SAVANNAH, Ga. -- A 12th Congressional District hopeful now concedes he didn’t fully report his campaign spending as required by federal law.
That is one of several allegations Rick Allen has made to the Federal Elections Commission against Wright McLeod.
McLeod and a spokeswoman have given conflicting versions of how much his campaign knew about the complaint. Until a recent television interview, they had ducked most questions.
Allen has targeted McLeod’s failure to say on campaign finance reports who received eight payments totaling $51,159. The reports describe them merely as “payroll.”
By law, congressional campaigns must name anyone paid more than $200 in any calendar year.
“Why we didn’t break them out and put their names in, that is a perfectly valid question,” McLeod told Augusta’s Channel 26. “Certainly in hindsight, we should have.”
Augusta businessman Allen and Augusta lawyer McLeod are among four Republicans vying to replace Democrat John Barrow, who recently moved to Augusta from Savannah. State Rep. Lee Anderson of Grovetown and Dublin attorney Maria Sheffield are the other GOP candidates.
New district boundaries favor Republicans, so national GOP groups think this is their best chance in a decade to win the seat.
McLeod released a breakdown of items his reports listed as payroll. Some were payments to consulting firms, not payroll.
But it’s not clear whether he’ll file an amended report with the FEC — an action campaigns often use to correct mistakes.
McLeod, whose fundraising for the July 31 primary is second only to Allen’s, didn’t respond to two attempts to seek comment.
“We believe we followed the letter of the law when filing our disclosure,” McLeod spokeswoman Holly Croft said. “The only person who seems to have a problem with the way it was filed is Rick Allen.”
Reminded that itemization is required for payments totaling more than $200, Croft added, “We certainly believed we followed the law when we filed the disclosure. If the FEC requests that we file a different way, we will.”
In the TV interview, McLeod said he didn’t know enough to respond to one of Allen’s other allegations to the FEC.
He says McLeod stole donor data from his campaign finance reports.
“I haven’t seen what we sent,” McLeod responded, “but what I do know is our campaign does not have their information, period ... This is the first time we’ve seen this. They have never provided this information to us.”
Croft acknowledges various news media provided the McLeod campaign documents Allen produced to support the complaint.
But she said there is “no discrepancy” between that and what McLeod told Channel 26.
“Wright had not seen — and still has not seen — what you sent,” she said. “The complaint and documentation provided to you, NBC 26, WFXG, and the Augusta Chronicle are rumor and innuendo until we hear from the FEC.
“Our campaign manager, Mike Allen, decided to treat the allegations as such and keep Wright focused on getting his conservative message out to 12th District voters.”
The FEC has confirmed receiving the complaint.
“We haven’t even gotten to the meat of the allegations yet,” said Scott Paradise, Allen’s campaign manager, “and he’s continuing to deflect, change his story or flat-out lie.
“I honestly cannot believe that they don’t yet have their facts straight. It’s shocking that they’ve had almost three weeks to fix the mistakes and they haven’t even developed a consistent response, much less fixed the mistakes.”
Allen’s other major accusation: McLeod under-reported the fair rental value of office space four people donated to the campaign. As a result, he claims, each exceeded the $2,500 federal contribution limit for the primary.
In the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 2011, according to the FEC, it took an average of 10.1 months to resolve complaints. That suggests the matter likely won’t be resolved before the primary — or an Aug. 21 runoff if it’s needed.
But Paradise said he hopes McLeod does “the right thing and apologizes for stealing our donor list and starts paying the rent he’s legally obligated to pay.”