Investigative journalism: Campaign contributions

Reporters are always looking for stories like this, but I don’t remember how I found this one. I do remember that I was not the regular State House Reporter for UPI and that I had been sent over there for the day to cover for the regular beat reporter, who was out sick. There were probably 30 or 40 regular beat reporters covering the Massachusetts State House back then, and I don’t recall how I got this story exclusively. This wasn’t the story of the year, but it was pretty good and it made every Massachusetts daily newspaper the next day, including the Boston GLOBE. That was pretty cool because the Globe had a four or five-person State House bureau, and getting something in their own paper that they didn’t have was something of an achievement.

McCann may have broken campaign laws

EXCLUSIVE

By ARTHUR FREDERICK

BOSTON (UPI) – Sen. Francis X. McCann of Cambridge has attributed $12,698 in campaign contributions to the “McCann Reception Committee,” which he claims is a non-political group. The move appears to violate state law.

State law states candidates are required to file lists of campaign contributions and expenses with the state Elections Division. The law’s purpose is to make available to the public information on where a candidate’s money comes from and where it goes.

Of the $13,473 contributed to McCann’s primary campaign, only $775 is attributed to contributors other than the McCann Reception Committee.

Secretary of Public Records Andrew R. Sigourney said Wednesday his office would turn the matter over to the Attorney General’s office if McCann did not disclose the names of his contributors.

Reached Wednesday night, McCann acknowledged that he considered the McCann Reception Committee to be a non-political group.

“This was a testimonial dinner for me,” he said. McCann said he didn’t remember when the dinner was held but said he thought it was “sometime last spring.”

McCann filed his list of contributors with the Elections Division, but that office returned it with a note requesting the names of the contributors to the McCann reception Committee.

McCann wrote back, saying he could attribute the $12,698 only to the McCann Reception Committee because the group was “non-political.”

Sigourney said the Department of Public Records considered the move in violation of the law and would ask McCann again to comply. He said the matter would be turned over to the Attorney General’s Office if he refused.

McCann said he still had the names of those persons who bought tickets to the testimonial.  “Thank God we didn’t throw anything out,” he said.

According to law, candidates can list contributions from non-political groups and name only two officers of the group. But Sigourney said the state considered a non-partisan group to be “as labor union or something like that.”

“He’d reported a sum of money as coming from the association,” Sigourney said. ”When gifts are made by an association, we require names and addresses of two principal officers, as required by Chapter 55, Section 88 of the General Laws.”

“However, he (McCann) claims as an association what we interpret to be a political committee,” he said.

McCann, a Democrat, has been a member of the Massachusetts Senate since 1955.

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