The Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) sent out a press release this morning hammering Rep. Steve Womack and state Representative John Burris for trying to cover-up the fact that a June 28 fundraiser (of which Womack was billed a "co-host") violated Federal Election Commission laws. After Talk Business blogger Michael Cook broke news of the fundraiser on July 14, Womack called on state legislators to return the money. Burris also issued a statement explaining the Republicans' position and said efforts were being made to return the funds, although it looked for a moment like some would try to hold onto the dough. The DPA cites an editorial that ran in northwest Arkansas newspapers last week (subscription required) saying that Womack was informed about the illegality of the event not on July 14, but the very next day.
"We know for a fact that the office of 3rd Congressional District Rep. Steve Womack was informed about this breach on the very next day."
Womack's Chief of Staff Beau Walker says the editorial wasn't based on fact and that party politics is coming into play here.
"We had nothing to do with the event," Walker said. "We were asked by someone to attend the event on the 28th. We said yes, he can attend, but he cannot be involved in the fundraising because this is not for him. But he wants to come and show support for the Republican leadership in the Arkansas House. That was our limited involvement. We didn’t know his name was going to be listed on the invitation. The FEC rules state that we are responsible, so we wanted to make this right. So we self reported to the FEC. That went out two or three weeks ago. It’s old news, frankly. It’s party politics and it’s an effort to draw up a little bit of chatter based on the editorial that went out.
Burris called the allegations of a cover-up "weird and desparate." "All corporate contributions have been or are the process of being returned," Burris wrote in an email. "We are being careful to follow all state ethical guidelines in the process (which can be complex). End of story."
Burris said repayment of the funds would be documented. "Everything will be documented on our disclosures with the Secretary of State. It won't be reported until this quarter's report, which won't be filed until October 15th. There's no way to hide anything."
The press release from the DPA is on the jump.
NEW REVELATIONS SUGGEST:
Womack, Burris Attempted Cover Up Of Illegal Fundraiser?
Democrats Renew Call For Evidence of Returns
(LITTLE ROCK) New revelations in last week’s Northwest Arkansas newspapers reveal a possible attempted cover-up by Republican State House Caucus Leader Rep. John Burris and Congressman Steve Womack regarding their recent fundraising endeavors that ran afoul of federal election law.
“Why did Congressman Womack and Rep. Burris remain silent for two weeks after first learning their joint fundraiser with Lt. Gov. Mark Darr wasn’t legal? Was this a narrowly failed attempt at a cover-up? There are more questions than answers,” Candace Martin, Democratic Party of Arkansas communications director, said. “Even after Burris acknowledged the wrongdoing, he still parsed his words for days before agreeing to directly return the money in question. Given these facts, it is imperative now more than ever Burris provide public evidence the returns were actually made.”
The Northwest Arkansas editorial last week explained, “Republican state House leaders will return corporate donations raised in Rogers in violation of federal election law. Better late than never. The fundraiser was held June 28. We know for a fact that the office of 3rd Congressional District Rep. Steve Womack was informed about this breach on the very next day.” (emphasis added)
But Burris and Womack would not acknowledge their wrongdoing and that of Darr until July 14, two weeks later and only following a Little-Rock-based news blogger publicly confronting them with their actions a day earlier.
“Neither Burris nor Womack ever acknowledged they knew of the illegal nature of their joint fundraiser with Lt. Gov. Darr for two weeks before taking any steps to correct it. Why the silent delay unless they were hoping to cover up the facts and keep the cash?” Martin asked.
The Northwest Arkansas editorial explained, “Our news department heard about the fundraiser and called Womack’s office to inquire whether the proper rules had been followed. No answer came, but several days later, a Little Rock political blog reported the money raised at the event was being returned.” But, “several days” was really two weeks.