- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 22, 2014

BOSTON (AP) - Three political action committees that state investigators said were under the direction of a top Massachusetts Republican official have agreed to pay $17,500 after making excess campaign contributions.

The Office of Campaign and Political Finance said Tuesday that Chanel Prunier, elected Republican National Committeewoman for Massachusetts last year, effectively controlled the three PACs.

Prunier said she doesn’t agree with that interpretation.

The PACs include Prunier’s Massachusetts Republican Municipal Coalition PAC and two others - the Massachusetts Independent PAC for Working Families and the Catholic Citizenship PAC. According to a Republican Party website, Prunier founded the Massachusetts Republican Municipal PAC in 2005 to support candidates for local office and build the Republican farm team.

State campaign regulators said that while the three PACs were organized by three individuals, they operated as “affiliated committees” under the direction of Prunier. Campaign finance laws prohibit affiliated PACs, which are defined as two or more PACs that are “established, financed, maintained or controlled” by a single individual.

Investigators said they found 25 instances during 2012 in which an individual candidate received contributions from two or three of the PACs that exceeded the $500 donation limit.

In total, the PACs made about $24,000 in excess contributions, according to investigators.

The campaign finance office also concluded that Prunier had “significant influence” in determining which candidates the PACs would support and “drafted or provided input into fundraising letters” for the three PACs. There were also instances in which contributions to individual candidates were made on the same day and in the same amount by more than one of the PACs, the office said.

Prunier said she doesn’t agree that all three PACs were under her direction, but decided it was better to pay the fine and move on rather than wage what could have been a costly fight.

“In general I disagree with the OCPF interpretation of the regulation,” she said in a telephone interview. “The PACs were definitely not controlled by any one person. In some cases my political action committee supported a different candidate than the other PACs.”

As part of the agreement, two of the PACs - the Massachusetts Independent PAC for Working Families and the Catholic Citizenship PAC - will be dissolved.

The Shrewsbury resident will be allowed to keep the Massachusetts Republican Municipal Coalition PAC but has agreed to have no future involvement in any other PAC and has agreed to make no contributions from her PAC before 2017 to candidates who received contributions from the three PACs in 2012.

Prunier is also executive director of the Coalition for Marriage and Family, a nonprofit organization that says it is “committed to ensuring that the people of Massachusetts will ultimately have the opportunity to vote on the true definition of marriage at the ballot box.”

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