by Max Brantley
Fine example being set by Arkansas Republican legislators. They got caught holding an illegal fund-raiser — using U.S. Rep. Steve Womack as a host to raise corporate money. Federal rules don't allow it.
Womack says the money should be refunded. Arkansas Republican legislators prefer to ask the contributors — wink, wink, nudge — if it's OK by them for the Republicans to hang onto the money.
Sleazy business. The Arkansas Democratic Party makes hay:
Republican legislators in the Arkansas House of Representatives said yesterday they would keep illegally raised funds “as desired” by donors, going against one of their own party leaders, Republican Congressman Steve Womack , who asked them to return the funds and host another fundraiser that complies with the law. The Democratic Party of Arkansas joined Congressman Womack’s call to return the illegally-raised funds and asked that Republican lawmakers make the donation returns public.
“Despite having the legal violations brought to their attention Rep. John Burris and GOP legislators are still refusing to rectify the problem, instead flagrantly remaining in violation of the law,” Candace Martin, communications director of Democratic Party of Arkansas said. “Rather than returning the contributions, Burris said the Republican legislators plan to keep the ill-gotten money, only informing donors that it was solicited and collected in violation of campaign law and return to donors if they request it. Republican legislators cannot be allowed to violate the law in collecting campaign money, admit it, and still keep the ill-gotten gains.”
Congressman Womack’s chief of staff Beau Walker said in an interview with Talk Business that Congressman Womack will self-report the error to the FEC and asked the GOP House Caucus to return the money to donors. In response, House Minority Leader John Burris said that the House Caucus would only return funds on a case-by-case basis “as desired” by donors.
“It’s sad when even leaders in the Republican Party recognize the wrong-doing of Republican legislators and ask for more accountability. At the very least, Arkansans deserve representation that respects the law and adheres to campaign finance regulations,” Martin said. “This is just another example of how Arkansas Republicans will do anything just to get elected and push their extremist agenda.”
Michael Cook with Cook’s Outlook, an affiliate of Talk Business, Talk Politics, first wrote about the violation, noting that the invitation in violation of the federal law listed Congressman Womack as a host for an event that relied heavily on corporate donations.