.

“Enforcing our campaign finance laws, and holding those who violate them accountable, are critical functions of our office,” Campbell said Tuesday along with the settlement announcement. “We will continue to hold accountable those who misuse positions of power, break the law and undermine the public’s trust.”

According to Campbell, the settlement comes following an investigation by the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, which showed that Fattman’s senatorial campaign committee sent more than $160,000 worth of contributions to the Republican State Committee and the Sutton Republican Town Committee. That money was then used to fund the production and distribution of 550,000 political mailers pushing for Register Fattman’s election, according to the AG’s office.

Fattman would go on to win her race against Democrat John Dolan 212,264 votes to 178,805.

State law sets a limit of $100 for campaign contributions made by a campaign committee. The cost of more than half-a-million mailers clearly exceeds that, according to officials.

“OCPF will continue its role in educating and informing candidates of their duties and responsibilities under the campaign finance law,” OCPF Director William Campbell said in a statement. “Where apparent violations exist, the agency will take measures to ensure the public’s interest in accurate and timely disclosure of campaign finance activity.”

The Register’s campaign will pay the Bay State $137,000 — $29,000 immediately and $27,000 each following year until 2027 — and the Senator’s campaign $55,000, according to Campbell’s office. Donald Fattman, former Treasurer of the Ryan Fattman Committee, agreed to pay $10,000. The Sutton Republican Town Committee agreed that Chairman Anthony Fattman, the state senator’s brother, would resign and accept prohibition from future chairmanships and to pay over $5,000.

Both Mr. and Mrs. Fattman have also agreed to “retain professional compliance agents” to assist future campaigns with following the state’s campaign finance rules.

According to the settlement, the Fattmans’ campaigns deny any wrongdoing and “make no admission of liability” but wish to “fully and finally resolve these claims to avoid the expense and uncertainty of litigation.” The settlement indicates both politicians believe they were acting within the law.

“By entering into this agreement, they do not admit they have violated any law or other legal obligation,” the settlement reads, in part.

The state Republican party, according to Campbell’s office, agreed to pay $15,000 over the alleged violations earlier this month.

Upon taking office in January, current MassGOP Chairwoman Amy Carnevale warned party membership there would be a number of unusual campaign finance situations to unravel from the previous chairman’s tenure.

When the investigation into Fattman’s finances was first announced in 2021, then party Chairman Jim Lyons called the investigation a “cowardly” act by outgoing Campaign and Political Finance Director Michael Sullivan.

“This is a blatant political hit job,” Lyons said then.

Fattman did not return a request for comment on the settlement.

Herald wire service contributed.

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