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State Senator And GOP Chair May Have Violated Campaign Finance Rules, OCPF Says

State Sen. Ryan Fattman, his wife  Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester County Register of Probate, and children. (Courtesy photo)
State Sen. Ryan Fattman, his wife Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester County Register of Probate, and children. (Courtesy photo)

Massachusetts regulators concluded Thursday they have found evidence of campaign finance violations involving a number of state and local Republican officials, including Sen. Ryan Fattman, his wife, and Republican State Committee Chair James Lyons.

In a series of letters dated April 8, the outgoing head of the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, Michael Sullivan, referred the case to Attorney General Maura Healey, who in turn has the power to file a lawsuit or seek criminal charges.

"We have concluded that there is evidence of violations," the letters read.

The correspondence suggests the agency believes Fattman (R-Webster) and his campaign may have violated rules barring campaigns from disguising the true source of donations, or for a campaign committee to give more than $100 to another candidate. Fattman has previously said the OCPF was investigating campaign donations his committee made to both state and local Republican organizations.

OCPF also said it found violations against Fattman's wife, Stephanie Fattman, the Worcester register of probate; their respective campaign committees; the Sutton Republican Town Committee; the state Republican committee; and several others involved in the committees.

The letters didn't go into detail. But Sen. Fattman's statements and other public information about the case suggest the state may suspect Fattman and his campaign used the Sutton Republican Town Committee and the Republican State Committee as conduits to support other candidates and get around the usual donation limits.

State campaign finance records show Fattman's campaign donated $25,000 last August to the Sutton Republican Town Committee, which has strong connections to the Fattman family. In turn, the Sutton committee reported it spent more than $30,000 on Stephanie Fattman's successful re-election campaign last year in the form of help with canvassing, calls, databases, signs and advertising design. Fattman's campaign has also made donations to the state Republican party.

The letters also mentioned evidence of potential violations involving Anthony Fattman, chair of the Sutton Republican Town Committee; Brent Andersen, former treasurer of the Republican state committee; Donald Fattman, treasurer of the Ryan Fattman committee; and Robert Kneeland, treasurer of the Sutton Republican Town Committee.

Ryan Fattman on Thursday emphatically denied any wrongdoing.

"Sullivan’s actions today are based on politics and not the law," he said in a statement. "From day one, Sullivan has shown he is a biased director that overreached his authority and didn’t care about the law."

Many of the details of the investigation first became public after the Fattmans and others sued Sullivan in Suffolk Superior Court last month in an unsuccessful bid to block Sullivan from referring the case to the Attorney General. Fattman and other plaintiffs argued Sullivan was biased, a charge the state denied, and refused to give the plaintiffs a chance to see all the evidence before a private hearing in March. The state argued it was barred by law from turning over all the information from its probe. WBUR first broke the news of the lawsuit and successfully fought to make most of the court filings public.

In a previous statements, Fattman insisted all his contributions were legal, noting candidates can normally give unlimited amounts to political parties and such contributions are common. And some other conservatives have rallied to his cause.

Lyons didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday. The Attorney General's office said it received the referrals and is reviewing them. The OCPF declined comment.

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Todd Wallack Twitter Deputy Managing Editor
Todd Wallack has been the deputy managing editor in WBUR's newsroom since March 2021. As part of that role, he oversees a team of reporters who cover politics, criminal justice, and general news.

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