Hawaii party denies role in donor scheme
The Democrats could face an investigation by the Federal Elections Commission
A man who had reached his campaign limit for contributing to a Rhode Island candidate for the U.S. Senate gave money to the Democratic Party in Hawaii after the party had sent money to the candidate.
Richard Bready, the chief executive of Providence-based Nortek, Inc., wrote a $6,000 check to the Hawaii Democratic Party after the party had given $5,000 to Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown, who is running for the Democratic nomination to the Senate on a clean-government platform, Hawaii party treasurer Jane Sugimura acknowledged yesterday.
Federal election laws prohibit money exchanges that are made to avoid campaign donation limits on individuals, Federal Elections Commission spokesman George Smaragdis said. It's also illegal for an organization to pass on contributions in someone else's name, he said.
Bready and his wife, Cheryl, had already given $4,200 each to Brown's campaign -- the maximum allowed by federal law -- before Bready made the contribution to Hawaii and a similar contribution to Massachusetts.
The commission would start an investigation if it received a complaint, Smaragdis said. He declined to say whether a complaint had been filed.
Hawaii Democratic Party Chairman Brickwood Galuteria said last week it was a mistake for the state party to give the contribution to Brown. He said the error was in supporting a candidate in a primary race rather than a general election because the party doesn't usually take sides between two Democratic candidates.
But the Hawaii party disputes that there was a deal in place to support Brown in exchange for Bready's contribution.
Brown faces former Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse in the Democratic primary for the Senate seat held by Republican Lincoln Chafee. Democrats consider the race one of their best opportunities to gain a seat in the Republican-dominated Senate.
The Brown campaign encouraged donors to give to state parties in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Maine; the latter two contributed $10,000 each to Brown's campaign, said Matt Burgess, a spokesman for Brown.
Brown said last week he would return all $25,000 to the three states. Sugimura said the party had sent a letter to Brown's campaign asking for Hawaii's $5,000.
Sugimura told The Associated Press bureau in Providence in two phone interviews last week that a Brown campaign staffer had arranged a tit-for-tat deal in which the Hawaii party gave a $5,000 donation to Brown in exchange for money to be received from Brown supporters. She later told The Associated Press in Honolulu that was not the case.
Bready also gave $5,000 to the Massachusetts Democratic State Committee federal fund on Jan. 5, one week after checks totaling $10,000 had been donated to Brown from the same account, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. The Massachusetts party has denied any tit-for-tat arrangement.
It was unknown until yesterday who had given the money to the Hawaii party. Burgess said last week that members of the campaign did not know who gave to the state parties, and the campaign did not know if it was Bready.
Bready is a member of the Matt Brown for U.S. Senate Campaign Committee and a well-known Rhode Island philanthropist. In an interview with the AP last week, Brown described Bready as a friend.
Since Bready's donation to Massachusetts was first reported, he has not returned several messages seeking comment.
The Hawaii Democratic Party has sent the $6,000 back to Bready, Sugimura said.
AP reporters M.L. Johnson and Ray Henry in Providence, Rhode Island, contributed to this report.