Guinta disputes federal finding of illegal campaign cash

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta illegally accepted more than $300,000 in campaign donations from his parents in 2009 and 2010, the Federal Election Commission has concluded after a nearly five-year investigation.

Questions over Guinta's finances arose in 2010, the year the Republican former mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire, was first elected to Congress. He was defeated by Democrat Carol Shea-Porter in 2012 but reclaimed the seat in November.

During his first campaign, Guinta reported lending himself $355,000 and amended a disclosure form to add a previously unreported bank account worth up to $500,000. Both his rivals in the Republican primary and Shea-Porter questioned how he could have saved that much given that his chief income for most of the previous decade was his mayoral salary and called on him to show records proving the account's earlier existence.

Over the years, Guinta flatly denied the money came from his parents or that it was an illegal campaign donation. Instead, he said he and his wife saved it working in the private sector before he was elected mayor in 2005.

"I'm proud of the fact that we were both successful," Guinta said during a debate. "I'm standing on principle. I don't think it's necessary to actually open up my bank statements to every single person, and if you don't like that answer, that is your prerogative."

But in an agreement reached last week, the FEC concluded that the money came from his parents' bank accounts. It found that Guinta received nine checks signed by his mother and one signed by his father totaling $381,000 in 2009 and 2010 and that he used money from his parents' accounts to make the campaign loans.

Guinta, who must repay the money plus a $15,000 fine, maintains that the money was part of a family fund and that he agreed to the settlement to "end the distractions."

"In 2010, I loaned my campaign money; and, in the course of navigating the bureaucracy of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) as a first time candidate, I made an inadvertent error on the financial disclosure form. When brought to my attention, I voluntarily amended this form which led to the issue that has now been resolved. I have long had an equitable interest in this account which was set up with my family; and, for nearly two decades, have made deposits — which including interest — exceed the amount I loaned the campaign," he said in a statement Wednesday.

The agreement, first reported by WMUR-TV, ends an investigation requested by the New Hampshire Democratic Party a month after the 2010 election. Party Chairman Ray Buckley said Guinta not only violated campaign finance laws but deliberately violated the public's trust.

"This is truly conduct unbefitting of a United States Congressman," he said.

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