Yesterday, Talk Business blogger Michael Cook posted a story on how a recent Arkansas GOP House fundraiser featuring Cong. Steve Womack (R-Rogers) may have been a violation of Federal Election Commission (FEC) regulations.
The invitation featuring Congressman Womack fails to follow federal regulations requiring specific language when a federal office-holder hosts a fundraiser where soft money (read corporate) is raised.
More importantly than the written invitation, it appears the actual fundraising event may have violated federal regulations since J.B Hunt, Tyson, Cox Communications apparently were paid sponsors of the event. If any money raised at this event was from corporate accounts, then we may have some serious campaign finance violations to discuss.
If it turns out this was an improper fundraiser with Congressman Womack, will state Republicans return the $25,000-$30,000 they raised at the NWA fundraiser?
It turns out the answer is "yes."
Cong. Womack’s chief of staff Beau Walker tells Talk Business that the Congressman wanted to show his support for state legislators at the fundraising event, but did not know his name was on the invitation as a "host".
"However, we are responsible for this whether we were knowing or unknowing… if there is a problem, we want to make sure it is corrected," Walker said. "The sticking point with the FEC is the word ‘host’." He also said that Womack will self-report the error to the FEC.
Walker said Womack asked the GOP House caucus to return the money to donors and host a future event to raise the money again. "We’ve requested that the money be returned," said Walker.
House Minority Leader John Burris (R-Harrison) issued this statement on Thursday:
The House Leadership PAC event on June 28 featuring Congressman Steve Womack as a speaker was conducted in compliance with all state campaign finance laws. The invitation for that event, however, used terminology that inaccurately described Congressman Womack’s role in the event under federal campaign finance laws.
The invitation referred to Congressman Womack as an "honorary co-host," when it should have referred to him as an "honored guest" or "featured speaker," and should have advised recipients that Congressman Womack was not soliciting funds in connection with this event.
At Congressman Womack’s request, the House Leadership PAC is making a good faith effort to contact all donors to our June 28 event, and will return contributions received in connection with the event as desired so that each contribution raised from the event meets the requirements of both Arkansas and federal law.
The use of inaccurate terminology in the event invitation was unintentional. We are rectifying the situation and will ensure that our future invitations comply with state and federal law.