Roosevelt Didn't Violate Campaign Law, Officials Say
Announcement at State House Criticized
State officials indicated yesterday that gubernatorial candidate and state Rep. Mark Roosevelt '78 (D-Beacon Hill) did not violate campaign finance law by holding a press conference at the State House.
Roosevelt unveiled his campaign plan for welfare reform at a conference Monday, even though Massachusetts law prohibits the use of public resources, including State House office space, in political campaigns.
Earlier this week, a spokesperson for gubernatorial candidate and former state Sen. George Bachrach (D-Watertown) criticized Roosevelt's decision to hold the conference in the State House.
"This guy doesn't miss a freebie, does he?" the spokesperson, Elizabeth Belkin told the Associated Press.
Jim T. O'Reilly, director of public information at the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance, said it is nearly impossible to prove that a conference like Roosevelt's violated campaign law.
"If the announcement is of pertinence to the general public, that person could simply be acting as a public official," O'Reilly said. "It is difficult to prove that it is simply something done as a candidate."
But O'Reilly declined to say specifically whether Roosevelt broke the law or whether his office was conducting an investigation on the press conference.
Michael B. Gritton, Roosevelt's legislative chief of staff, said Tuesday that the conference raised no ethical questions.
"He was putting [his welfare proposal] out in his role as a legislator," Gritton said. "There are bills out on the subject right now."
And Dwight D. Robson, a Roosevelt campaign spokesperson, said he knew nothing about the press conference.
"Mark is filing legislation," Robson said. "This is a legislative press conference."
But Gritton said the conference drew more attention than a typical press event because Roosevelt is running for governor.
"A governor candidate gets more press attention," he said.
Gritton said questions from the press prompted allegations of conflict of interest. He said some reporters asked Roosevelt to compare his proposal to that of current Republican governor William F. Weld '66, who is running for re-election.
Kenneth A. Bamberger '90, a spokesperson for gubernatorial candidate and state Sen. Michael J. Barrett '70 (D-Cambridge), said Barrett avoids holding press conferences in the State House when his roles as candidate and legislator become mixed.
"If there's any question that's not purely legislative, then it has to be done in the campaign," Bamberger said.
If the Office of Campaign and Political Finance rules that Roosevelt violated campaign finance provisions, the candidate would likely have to pay restitution for the use of public facilities, O'Reilly said.