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Volunteer consultant accepts the blame

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Moving Saugus Forward Committee cited for violating the state campaign finance law


By Mark E. Vogler


SAUGUS – In last year’s campaign for a Charter Commission, the Moving Saugus Forward Committee ran political ads that endorsed 13 candidates it wanted on the commission while opposing 11 candidates who were also on the ballot. Nevertheless, Saugus voters rejected Question 2 – whether to elect a commission to revise the charter – by a vote of 468 to 2,276 in last November’s election. And voters only picked two candidates endorsed by the committee to fill the nine Charter Commission seats had question 2 passed.

The state Office of Campaign & Political Finance recently cited the committee for violating Massachusetts campaign finance law. “Not only did the Committee improperly use committee funds to influence the election of candidates, but the action also resulted in corporate funds being used for the same purpose,” OCPF Director William C. Campbell wrote in a March 20 letter posted on the agency’s website.

In brief, ballot question committees are limited to spending money to influence questions on the ballot – not to influence the election or opposition to political candidates.

“OCPF also noted that the signs in support of both the ballot question and candidates appeared around Saugus. However, the committee of both the ballot question and candidates appeared around Saugus,” Campbell continued. “However, the Committee only paid for its portion of the signs with a third party providing an in-kind contribution to the candidate for their portion of the signs. Thus, there was no in-kind contribution from the Committee to the candidates for the signs.”

After its investigation of a complaint about the Moving Saugus Forward Committee, the OCPF determined the committee expenditures supporting and opposing candidates violated the law.

To resolve the violations, Jason Cincotti, a political consultant who lives in Brighton, wrote a personal check to the Commonwealth on behalf of the 13 candidates who benefited from the expenditures as an in-kind contribution to their campaigns. “This was based on the total cost of the advertisements and the percentages of each advertisement or mailing that supported or opposed candidates,” Campbell explained in his two-page letter addressed to Anthony Speziale, treasurer of the Moving Forward Committee. He was responsible for filing the campaign finance reports.

“Those expenditures resulted in unauthorized in-kind contributions by the Committee to the 13 candidates in the amount of $85.85 per candidate,” Campbell concluded.

Cincotti, who paid the $1,116 to resolve the OCPF case, accepted the blame for the committee being cited. “I felt responsible for the cost that was incurred by the committee due to the advice I had given them,” Cincotti told The Saugus Advocate. “The committee was cited based on some bad advice I had given them.”

Cincotti, who described himself as “a local political consultant who has been volunteering his time to the committee,” said he received no payment for the time he spent working on the Charter Commission project.

How did he get involved with Moving Saugus Forward? Cincotti said he has known Selectman Anthony Cogliano for several years. It was Cogliano who spearheaded the unsuccessful campaign for a Charter Commission last year with an initial objective of changing Saugus from a town to a city. He said he met Cogliano while working on consulting projects for WIN Waste Innovations. He said his volunteer work for Moving Saugus Forward has no connection with his ongoing consulting work for WIN.

The candidates supported by the improper committee-funded ads were Cogliano, Speziale, Robert Camuso, Donald Cicolini, Eugene Decareau, Frank Federico, Lori Gallivan, Lawrence Mingolelli, Julie Mitchell, Peter Rossetti Jr., Christopher Tarantino. Thomas Travers and Judith Worthley. OCPF spokesman Jason Tait said the 13 candidates were not subject to any fine and/or letter related to this matter.

Campbell noted that the committee “cooperated with this review and acted to ensure the issues raised were resolved.”

“Therefore, because appropriate remedial action was taken, and because we believe that this letter will ensure future compliance with the campaign finance law, OCPF has determined that no further action will be taken at this time,” he said.

Cogliano said he had no comment on the matter because he hadn’t seen the OCPF letter. Speziale didn’t return a phone call from The Saugus Advocate.

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