Martha Coakley

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Martha Coakley
Martha Coakley.jpg
Attorney General of Massachusetts
In office
January 17, 2007 - Present
Term ends
Years in position 8
PredecessorThomas Reilly (D)
Base salary$133,644
Elections and appointments
Last electionNovember 2, 2010
First electedNovember 7, 2006
Next generalNovember 4, 2014
Campaign $$5,736,827
Term limitsN/A
High schoolDrury High School (1971)
Bachelor'sWilliams College (1975)
J.D.Boston University School of Law (1979)
Date of birthJuly 14, 1953
Place of birthLee, Massachusetts
Office website
Martha Coakley (born July 14, 1953, in Lee, Massachusetts) is the current Democratic Attorney General of Massachusetts. She was first elected attorney general on November 7, 2006 and was sworn in on January 17, 2007, becoming the first woman to hold the office in Massachusetts' history. She was last re-elected in 2010, running unopposed in the Democratic primary and then trouncing Republican challenger James P. McKenna in the November 2, 2010 general election.

As attorney general, Coakley is responsible for overseeing the five bureaus which make up the Department of the Attorney General: Executive, Business and Labor Protection, Criminal, Government, and Public Protection.[1]

A former private practice attorney for the Boston firm Goodwin, Procter, & Hoar, Coakley joined the District Attorney's Office in 1986, and served there on and off until her appointment as Chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit. Coakley also has two years of experience serving as Special Attorney for its Boston Organized Crime Strike Force, a role to which she was appointed by the United States Justice Department. She entered politics in 1997 with her campaign for District Attorney in the fifty-four cities and towns of Middlesex County. In 1998, Coakley was named Woman of the Year by the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy.

Coakley garnered national attention for her-ultimately unsuccessful-bid for United States Senate in the 2010 special election to fill the seat left vacant following the death of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy on August 25, 2009. Despite a challenging primary campaign, Coakley received the Democratic nomination on December 8, 2009, garnering slightly over forty-six percent of the vote over her three opponents. [2] She went on to lose the January 19, 2010 general election to Republican Scott P. Brown. The election drew intense interest in large part because of its then-predicted ramifications on the fate of Democrat-supported federal healthcare reform in Congress.

Coakley's current term expires in 2015 and she is eligible for re-election. Dispelling rumors that she had eyes on a higher office, Coakley announced on April 4, 2012 that she will seek a third term as attorney general in 2014.[3]


Coakley started out as an associate with the law firm of Parker, Coulter, Daley, & White, and later practiced as an attorney for Goodwin, Procter, & Hoar; both were based out of Boston, Massachusetts.

She served in the District Court office in Lowell, Massachusetts as an assistant to the District Attorney in 1986. A year later, Coakley was invited by the United States Justice Department to join its Boston Organized Crime Strike Force as a Special Attorney. Coakley then returned to the District Attorney's Office in 1989 before being appointed the Chief of the Child Abuse Prosecution Unit two years later. She remained in this position until December 1997 when she resigned in order to campaign for District Attorney in the fifty-four cities and towns of Middlesex County.

In addition to her professional duties, Coakley has served, or currently serves, in several leadership roles, including:

  • President, Massachusetts District Attorney's Association (2002)
  • Board of Directors, Dana Farber Cancer Institute
  • Former Chair/Board of Directors, Middlesex Partnerships for Youth, Incorporated
  • Former President, Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts

She has also been received many awards in recognition for her work as a lawyer and public servant, such as the Woman of the Year Award (1998) from the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, the Leila J. Robinson Award (2000) from the Women's Bar Association of Massachusetts, the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in Management in Government (2004) from the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, the Eleanor Roosevelt Award (2006) from the Massachusetts Democratic Party, and the Excellence in Computer Forensics Award (2009) from the Computer and Enterprise Investigations Conference (CEIC).


  • Graduated from Drury High School (1971)
  • Bachelor's degree, Williams College (1975) cum laude
  • Juris Doctorate degree, Boston University School of Law (1979)

Political Career

Attorney General (2006-present)

Coakley was first elected attorney general of Massachusetts in November 2006. When she took her oath of office on January 17, 2007 she became the first woman in state history to serve in the office.

Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act

On March 11, 2013, Coakley, together with twelve other state attorneys general, sent a letter to Congress in support of the Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act, a bill which would ban for-profit colleges from using federal funds for marketing and recruiting techniques.[4] Sponsored by Senators Kay R. Hagan (D-NC) and Tom Harkin (D-IA), who chairs the chamber's Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, the law aims to “ensure that scarce federal education dollars will be used to serve and educate students rather than to finance advertising campaigns, recruitment operations, and aggressive marketing.”[5] Consumer protection is one of the key duties assigned to the attorney general in each state.

According to the law's text, student enrollment at for-profit degree-issuing institutions such as the University of Phoenix more than doubled between 1998-2008, during which time the federal government--through student financial assistance programs--provided 86 percent of revenues to 15 reviewed publicly traded companies operating these for-profit colleges. A separate analysis of 15 such companies concluded that, on average, 28 percent of all expenditures were on advertising, marketing, and recruiting. Critics, including the attorneys general responsible for the letter advocating the bill's passage, contend that these expenditures are used to deceive consumers about program costs, graduation rates, or their employment potential beyond graduation. The bill seeks to restrict spending of this nature by higher education institutions or other postsecondary educational institution by prohibiting use of federal loans or grants in specific areas, and requiring that all such institutions whose revenues can be traced to federal educational assistance funds "report annually to the Secretary and to Congress the institution's expenditures on advertising, marketing, and recruiting."[4]

In the letter, the attorneys general urged, “Federal taxpayers should not be asked to foot the bill for aggressive recruiting and deceptive sales tactics of colleges that have placed profits ahead of ensuring student success.”[6] There are an estimated 3,000 for-profit schools nationwide, though neither the letter nor the bill cited the name of a specific institution.[7]


See also: Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now

Coakley was one of six state attorneys general, all of whom belonged to the Democratic Party, who received the highest rating, a letter grade of A+, from the June 2008 Survey and Scorecard report published by the liberal political organization, ACORN. The report was published in an effort to shine the spotlight on state attorneys general "leading the fight to protect homeowners from joining the flood of Americans losing their homes to foreclosure," according to the group. [8]


Death penalty

When she was elected Massachusetts Attorney General in 2006, Coakley had "favored capital punishment for cop killers and murderers who slay again while in prison." However her stance on capital punishment fluctuated during her 2010 United States Senate special election campaign. In October 2009, faced with an ever increasingly tight Democratic primary, she presented herself as the true progressive candidate and arguing that the "death penalty is not appropriate," even when it comes to terrorists facing trial in the United States, like Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11th attacks. Coakley used this statement to contrast herself with her main rival for the Democratic nomination, Mike Capuano, who had voted in favor of anti-terror legislation that included capital punishment measures.

Three months later, during the third and final senatorial debate, her Republican opponent, Scott P. Brown, asked whether Coakley supported the idea of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed receiving the death penalty. Although personally opposed to it and would never vote for it, Coakley assured, she said it is "what the law of the land is and I would support the law of the land." The response was reportedly considered to be ambiguous to voters.[9]

Healthcare Reform

At a rally held on September 7, 2009, in support of President Barack Obama's proposed health care reform legislation, Coakley declared that were she a senator any health care measure up for a vote in the United States Senate would need a public option in order to garner her support. [10]

Coakley expressed measurable disapproval over the health care reform bill passed by a slim margin within the United States House of Representatives in November 2009 in large part because "it contains a provision restricting federal funding for abortion." The Massachusetts Attorney General, in an attempt to position herself within the campaign for the late-Edward Kennedy's vacant United States Senate seat as the far-left candidate, boldly declared "fighting for women’s access to abortions was more important than passing the overall bill." The Stupak-Pitt amendment to the House of Representatives' Affordable Health Care for America Act prohibited use of Federal funds to pay for any abortion or any part of the costs of any health care plan that included coverage for abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. Coakley decried the amendment which coaxed a number of conservative blue dog Democrats to support the House's health care reform legislation as progress as it was made at the "expense of women’s access to reproductive rights." [11]

Her tune concerning abortion rights and health care reform changed considerably after securing the Democratic nomination in December 2009. In a statement given to The Boston Globe, "Coakley said that although she was disappointed that the Senate bill 'gives states additional options regarding the funding mechanisms for women’s reproductive health services,' she would reluctantly support it because it would provide coverage for millions of uninsured people and reduce costs." [12]

Illegal immigration

With the passage of SB1070 by the Arizona State Senate bringing the issue of illegal immigration to the forefront of the national stage, constituents in Massachusetts questioned why their state continues to attract illegal aliens. Though she was not present at a press conference held at the State House to address concerns over the matter, Coakley, in an interview conducted with local radio station WCRN, produced a seemingly contradictory statement, arguing that “technically it is not illegal to be illegal in Massachusetts.” [13]

War in Afghanistan

Coakley, faced with an increasingly tight Democratic primary race to fill the United States Senate seat left vacant by the late-Edward Kennedy, appealed to the anti-war constituents within her state by declaring her opposition to an increase in U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Her statement came just two days prior to President Obama's announcement of an escalation plan for the war in Afghanistan after months of dithering on the decision. Coakley expressed distrust with the Afghan government of President Karzai and argued that "without a credible Afghan partner, we cannot achieve a goal of securing this country with increased troop levels and then implementing a sound exit strategy that leaves it in the hands of a stable Afghan government." [14]

When the issue of the war in Afghanistan came up in the course of the third and final senatorial debate on January 11, 2010, Coakley produced a significant gaffe, believing the country to be terrorist free and calling for U.S. troops to be brought home. In her response to the question posed by the moderator, she stated, "I think we have done what we are going to be able to do in Afghanistan. I think that we should plan an exit strategy. Yes. I’m not sure there is a way to succeed. If the goal was and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that. They’re gone. They’re not there anymore." [15] Asked the next day by reporters whether she stood by her remark, Coakley "listened to the question, then quickly looked in a different direction." [16]

District Attorney of Middlesex County (1999-2007)

Coakley served as District Attorney of Middlesex County, Massachusetts from 1999 to 2007.

Amirault rape case

Gerald Amirault was convicted, along with his mother, Violet, and sister, Cheryl, in separate trials, in 1986 of molesting and raping eight children - six girls and three boys - at the Fells Acres Day Care Center run by his family in Malden, Massachusetts. In spite of no physical evidence or even witnesses to the alleged acts of sexual abuse to collaborate the claims made by these young children, Gerald was sentenced to 30-40 years in prison. After spending fifteen years in prison for a crime he did not commit, Gerald Amirault was finally granted clemency unanimously by the Massachusetts parole board in July 2001. In its recommendation to the governor, Jane Swift, the board noted that "(i)t is clearly a matter of public knowledge that, at the minimum, real and substantial doubt exists concerning petitioner's conviction." [17] It was alleged that Coakley, as Middlesex County District Attorney, "did everything in her power to see that he stayed in prison, including sending an assistant DA to oppose his release at the hearing." [18]

Heart donation overruled

Katharine Ristich of the online cardiology website, The Heart, believes that in addition to the death of Coach Michael Costin at the hands of Thomas "Hockey Dad" Junta in the course of a hockey rink fight back in 2000, another senseless death may have occurred as a result of then-district attorney Martha Coakley overruling "a request from Costin's family to donate his heart in a transplant to save another person's life." The Boston Globe reported on January 25, 2002, the day Junta was sentenced to jail for six-to-ten years, that Coakley blocked the request after Costin was pronounced brain-dead by his doctors in order "to preclude any possibility that his assailant's lawyer might contend at the trial that Costin died of a pre-existing heart condition rather than the beating."

Although from a certain legal standpoint Coakley's decision to overrule the family's request made sense at the time, some doctors objected to her claim. Coakley explained to the Boston Globe that "need to maintain the integrity of the case trumped donation," noting that an EMT at the scene believed the death was a result of a possible heart attack which might have given the defense an issue at trial. Several cardiologists, however, disagreed, arguing that "transplant surgeons would have rejected it if any defects were discovered." [19]

Winfield child rape case

In October 2005, a thirty-one year old Somerville police officer named Keith Winfield "raped his 23-month-old niece with a hot object, most likely a curling iron." Despite statements directly from Winfield affirming what took place, no punitive actions were taken by a Middlesex grand jury under the direction of then-district attorney, Martha Coakley. It wasn't until the mother of the raped toddler filed a formal complaint that Coakley even secured rape, assault, and battery charges against Winfield. Less then ten months later, however, "Coakley’s office recommended that Winfield be released on personal recognizance, with no cash bail," remaining free and unsupervised until December 2007. [20] It was around this time, when Coakley had been elected State Attorney General, that her successor as district attorney stepped in and was able to win both a conviction and two life sentences against Winfield. Coakley maintained that her office handled the investigation in the right manner.



See also: Massachusetts gubernatorial election, 2014

Coakley is considering a run for Governor of Massachusetts in 2014.[21][22]


U.S. Senate

See also: U.S. Senate special election, Massachusetts, 2010
United States Senate
U.S. Senate Seal.png
Elections, 2010
Primary election dates, 2010

A 2010 United States Senate special election took place in Massachusetts on Tuesday, January 19, 2010, to fill the United States Senate seat left vacant following the death of former United States Senator Edward M. Kennedy on August 25, 2009.

Despite a fierce and competitive campaign, Coakley received the Democratic nomination on December 8, 2009, garnering slightly over forty-six percent of the vote over her three challengers. [2]

A little over a month later, though, Republican Scott P. Brown was the one who emerged victorious, with Coakley conceding the election about 90 minutes after the polls closed when about 70% of polls had reported their results. After all the ballots had been counted, Brown ended up with a margin of victory of 4.8 percentage points over Coakley. [23]

Ethics complaint
See also: Service Employees International Union

Late in the Democratic primary campaign for the Massachusetts United States Senate seat, Coakley received both the physical and monetary assistance of the SEIU in the form of a radio advertisement buy "totaling $214,000 in the Boston area." [24] Just a week earlier, however, the ethical use of state public resources was questioned when the SEIU Local 509, the "union representing state employees, sent an email urging state workers to volunteer for Coakley’s campaign." [25] Three weeks after this report was released, her Republican opponent Scott Brown "filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission." [26]

Garden club crackdown

In the midst of her increasingly tight senatorial race against Republican opponent Scott P. Brown, Coakley drew the ire of many Bay State gardening clubs after her office sent strongly worded letters to their members, many of whom lived in nursing homes, in an effort to crackdown on charities "failing to file financial disclosure forms." [27] A fair number of members, scared and confused by the stern correspondence, vowed on taking their frustrations out on Coakley in the voting booth.


Coakley drew the ire of not only her Republican opponent, Scott Brown, but the local state media as well when she decided to take a vacation just twenty days before a special election was to be held in Massachusetts to decide who would the vacant United States Senate seat. Holly Robichaud at The Boston Herald questioned whether Coakley "need[ed] the rest or she [is] just the most cocky candidate in the Commonwealth’s history?" [28]

U.S. Senate Special Election, Massachusetts, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Republican Green check mark transparent.pngScott Brown 51.9% 1,168,178
     Democratic Martha Coakley 47.1% 1,060,861
     Libertarian Joseph L. Kennedy 1% 22,388
     Independent Write-In 0.1% 1,155
Total Votes 2,252,582
Source: Elections Division, State of Massachusetts "Special Election Results, January 19, 2010"

Coakley won the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate Special Election.

U.S. Senate Special Election, Democratic Primary, Massachusetts, 2010
Candidate Vote % Votes
Green check mark transparent.pngMartha Coakley 46.8% 310,827
Mike Capuano 27.8% 184,791
Alan Khazei 13.4% 88,929
Stephen Pagliuca 12.1% 80,248
Total Votes 664,795
Election Results via Boston Globe.

Attorney General

See also: Massachusetts Attorney General election, 2010
Massachusetts Attorney General, General Election, 2010
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngMartha Coakley Incumbent 62.8% 1,417,538
     Republican James P. McKenna 37.2% 839,274
Total Votes 2,256,812
Election Results via Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth

  • 2010 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary
  • Martha Coakley ran unopposed in this contest


Massachusetts Attorney General, General Election, 2006
Party Candidate Vote % Votes
     Democratic Green check mark transparent.pngMarth Coakley 72.9% 1,546,582
     Republican Larry Frisoli 27.1% 574,388
Total Votes 2,120,970
Election Results via Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth

  • 2006 Race for Attorney General - Democratic Primary
    • Martha Coakley ran unopposed in this contest

Campaign donors

Comprehensive donor information for Coakley is available dating back to 2006. Based on available campaign finance records, Coakley raised a total of $5,736,827 during that time period. This information was last updated on July 11, 2013.[29]

Martha Coakley's Campaign Contribution History
Year Office Result Contributions
2012 Attorney General of Massachusetts Not up for election $359,507
2010 Attorney General of Massachusetts Won $1,892,131
2008 Attorney General of Massachusetts Not up for election $1,474,486
2006 Attorney General of Massachusetts Won $2,010,703
Grand Total Raised $5,736,827

2006 and 2012

Ballotpedia collects information on campaign donors for each year in which a candidate or incumbent is running for election. The following table offers a breakdown of Martha Coakley's donors each year.[30] Click [show] for more information.

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Coakley currently resides in Medford, Massachusetts with her husband, Thomas F. O'Connor, Jr.[1]

Contact Information

Capitol Address:
Office of Attorney General
One Exchange Place
Worcester, MA 01608


Phone: (508) 792-7600
Toll Free Phone: (617) 727-4765
Fax: (508) 795-1991

See also

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 Massachusetts Attorney Generals Office "About the Office" Accessed January 17, 2013
  2. 2.0 2.1 Massachusetts Elections Division - Special State Democratic Primary Results
  3. Southcoast Today "Coakley intends to seek third term as attorney general," April 4, 2012
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Library of Congress, "Bill Text 113th Congress (2013-2014) S.528.IS," March 12, 2013
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named agsletter
  6. The Boston Globe, "Attorney generals to Congress: Don’t let for-profit colleges use federal grants and loans for advertising," March 17, 2013
  7. Commonwealth of Kentucky Office of the Attorney General, "Letter to Congress," March 11, 2013
  8. ACORN "Attorneys General Take Action: Real Leadership in Fighting Foreclosures" June 2008
  9. Boston Herald "Coakley’s death penalty chameleon act unimpressive" 13 Jan. 2010
  10. Blue Mass Group "Martha Coakley backs public option at health care rally!" 7 Sept. 2009
  11. Crooks and Liars "In MA Race, Martha Coakley Opposes Health-Care Bill Over Stupak Amendment" 10 Nov. 2009
  12. Newsbusters "Even Boston Globe Unable to Spin Coakley Health Care Flip-Flop Hypocrisy" 21 Dec. 2009
  13. The Boston Herald "Don’t fret, governor’s on the case" 14 May, 2010
  14. The Hill "Coakley opposes troop increase" 29 Nov. 2009
  15. Hot Air "Coakley says no more terrorists in Afghanistan" 12 Jan. 2010
  16. CNN "Coakley dodges question about Afghanistan claim" 12 Jan. 2010
  17. Human Events "Martha Coakley: Too Immoral for Teddy Kennedy's Seat" 9 Dec. 2009
  18. Examiner "Involvement in Amirault case makes Martha Coakley unfit to replace Ted Kennedy as Senator" 4 Sept. 2009
  19. The Heart "Donation of "Hockey Dad" victim's heart overruled by district attorney" 25 Jan. 2002
  20. Boston Globe "Some saw Coakley as lax on ’05 rape case" 6 Jan. 2010
  21. Boston Globe, "Murray adds to the buzz over 2014 governor’s race," November 15, 2012
  22. Boston Herald, "Gov race heating up," January 10, 2013
  23. Massachusetts Elections Division - 2010 Special Senate Election Results
  24. The Hill "SEIU launches $214K radio buy for Coakley" 3 Dec. 2009
  25. My FOX Boston "Union tells state workers to back Martha Coakley for Senate" 20 Nov. 2009
  26. My FOX Boston "Scott Brown files ethics complaint in Senate race" 16 Dec. 2009
  27. Boston Herald "Martha Coakley plants seed of doubt in gardening clubs" 12 Jan. 2010
  28. The Boston Herald "Cocky Coakley" 31 Dec. 2009
  29. Follow the Money, "Career fundraising for Martha Coakley," accessed July 11, 2013
  30. Follow the

Political offices
Preceded by
Thomas Reilly (D)
Massachusetts Attorney General
Succeeded by