APNewsBreak: Coakley’s GOP rival for Mass. AG skirts finance law with write-in campaign

By Glen Johnson, AP
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

APNewsBreak: Mass. AG candidate skirts finance law

BOSTON — The upstart former prosecutor who shocked even the Massachusetts Republican Party by winning a write-in bid to be his party’s nominee for attorney general did so, in part, with a race that skirted state campaign finance laws.

State campaign finance records show James McKenna of Millbury spent less than $1,600 in succeeding to become, apparently, the first candidate in Massachusetts political history to win a statewide nomination via a write-in campaign.

He will be on the Nov. 2 general election ballot against Martha Coakley. She was derided by Democrats across the country in January after she surrendered her party’s traditional advantage in the state and lost to Republican Scott Brown in the January special election to succeed the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy.

Yet in an interview with The Associated Press, McKenna estimated he spent $5,000 on his race — more than triple reported. The first-time candidate also did not account for the linchpin of his campaign — the production of 100,000 stickers printed with his write-in information — and appears to have paid that expense illegally.

“That was something which I put on my personal credit card,” McKenna, 49, told the AP. “There should be a record. That was essentially a loan from me to the campaign.”

Last month, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance fined former Republican gubernatorial candidate Christy Mihos $70,000 for using personal and business funds — as well as his personal credit card — to pay more than $112,000 in expenses incurred during his unsuccessful 2010 campaign.

Candidates for statewide office must use a campaign checking account for expenses, which the bank then discloses on the state’s campaign finance website, said agency spokesman Jason Tait.

McKenna said that his treasurer has consulted with the state campaign finance office “throughout the whole process.”

“We cleared everything; it was all properly done,” he said.

Spokeswoman Laura Rigas said McKenna will be filing amended reports, adding in a statement: “Jim has taken immediate action to rectify the easily correctable filing error upon learning of it.”

In releasing the state’s official primary results Tuesday, Massachusetts Secretary of State William F. Galvin said McKenna garnered 27,711 write-in votes. He needed 10,000 to qualify for the general election ballot. Galvin said he does not believe any write-in candidate has ever won that many votes.

The Massachusetts Republican establishment was embarrassed in May after failing to find a nominee to challenge Coakley, despite her loss.

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