Politics

CAPITAL SOURCE

Marty Meehan may have regrets — more than 4 million of them.

University of Massachusetts president Martin T. Meehan.
Winslow Townson for the Boston Globe
University of Massachusetts president Martin T. Meehan.

Oops . . . this is one that University of Massachusetts president Martin T. Meehan would love to take back — only he can’t.

Just a year ago, Meehan, trying to shed his image as a politician and take on the stature of a learned educator, washed his hands of his bulging $4.35 million campaign account.

Meehan, who served 15 years in Congress, donated the funds to an educational foundation that he had specially created. He declared he was out of politics for good, after spending a congressional career establishing himself as a most prodigious fund-raiser — in either party — during his tenure in the US House of Representatives.

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But now his former wife, Ellen Murphy Meehan, is seriously considering jumping into the race to replace retiring US Representative Niki Tsongas in the Third District. The two divorced amicably over a year ago, but the former congressman has made it clear he will be doing what he can to get her elected to his former seat.

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Only, those funds are locked up in his foundation, untouchable after all that hard work of raising them.

And that $4.35 million would have saved a lot of work. While there are restrictions on direct donations to a candidate’s committee, Meehan’s congressional committee, for example, could have donated all the funds to the state Democratic Party, which, post-primary election, could have used them to promote its campaign operations in the district.

But his real impact could have been his ability to create his own political action committee, donate his campaign funds to it, and use the money to set up a campaign operation to support her candidacy. In that case, there’s a caveat: his committee could not coordinate with her official campaign, if she runs.

Of course, that opportunity is lost now that Meehan’s funds are wrapped up in the foundation.

Frank Phillips can be reached at frank.phillips@globe.com.