Election commission releases Guinta investigation files

AP News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2015 4:12 PM

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Two members of U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta's family appear to contradict his claims about $355,000 he spent on his 2010 campaign, according to Federal Election Commission documents released Tuesday.

Over the years, the New Hampshire Republican flatly denied the money was an illegal campaign donation from his parents, but the Federal Election Commission recently disagreed, ordering him to repay the money plus a $15,000 fine. Guinta told FEC investigators that he contributed to and managed a "family pot" of money that was in his parents' name but was available to him and his siblings at any time for any purpose.

"The money that Rep. Guinta loaned to his campaign was his own money," Guinta's attorneys wrote in the FEC documents. "Rep. Guinta and his parents always understood that a large share of the pot belonged to Rep. Guinta, and in practical terms, Rep. Guinta had always been free to draw on the pot as the need arose."

But Guinta's sister told the FEC she did not know such a pot existed, let alone that she or her brothers could access it. The FEC also said Guinta's mother disagreed with his characterization of the account. On the nine checks made out to her son, Virginia Guinta wrote "loan" in the memo line, though it's unclear whether she was noting that he was borrowing her money — it's possible she was indicating his plans to loan his own money to his campaign. But the FEC also said Virginia Guinta deducted the amount from the $1 million she and her husband had decided to make available to each of their children, suggesting she viewed the funds as a gift to her son.

"Virginia Guinta did not characterize the funds as owned by Rep. Guinta or as having been obtained and maintained in her bank accounts because of any agreement with Rep. Guinta," the FEC attorney wrote.

In describing the "family pot," Guinta's attorneys said he developed a keen interest in finance as a teenager and advised his parents how to invest $25,000 they hoped would produce $3 million for their children. At least $100,000 of Guinta's own money was comingled into the pot, they said, which later increased in value to an amount much greater than the $355,000 he spent on his campaign.

But the FEC found that argument unpersuasive, noting that several of the contributions he cited were paid to both Guinta and his parents. And even if the commission accepted the "otherwise unsupported assertion" that Guinta and his parents had an understanding that the money was his, Guinta has not shed light on how much money he might have received from the "pot" before 2010, the FEC said.

Guinta, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday, has a year to repay the money. He paid the fine last week. He has said he plans to run for re-election next year despite calls from U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte and other New Hampshire Republicans for his resignation.

That could mean facing Democrat Carol Shea-Porter for a fourth time. Shea-Porter, who said last week she is prepared to re-claim the seat, served for two terms before Guinta defeated her in 2010. She won in 2012, only to lose to him again last November.