Democrat alleges that congressman's donation was illegal
Republican Congressman Steve Pearce on Monday asked for a refund of $10,000 that his campaign donated to launch a conservative political action committee.
Pearce’s decision came after the chairwoman of the Dona Ana County Democratic Party alleged that the congressman’s contribution was illegal under federal campaign law.
Todd Willens, a spokesman for Pearce’s re-election campaign, said a letter seeking return of the money had been sent to the political committee Goal WestPac.
Willens said nothing was done improperly, but Pearce wanted to recover the money to exercise “abundance of caution.” Pearce, above, of Hobbs, represents southern New Mexico in Congress and is seeking re-election next year.
WestPac’s treasurer is Pearce’s brother, Philip Pearce. Jason Heffley, formerly Steve Pearce’s campaign manager and deputy chief of staff, also is involved with WestPac’s administration.
Philip Pearce said in January that the new super political action committee was established to “raise funds in unlimited amounts.”
Federal records show that the $10,000 from Rep. Pearce’s campaign accounted for two-thirds of WestPac’s funding during the first half of the year. Pearce donated the money in January.
Six weeks later, WestPac received its only other contribution — $5,000 from ME-Tex Oil and Gas Inc.
Christy French, leader of Dona Ana County Democrats, this month filed the complaint against Pearce with the Federal Election Commission.
Until the oil company’s donation on Feb. 28, French said, WestPac relied entirely on funds provided by Pearce to cover personnel, legal and accounting costs. She said this violated the law and asked for an investigation of Pearce by the Federal Election Commission.
“The conclusion that Representative Pearce directly or indirectly established, financed, maintained or controlled WestPac is inescapable,” French, right, said in her complaint.
Willens said Pearce decided to seek a refund of the $10,000 simply to be on the safe side.
“We have not received notice that the complaint has been filed, regardless, by looking at the copy you provided we do not think it has merit. The congressman has always believed in following the law and out of abundance of caution has asked for a refund of his donation to this PAC,” Willens said in a prepared statement for Texas-New Mexico Newspapers.
French said she did not accept Pearce’s explanation.
“My reaction is a lot like what most people’s will be. Clearly he stepped outside the rules of the federal election code, and he got called on it,” she said.
She filed her complaint Aug. 19. A reporter sent a copy of it to Pearce’s staff Friday, the same day he formally announced that he would seek re-election in 2014.
Pearce last year defeated a little-known Democratic opponent, receiving about 60 percent of the vote.