PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Rhode Island Republican Party has filed a complaint with federal election officials, accusing R.I. House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney of accepting an illegal campaign loan during his failed attempt to run for Congress.
The state GOP filed the complaint Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission, flagging a $50,000 loan that Newport resident John Brooks provided to the Abney campaign on May 1. Brooks also gave Abney a $3,300 donation the same day.
Abney’s campaign-finance report shows Brooks loaned the $50,000 to the campaign at a 6.5% interest rate, and that the loan was unsecured.
The loan helped Abney, a Newport Democrat, keep his campaign account in the black, although he failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot for the Sept. 5 primary election.
But the GOP argued the loan violated federal campaign-finance limits because a loan to a campaign from an individual — as opposed to from a bank or other financial institution — is considered an individual contribution and therefore capped at $3,300 per year.
Rhode Island GOP Chairman Joe Powers issued a statement calling on House Speaker Joe Shekarchi to ask Abney to step down as chairman of the powerful Finance Committee.
Abney has not responded to requests for comment, but Brooks told Target 12 on Tuesday that the lawmaker would pay back the money this week and refile his paperwork to correct the mistake.
“He realized it was incorrect and went out to friends and family and is paying it back,” Brooks said, adding that he’s known Abney personally for years. “It was all unintentional and in good faith he’s making sure it’s corrected.”
Brooks also said they had discussed the issue with FEC officials and were told to refile the corrected paperwork, saying he didn’t expect it to become an issue. The loan was first reported by The Providence Journal.
According to the FEC website, the commission reviews every filed complaint. If it determines any violation, “possible outcomes can range from a letter reiterating compliance obligations to the conciliation agreement, which may include a monetary civil penalty.”
“All FEC enforcement matters are kept confidential until they are resolved,” according to the website.
As of June 30, Abney had nearly $14,800 cash on hand in his federal campaign account, according to campaign finance records.
Abney fell 42 signatures short of the 500 required to make the ballot in the congressional primary to replace former Congressman David Cicilline, who resigned earlier this year to lead the Rhode Island Foundation.
There are 12 Democrats vying for the nomination in the Sept. 5 primary.
Ted Nesi contributed to this report.