Sheriff Koutoujian Starts Congressional Campaign By Fibbing About Money

Way to kick off the campaign.

Peter Koutoujian, sheriff of Middlesex County, got some strong buzz heading into this past weekend’s Democratic State Convention by claiming to have raised more than $300,000 for his congressional campaign, in the 2nd quarter reporting period that ended June 30—in far less than a full three months since he opened the federal account. His campaign boasted not only of being the top fundraiser in the race for the quarter, but of besting the equivalent opening-weeks numbers posted by others in their 1st quarter reports.

When the Globe reported the claim, I—and other reporters, I’m quite certain—asked Koutoujian’s spokespeople how much of that money was “general election” funds, unusable in the primary campaign. I was told they weren’t sure of the exact amount, but it was not a substantial portion.

This turns out to be untrue. My review of Koutoujian’s actual FEC filing, which was posted late last night, finds that $80,800 of the $309,580 is general election funds—26 percent.

To explain: candidates for federal office may accept contributions of up to $2,600 from individuals to use in their primary campaign, and another $2,600 to use in their general election campaign. They may not use the latter funds until after the primary.

In the congressional special election to succeed Ed Markey, the general election is a non-issue. The district is solidly Democratic. The only Republican I am aware of planning to run is Frank Addivinola, who in 2012 lost in the GOP primary to the guy who then lost to Ed Markey 76 percent to 24 percent. (Addivinola is also running for Boston City Council at large using a different address.[Correction: Addivinola uses the same Boston address for both campaigns.])

It’s not that the general election money isn’t real, but it’s pretty much entirely irrelevant to the campaign. Which is why journalists like me ask about it.

Koutoujian’s is hardly the only campaign to play cute about this. Katherine Clark’s campaign was not exactly forthcoming about the fact that some $41,000 of her $261,000 1st quarter haul was general election funds. Nor are they eager to note that her current field-leading $402,172 cash-on-hand position is really more like $340,000 of usable primary money.

But this was a pretty blatant attempt by Koutoujian to deceive people into thinking he’s raised quite a lot more money for the primary than he really has. It got him a little extra short-term attention, but doesn’t seem like a good way to build trust for the campaign.