New Hampshire congressman repays $355K to 'family pot'

AP News
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Posted: Jan 29, 2016 8:00 PM
New Hampshire congressman repays $355K to 'family pot'

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta has repaid $355,000 he was accused of illegally accepting from his parents in 2010, and on Friday he emphasized his more recent accomplishments as he officially began his re-election effort.

For years, the New Hampshire Republican flatly denied the money was an illegal campaign donation from his parents and insisted he and his wife had saved it through years of hard work. He later told the Federal Election Commission that since he was a young child, he contributed to and managed a "family pot" of money that was in his parents' name but that was available to him and his siblings.

Guinta maintains that his only mistake was improperly reporting money that was rightfully his. But in an agreement made public in May, the commission concluded that Guinta broke the law by accepting donations above the legal limit from his parents, fined him $15,000 and ordered him to repay the money.

Guinta paid the fine last year, and on Friday, announced that he has repaid the $355,000. He also announced his re-election campaign, though he has said for months that he planned to run again.

"This is a complaint from five years ago. Unfortunately, it took a long time to resolve," he said. "I've been upfront with people and said, 'Look, I made a mistake,' and I've apologized for it over the years. The settlement, and the completion of the components of it, I hope put it in the rearview mirror."

According to the FEC, Guinta's family contradicted his claims. His sister said she didn't know the "family pot" existed.

Guinta said his new campaign will focus on job creation and economic growth, and he touted recent successes, including the delay of a widely criticized tax on high-cost employer health insurance plans and the bipartisan task force he created with New Hampshire's other House member, Democratic U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, to combat the nation's heroin crisis.

While Guinta says it's been months since voters have raised the issue of his finances with him, he knows his opponents will bring it up. He'll face at least one primary challenger — former University of New Hampshire business dean Dan Innis, who finished second to Guinta in 2014. On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Carol Shea-Porter faces Bedford businessman Shawn O'Connor.

Shea-Porter served for two terms in New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District before Guinta defeated her in 2010. She won in 2012, only to lose to him again in 2014. It's possible they could face each other for a fourth time in 2016.

News of the FEC settlement last spring sparked calls for Guinta's resignation from Democrats and some Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte. The head of the state Republican Party, Jennifer Horn, stopped short of directly urging him to step down, but said he "has clearly been untruthful."

Shea-Porter's campaign manager, Naomi Andrews, on Friday said Guinta should step down "or at least have the decency to admit he was lying."

Innis said Friday the district's votes are sick of the "merry-go-round between Guinta and Shea-Porter." His campaign adviser Bill Lockhart also weighed in, calling Guinta's actions and decision to run for re-election "an embarrassment to the Republican Party."