The Democratic Party of Arkansas (DPA) sent out a press release this morning hammering Rep. Steve Womack and state Representative John Burris for trying to cover-up the fact that a June 28 fundraiser (of which Womack was billed a “co-host”) violated Federal Election Commission laws. After Talk Business blogger Michael Cook broke news of the fundraiser on July 14, Womack called on state legislators to return the money. Burris also issued a statement explaining the Republicans’ position and said efforts were being made to return the funds, although it looked for a moment like some would try to hold onto the dough. The DPA cites an editorial that ran in northwest Arkansas newspapers last week (subscription required) saying that Womack was informed about the illegality of the event not on July 14, but the very next day.
“We know for a fact that the office of 3rd Congressional District Rep. Steve Womack was informed about this breach on the very next day.”
Womack’s Chief of Staff Beau Walker says the editorial wasn’t based on fact and that party politics is coming into play here.
“We had nothing to do with the event,” Walker said. “We were asked by someone to attend the event on the 28th. We said yes, he can attend, but he cannot be involved in the fundraising because this is not for him. But he wants to come and show support for the Republican leadership in the Arkansas House. That was our limited involvement. We didn’t know his name was going to be listed on the invitation. The FEC rules state that we are responsible, so we wanted to make this right. So we self reported to the FEC. That went out two or three weeks ago. It’s old news, frankly. It’s party politics and it’s an effort to draw up a little bit of chatter based on the editorial that went out.
Burris called the allegations of a cover-up “weird and desparate.” “All corporate contributions have been or are the process of being returned,” Burris wrote in an email. “We are being careful to follow all state ethical guidelines in the process (which can be complex). End of story.”
Burris said repayment of the funds would be documented. “Everything will be documented on our disclosures with the Secretary of State. It won’t be reported until this quarter’s report, which won’t be filed until October 15th. There’s no way to hide anything.”
The press release from the DPA is on the jump.