State Rep. Adams, Family Members To Pay Fines
State representative and Office of Campaign Finance Reach Settlement on complaint.
State Rep. Paul Adams, R-Andover, and members of his family will pay small fines to the state for violating certain aspects of Massachusetts campaign finance laws.
The fines, which range anywhere from $1,000-$2,000 have to do with funds given to Adams by his family before and after he declared his candidacy for state representative back in March, 2010.
In a written statement addressed to his constituents (see attached PDF), Adams said he was pleased to have the matter resolved but maintained his position that any violation that may have occurred was unintentional and the result of his being a political novice.
"While reasonable minds can and did differ on how to interpret the facts and the law involved (and we and OCPF did have contrasting perspectives on events), I am pleased that we were able to resolve our differences at the most benign level and to fashion a “Disposition Agreement” that enabled us to make a nominal civil payment, allowing both sides, in the interests of practicality and economy, to move on," Adams wrote.
"It is my hope that the successful resolution of this case, the first of its type, will provide guidance in the future to other similarly situated candidates whose immediate family members might be contemplating making gifts to them for their personal maintenance and support."
According to the Disposition Agreement, the key aspects to the settlement are as follows:
- 1. The Candidate, the Candidate’s Parents, and the Candidate’s Brother will personally make the following payments to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts upon execution of this Agreement: the Candidate’s Brother will pay $2,000, the Candidate’s Parents will jointly pay $1,000, and the Candidate will pay $1,000.
- 2. In addition, the Candidate will forgive the $45,000 liability disclosed on the Committee’s campaign finance reports as owed to himself by the Committee.
- 3. OCPF agrees that if the parties comply with the Agreement, OCPF will not refer any of the parties to the Office of the Attorney General for the alleged violations referenced in this Agreement.
The complaint against Adams was filed with the OCPF was filed in November, 2010, in the wake of Adams' surprising victory over Patricia Commane to fill the vacancy in the 17th Essex District.
The complaint raised questions regarding the source of $50,000 that appeared in Adams' campaign finance reports. The accusations were that Adams had not accurately disclosed the source of the money and that individual donors had violated the state limit of $500 in contributions to an individual candidate in a calendar year.
Adams said much of those funds had come from personal gifts given to him by his parents and brother over several years. He then loaned that money to his campaign committee.
In its disposition agreement (see attached PDF), the OCPF acknowledged that Steven P. Adams and Lynette K. Adams (the representative’s parents) had a long history of giving substantial cash gifts to their children. However, they took particular not of $39,000 in checks written to Adams by his parents and brother in 2010.
According to the Disposition Agreement:
"The amounts equaled the maximum tax-free gift allowable per individual under the Internal Revenue Code: $13,000 from each of the Candidate’s Parents, and $13,000 from the Candidate’s Brother. Specifically, the Candidate received $10,000 from the Candidate’s Brother on February 23, 2010, $20,000 from the Candidate’s Parents on February 28, 2010, $3,000 from the Candidate’s Brother on March 9, 2010, and $6,000 from the Candidate’s Parents on August 6, 2010."
Adams had argued that those gifts were not direct political contributions and therefore did not fall under the campaign finance rules. However, the OCPF disagreed, given the amount and the timing of the checks.
Adams noted that while the OCPG levied fines, he had been cleared of any ethics wrongdoing by the State Ethics Commission early in the course of the investigation.