The Massachusetts Democratic Party has launched a website in an attempt to link Republican congressional candidate Richard Tisei to business deals his parents made in the 1980s and ’90s that resulted in federal fines and, Democrats said, in profits for the former state Senate minority leader.
The site is one of several recent online volleys in an increasingly personal campaign targeting the families of the candidates for the 6th Congressional District, where Congressman John Tierney, D-Salem, has been looking vulnerable to Massachusetts and national Republicans after his wife was sentenced last year for falsifying tax forms for her brother’s illegal Antigua-based gambling business.
“The purpose is to provide a resource for voters to reach their own conclusion about how Richard Tisei gamed the legal system to turn a profit of $30,000 on a shady real estate deal,” said Grant Herring, a spokesman for Tierney’s campaign.
Tisei’s campaign called the website and attacks “outrageous,” and said Tisei’s parents’ civil lawsuit settlement in 1995 does not compare to Robert and Daniel Eremian’s “$10 million racketeering empire.”
“It was a civil issue against Richard’s parents, and Richard’s father won the appeal and the matter was settled,” said Paul Moore, Tisei’s campaign manager. “There was no hiding of assets as alleged by Tierney. It’s an outrageous accusation.”
Patrice Tierney was sentenced to 30 days in federal prison in January 2011 for keeping bank records and filing tax returns on brother Robert Eremian’s gambling business. Both Eremians were indicted in 2010, and Daniel Eremian was sentenced to three years in federal prison last month for his role in the business. Robert Eremian remains a fugitive from justice in Antigua.
John Tierney has not been charged with any wrongdoing, but Daniel Eremian told reporters after his sentencing last month that Tierney knew the nature of their business.
Herring and Kevin Franck, a spokesman for the state Democratic party, said the site is a response to the attacks on John Tierney from Tisei, who has accused the eight-term congressman of willful blindness to his inlaws’ gambling business and questioned whether Tierney benefited from hundreds of thousands of dollars Patrice Tierney received from Robert Eremian.
“It’s clear that Richard Tisei has built his entire campaign on nothing more than attacking John Tierney’s family,” Franck said. “And as the saying goes, if you live in a glass house, you shouldn’t throw stones. He has skeletons in his closet and this website helps expose those skeletons.”
Moore countered that Tisei had his own life and career when his parents were involved in the lawsuit. When the Tiseis sold a house at the center of one of the lawsuits Richard Tisei received some of the proceeds “because he owned half of it.”
“John Tierney lives with Patrice. They’re not going after Richard’s partner, instead they’re going after Richard’s dead father,” Moore said. “It’s not a $10 million racketeering empire Patrice was bookkeeper for. It’s comparing a watermelon to a Ping Pong ball. There’s no comparison. The comparison is grotesque.”
Both campaigns said they want to talk about policy issues, but blamed the other for instead hammering on family business deals.
Tierney’s campaign wants to link Tisei to Congressman Paul Ryan, the Wisconsin Republican that former Gov. Mitt Romney chose for his running mate. Ryan, chairman of the U.S. House Budget Committee, authored a sweeping budget proposal that envisions deep cuts in federal taxes and spending, and includes proposals to at least partially privatize Medicare and change Medicaid funding into block grants to the states.
“People want to focus on the issues,” Herring said. “People want to know how are you going to help the middle class. Voters know that John Tierney is the only candidate in the race with a record for fighting for the middle class. They want to know who will protect health care reform. Richard Tisei wants to repeal it. Richard Tisei supports the Ryan Republican budget that ends Medicare.”
Moore said Tisei has released a positive ad explaining why he wanted to run for Congress, saying Tisei has been clear about his economic message. Tierney’s family issues are not a result of Tisei’s campaign.
“The fact that’s out there is not a product of Richard Tisei. It’s a product of John Tierney,” Moore said. “It’s no small thing when a member of Congress’ spouse has these issues. And when he doesn’t report the income (Patrice Tierney received from her brother), that’s no small thing.”
The Democrats’ website, tiseifacts.com, is paid for by the Massachusetts Democratic Party and focuses on Tisei’s parents’ real estate businesses in the late 1980s and early ’90s. In one federal lawsuit, the elder Tiseis were fined $30,000, but never faced any criminal charges. In another, a federal court ordered two liens be placed on a Wakefield home Richard Tisei told the court he owned part of.
After an attempt to sell the house to a Tisei aide fell through, it was sold in 1995, and Richard Tisei received half of the total sale price, which according to the Town of Wakefield was $127,000.
Earlier this year, the National Republican Congressional Committee launched howcouldtierneynotknow.com, questioning how Tierney could be unaware that his wife was maintaining accounts funded by her brothers’ illegal offshore gambling operation and curating a list of links to news reports of the family drama. Tisei’s campaign followed that up with tierneystales.com, a list of actions and omissions that Tisei’s campaign believes should be the focus of an ethics investigation.
Douglas Moser may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.