ICYMI: Tom Miller Took An Illegal Campaign Contribution
"Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller will return an illegal $50,000 campaign contribution from a Democratic political action committee, his campaign said Wednesday.
A campaign finance report filed late Tuesday night shows Miller accepted $50,000 from the Democratic Attorneys General Association, a PAC that donates to Democratic attorney general candidates.
But Iowa law prohibits statewide candidates from accepting campaign contributions from PACs until the regular legislative session ends — and lawmakers hadn't adjourned when Miller accepted the donation on May 13.
Upon reviewing the donation after the Des Moines Register questioned it, the campaign decided to return the donation 'out of an abundance of caution,' Miller campaign manager Jacob Hamblin said.
Zach Goodrich, executive director of the Iowa Ethics & Campaign Disclosure Board, confirmed the contribution is illegal while the legislative session continues.
'At the end of the day, it is still not permissible for a political committee, regardless of how it's organized, to donate to... legislative candidates or candidates for any state office,' Goodrich said.
Miller is the longest currently serving attorney general in the U.S. He is seeking his 11th four-year term this fall. He will face Republican Brenna Bird. Neither have a primary opponent in the June 7 election.
The Republican Party of Iowa called on Miller to return the contribution Wednesday. Chair Jeff Kaufmann criticized Miller for 'his failure to gather the necessary signatures' — referring to a challenge to Miller's nomination paperwork that was ultimately dismissed — and to 'follow simple campaign finance laws.'
'Is Tom Miller a lazy attorney general or does he think he's above the law?' Kaufmann said in a statement. "Either way, he must return the illegal money and a serious ethics investigation is necessary."
Goodrich said the ethics board was unlikely to launch an investigation or impose any penalties on Miller after he returns the contribution.
'We seek more to help people comply with their reports, unless there is what I would consider an egregious violation,' he said. 'Here, it appears to be more of an oversight.'
Goodrich said the board had been fielding calls from candidates eager to start accepting PAC funding as the legislative session drags on.
'They want to take all these contributions, they want to go out and do things, but they haven't been able to just because the session is still going on,' he said."
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