Democrats deny abuse of postal regulations

By Matt Murphy and Kyle Cheney
State House News Service / October 28, 2010

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State Democratic Party officials are denying a claim by Republicans that their fund-raising tactics violated US Postal Service regulations, breaking their silence after the GOP called for an investigation of a spate of major donations by Democratic candidates.

Although Republicans suggested last week that it was likely that the donations were being used to fund improper mailings, Democratic hopefuls, many in contested races, are continuing to redirect hundreds of thousands of dollars from their campaign accounts to the state party.

Republicans said the Democratic Party has appeared to be accepting large donations from candidates and using the party’s nonprofit status to fund discounted bulk mailings for those candidates, a practice that runs afoul of Postal Service regulations.

In an interview, John Walsh, Democratic Party chairman, rejected the allegations and said the donations — more than $500,000 from Democratic candidates this month — were intended for general get-out-the-vote efforts as part of an all-for-one, one-for-all strategy to support Democrats anywhere in the state.

“I am very well aware of the postal regulations,’’ Walsh said. “Our efforts are well within the regulations as they are set up, and we in no shape or form violate them.’’

Taking aim at Republicans, Walsh said, “In the end of the day, this is unbolting the kitchen sink and throwing it. There is no substance behind it.’’

Walsh rejected the assertion that candidates received guarantees of discounted mailers or other party help in exchange for their donations. The only promise candidates received, Walsh said, was that their funds would be spent to help elect Democrats on Nov. 2.

A spokeswoman for David Williams, Postal Service inspector general, said the office had received the GOP’s complaint and was reviewing it.

State and federal campaign finance law allows political parties to make unlimited in-kind contributions to individual candidates, including paying for mailers, headquarters, and political advertisements. But in 2006, the Postal Service banned the practice of allowing parties to use an individual candidate’s funds to secure discounted mailing rates available to nonprofit political parties on the direct behalf of a candidate.

Tarah Breed, State Republican Party spokeswoman, stood by the GOP’s complaint, contending that there was a strong appearance of impropriety and that “Deval Patrick’s Democrats were playing by a different set of rules.’’

“We look forward to a continued investigation of this matter,’’ Breed said.