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Pattern Same, But Nethercutt Says His Donors Followed Law

When state regulators announced their record fine of wealthy Othello farmer Pete Taggares Sr. last week, Rep. George Nethercutt didn’t immediately respond to questions about similar Taggares donations to his 1994 campaign.

On Tuesday, the Spokane Republican finally replied to The Spokesman-Review’s requests for comment on whether Taggares also may have violated federal rules for campaign donations.

Nethercutt said his campaign donors have followed the law.

“I have always required each of the more than 6,000 individual contributors to my campaigns to meet all requirements of federal election law,” Nethercutt said in a prepared statement.

“As of today, there has never been a Federal Election Commission investigation of any contributor based on any donation to my campaigns,” he said.

Nethercutt wasn’t available for an interview and didn’t say whether he’s going to look further into donations to his 1994 campaign by seven Taggares employees and spouses.

The same people donated to Republican Dale Foreman’s 1995 gubernatorial race. They gave to Foreman and Nethercutt at Taggares’ request, according to Public Disclosure Commission investigators.

Foreman, who lost the GOP primary last September and is the new chairman of the state Republican Party, returned the illegal donations to Taggares last summer.

The state Public Disclosure Commission also fined Foreman $2,500 for the violations.

Two of the donors, Erlinda and Angel Uresti, are Taggares’ housekeeper and handyman.

They gave Foreman $2,000 and also contributed $1,000 to Nethercutt.

State investigators subpoenaed the PJ Taggares Co. financial records and determined that Taggares had reimbursed the Urestis for the donations to Foreman - a violation of state campaign laws.

It’s also illegal in federal campaigns for an employer to reimburse employees for political donations.

The state disclosure commission has no jurisdiction over federal campaigns. But the Federal Election Commission often begins an inquiry after state investigators uncover donor violations, said FEC spokeswoman Sharon Nelson.

Citing confidentiality, Nelson declined Tuesday to confirm or deny whether the FEC had begun an inquiry into Taggares’ donations to Nethercutt.

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