Ex-Republican chair wants financial probe of GOP Rep. Guinta

AP News
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Posted: Aug 23, 2016 12:46 PM
Ex-Republican chair wants financial probe of GOP Rep. Guinta

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A former chairman of New Hampshire's GOP is calling for an investigation into Republican U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta's campaign finances less than a month before his competitive primary.

Fergus Cullen is asking the Federal Election Commission to investigate whether Guinta is improperly claiming a family bank account as his own and using it for campaign activities.

The complaint centers on a bank account from which the commission found Guinta illegally drew $355,000 to fund his successful 2010 campaign. In an agreement made public in May 2015, 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 said he contributed to the family pot of money but returned the money as ordered in January. He's now listing the family account as a personal asset on his financial disclosure form, filed with Congress last week, prompting Cullen's latest complaint.

"It was plainly not the Commission's intent for Guinta to keep the money personally or to recycle the illegal excessive contribution he received from his parents back into his campaign committee a second time," Cullen wrote in his complaint, which amends one he filed in June.

In the June complaint to the FEC, Cullen alleged that Guinta essentially kept $81,500 for himself when he returned $355,000 in illegal campaign donations.

Guinta's chief of staff, Jay Ruais, said then that the FEC knew about the $81,500 payment when it negotiated the settlement agreement but insisted at the time that the campaign repay the full $355,000. He said the campaign had been in contact with the FEC about how to address the earlier payment.

In the latest complaint, Guinta's office has denied any wrongdoing.

Guinta's office said he became a signatory on the family account in 2010, requiring him to list it as an asset. Ruais said the money will not be used for Guinta's re-election bid.

"No, we will not be using this money for the campaign," Ruais told The Associated Press on Monday.

Guinta faces businessman Rich Ashooh in the Sept. 13 Republican primary.

Guinta's 2015 financial disclosure form shows a Bank of America account worth $250,000 to $500,000. Ruais confirmed it is the family account. Guinta's 2014 form lists several Bank of America accounts but none worth more than $15,000.

"The loan was refunded to the Guinta Family Fund on which he has been a signatory since 2010, along with his parents," Ruais said. "Not a single thing has changed. Granite Staters recognize this, and no amount of politically charged complaints or opinions can change these facts."