Democrats filed a complaint with the Federal Elections Commission Tuesday over a $40,000 loan to U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth’s campaign.
Chenoweth, who said she took out the loan from West One Bank to cover expenses between the election and the start of her term, maintains that there was nothing improper about the loan. “I’m confident I’ll be cleared,” she said Tuesday.
She has filed several amendments to her campaign finance documents since questions were raised about the loan.
The Democrats’ complaint is limited to the loan, and does not address other campaign finance issues. Democrats earlier had questioned payments the campaign made to Chenoweth’s business, Consulting Associates.
Bill Mauk, state Democratic chairman, said Tuesday, “We have not completed our investigation on other potential violations in her disclosure reports. And once we have done that, there’s a strong likelihood we’ll file a separate complaint.”
An FEC spokeswoman confirmed that the complaint was filed Tuesday.
Next, the agency will notify Chenoweth and give her campaign 15 days to respond in writing, stating why the FEC should not act on the complaint, said spokeswoman Kelly Huff. If the agency continues to look into it, the next step would be to assign it to an FEC lawyer for investigation.
Mauk contends that the loan, given on Chenoweth’s signature with no collateral, could be considered an illegal campaign contribution from the bank.
Chenoweth first reported the loan as a personal loan from the candidate to the campaign. After questions were raised, she acknowledged it was a bank loan. The campaign paid interest payments on the loan.
Because of the questions, Chenoweth said she negotiated a second mortgage on her home from West One and used it to pay off the loan.
Chenoweth said the bank was willing to give her the loan without collateral because it considered her credit-worthy. “I think the bank knew that I wasn’t going to run - that I’m a public figure,” she told reporters recently.
FEC rules require that bank loans to candidates be handled just like loans for anyone else.
“For a bank to give a public official $40,000 without asking for any collateral or security sounds more like a political favor than something done in the ordinary course of business,” Mauk said. “If it’s a favor, that’s illegal.”
Huff could not comment specifically on the Democrats’ complaint. In a past FEC case, an unsecured loan to a candidate was ruled OK because the candidate had a long credit history with the bank.
Huff said theoretically, a bank could legally have a policy of granting loans to candidates without collateral if that policy applied to all candidates.
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