Congressional candidate Rick Allen is lodging a complaint against fellow 12th district candidate Wright McLeod, alleging that his opponent broke federal campaign rules by stealing donor information, accepting excessive contributions and failing to properly disclose expenditures.
McLeod responded late Friday, saying Allen was “losing” in fundraising and trying to “up the ante” by filing an ethics complaint against him with the Federal Elections Commission. He disputed some of the allegations and said he needed more information to respond to others.
A copy of the complaint, obtained by The Chronicle, says the McLeod campaign lifted proprietary donor information, “most likely violating federal law,” from Allen’s campaign finance reports. Using contributor information from finance reports to solicit donations is a violation of federal election laws.
The first allegation came to light when Allen’s daughter and son-in-law, who live in Atlanta and Carrollton, respectively, and did not request McLeod literature, received a fundraising mailing from the McLeod campaign, according to the complaint.
Scott Paradise, who is Allen’s campaign manager and filed the complaint on the candidate’s behalf, pointed to the identical punctuation and abbreviations used in Allen’s disclosure forms and the address labels on the McLeod mailings, which “differ(ed) from how their names appear in Department of Motor Vehicles, voter registration records, or any previous campaign finance reports for separate campaign.”
The second allegation claims that McLeod under-reported on his April 15 quarterly report the value of an in-kind donation of office space for his campaign headquarters.
The report lists four donors — Margaret Dunstan, James Hull, Bernard Dunstan and Barry Storey — who made in-kind donations of $250 each month, totaling $1,000, to rent McLeod’s campaign headquarters. However, Paradise asserts that $1,000 in rent for the 6,674-square-foot space is below the average market rate of $11.50 per square foot in the area.
“Even if McLeod for Congress claims to use only a portion of the office space, I have knowledge that they are using far more than 1,043 square feet, which is $1,000 per month of space in that area,” he said .
McLeod said the rent was reasonable because the building had been vacant for four years and was in poor condition.
The third allegation is that McLeod did not itemize payroll expenditures. Congressional candidates are required to list the names and addresses of any person paid more than $200 within a calendar year for campaign work. McLeod simply lists “payroll” alongside six entries totaling $36,505 in January, February and March.
McLeod said most of his campaign work was performed by volunteers, none of whom earned near the staff salary amounts listed by name and address on Allen’s campaign reports.
Paradise, who said he’d worked with a dozen campaigns before joining Allen’s, said the issues, coupled with McLeod’s recent assertion about how little the McLeod campaign is spending, showed that McLeod “is cutting corners and breaking the law in order to save some money.”
McLeod said he took “great offense that they would claim that I have done something fraudulent. We’ve got great momentum in this campaign. We’re proud of what we’ve done in a very short period of time.”
Longtime political observer and 12th Congressional District Republican Party chairman Dave Barbee, who supports McLeod, said the move was “Mickey Mouse politics.”
“The first candidate who throws a negative stone is behind. That’s what’s happening here,” Barbee said.
McLeod, Allen, Rep. Lee Anderson and Maria Sheffield are seeking the Republican nomination in July to run against Democratic incumbent John Barrow in November. Barrow’s district was redrawn during reapportionment to include all of Richmond and most of Columbia counties and to increase the Republican chances of winning the seat.