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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, March 4, 2006

Campaign donations to be returned

Associated Press

PROVIDENCE, R.I. Rhode Island Secretary of State Matt Brown yesterday promised to return $25,000 in questioned donations that three state Democratic parties made to his Senate campaign fund.

Brown, who is running on a clean government platform, said the contributions from the parties in Hawai'i, Massachusetts and Maine were legal, but he still decided to return them.

"These contributions were lawful, but clearly they raised questions in people's minds, and I don't want anything to do with things that raise questions," he said, speaking publicly for the first time on the donations.

The contributions could be illegal if they were given as a way to skirt campaign finance law. Under the law, donors cannot contribute more than a certain amount to a political candidate, and donors who have given the maximum amount to a candidate cannot give more by earmarking it and funneling it through a third party, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which monitors fundraising and spending in political races.

On Wednesday, Jane Sugimura, the treasurer of the Hawai'i Democratic Party, told The Associated Press that a Brown campaign staffer arranged a tit-for-tat deal in which the party gave a $5,000 donation to Brown in exchange for money to be received from Brown supporters. On Thursday, she said there was no such deal.

Brown said he had no objections when his field director, Richard Pelletier, approached him about soliciting donations from state Democratic parties. Brown said he was unaware of any reimbursement plans.

"Rich had previous relationships with these people, asked for their support, and I encouraged supporters of ours to help out these good, Democratic efforts around the country," he said.

The Democratic Party of Hawai'i said Thursday it planned to give back a $6,000 donation made to it by a Brown supporter. A spokesman for Brown's campaign said it doesn't know the name of the donor, and the Democratic Party in Hawai'i has not released it.

The parties in Massachusetts and Maine each gave $10,000 to Brown.