Isle Dems’ disputed gifts to be returned
A U.S. Senate hopeful had received alleged "tit-for-tat" donations
PROVIDENCE, R.I. » Secretary of State Matt Brown promised yesterday to return $25,000 in questioned donations that three state Democratic parties made to his Senate campaign fund.
Brown, who is running on a clean-government platform, said the contributions from the parties in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maine were legal, but he still decided to return them.
"These contributions were lawful, but clearly they raised questions in people's minds, and I don't want anything to do with things that raise questions," he said, speaking publicly for the first time on the donations.
The contributions could be illegal if they were given as a way to skirt campaign finance law. Under the law, donors are not allowed to contribute more than a certain amount to a political candidate, and donors who have given the maximum amount to a candidate are not allowed to give more by earmarking it and funneling it through a third party, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors fundraising and spending in political races.
On Wednesday, Jane Sugimura, treasurer of the Hawaii Democratic Party, said in two separate telephone interviews that a Brown campaign staffer arranged a tit-for-tat deal in which the party gave a $5,000 donation to Brown in exchange for money to be received from Brown supporters. On Thursday she said there was no such deal.
Brown said he had no objections when his field director, Richard Pelletier, approached him about soliciting donations from state Democratic parties. Brown said he was unaware of any tit-for-tat reimbursement plans.
The Democratic Party of Hawaii said Thursday it planned to give back a $6,000 donation made to it by a Brown supporter. A spokesman for Brown's campaign said it does not know the name of the donor, and the Democratic Party in Hawaii has not released it.
The parties in Massachusetts and Maine each gave $10,000 to Brown.