Democratic Cape Lawmaker Repeatedly Lied To State Regulators Investigating His 2022 Election, State Officials Say

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Campaign finance regulators kept coming back with a question for Chris Flanagan, a freshman House lawmaker who represents part of the Cape:  Who is Jeanne Louise?

The Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance was trying to get to the bottom of a complaint the office received about a mailer from the 2022 election, when Flanagan had flipped the seat into the Democratic column after facing Republican Tracy Post and a third-party candidate.

The mailer, purportedly from “Conservatives for Dennis” and sent out to the Barnstable County town, urged recipients to “vote the person, not the party,” and said Flanagan, who served on the town’s board of selectmen, stood for “honesty” and “integrity.”

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance investigation concluded that he stood for anything but.

The regulators had traced the mailer to a New Bedford-based printer and a Washington D.C.-based direct mail firm. The customer who hired the firm and printer to handle the mailer was listed as “Jeanne Louise.”

“Conservatives for Dennis” mailer that went out just before the November 2022 election. (Image via Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance)

Staffers at the D.C. direct mail firm told state campaign finance regulators that Flanagan had put them in touch with Jeanne Louise, but that they only communicated with her via email. 

Over the course of the last year, the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance sought to track down Jeanne Louise, and repeatedly reached out to Flanagan, a former aide to John Kerry, the former secretary of state and longtime U.S. senator.

After the office made multiple attempts to reach Flanagan and the agency was forced to send a summons, the state lawmaker met with regulators. “Jean Louise” had approached him at a public event in August 2022, and she told Flanagan she wanted to support him, he told state campaign finance officials. Flanagan described her physical characteristics, but said he didn’t know her last name and couldn’t offer other details.

The truth – or clarification, as regulators charitably put it – came out the day after Flanagan’s meeting with them, through his attorney:  “Jeanne Louise” did not exist. “You had fabricated her existence from the start,” William Campbell, the head of Office of Campaign and Political Finance, said in a letter to Flanagan closing out the matter.

Flanagan created the name to hide his role in the mailer, and then fabricated email messages to avoid filing paperwork that would have revealed his campaign’s connection to the mailer, according to Campbell’s letter, which was recently posted to the agency’s web site.

Regulators said he dragged his feet in responding, needing to be threatened with a summons and a referral to the state attorney general’s office before replying to their requests for information and clarification.

“For months, you did not cooperate with the review by being nonresponsive to requests for information and denied your involvement with the mailer, which delayed and obstructed OCPF’s investigation,” Campbell continued. “OCPF concluded that your intent was to influence the election without disclosing to the public who planned and financed the mailer.”

Regulators hit him with penalties:  His campaign committee agreed to pay $6,000 to the state, and he personally agreed to pay $9,000.

In an interview, Flanagan, who won the 2022 election with 53 percent of the vote, claimed the mailer was mistakenly sent out. “Mistakes were made,” Flanagan said. “I did everything I could to take responsibility for them, and I did everything that OCPF asked me to do to correct the matter. And I’m glad that it’s behind me.”

Despite telling state regulators the fictitious “Jeanne Louise” had approached him about helping his campaign, Flannagan insisted he did not lie to state officials or try to evade them, arguing that his voice mail sometimes fills up. “They had the opportunity to outline their version of events and that’s what they did,” he said.

The mailer from the made-up “Conservatives for Dennis” group seemed aimed at helping Flanagan, the Democratic nominee, make inroads among Republican-leaning voters in a rare Massachusetts swing district. He was vying an open seat after a five-term Republican state rep, Tim Whelan, opted not to seek re-election.

The state Office of Campaign and Political Finance also directed Flanagan, as part of the disposition of the investigation, which also found excess campaign donations, to give money to a charity. Flanagan donated $10,580 to the nonprofit Family Table Collaborative, whose co-founder recently held a fund=raiser for him. The co-founder, Jeni Wheeler, is looking to get into elected office herself, having launched a run for the Yarmouth board of selectmen.

Asked how he chose the charity for the donation, Flanagan said he preferred that the nonprofit, which distributes prepared meals to families, not be mentioned in the story. “I believe in its mission and that’s why I donated,” he said.

Some campaign finance violations can be referred to the state attorney general for prosecution. In a statement, an Office of Campaign and Political Finance spokesman didn’t address the specifics of Flanagan’s case and why the office did not make a referral. “Each legal review requires internal discussions on the most reasonable way to resolve it,” the statement said. “In most situations, we resolve cases on our level, when we feel it’s the best outcome. A small number of issues are referred to the Office of the Attorney General, on a case-by-case basis, depending on the specifics of the alleged violations.”

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance letter comes as Flanagan does not appear to have drawn any opponents as he runs for re-election. He is already certified to be on the ballot. The deadline for candidates to submit voter signatures to local elections officials for certification to get on the ballot is Tuesday, April 30.

Flanagan sits on four legislative panels, including the Joint Committee on Financial Services.

The House district includes the towns of Brewster and Dennis, and part of the town of Yarmouth.

Whelan, the Republican who held the seat before Flanagan, called the lawmaker a “friend,” but added that he was “very shocked and disappointed” by what he read in the Office of Campaign and Political Finance letter.

He noted that anybody looking to challenge Flanagan is facing a tight window. “This behavior, outlined here with the untruthfulness and evasiveness, certainly calls for voters to have a solid opportunity to determine if they want to continue with the representation that they have,” Whelan said.

Post, the Republican who lost to Flanagan in 2022, said she recalls the mailers at the center of the investigation causing a stir during the election. “Politics should be a fair sport,” she said. “Losing fairly is one thing. When you’re losing to somebody who’s cheating the system, so to speak, that makes it a harder pill to swallow.”


This article first appeared on CommonWealth Beacon and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.


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