PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — House Finance Committee Chairman Marvin Abney acknowledged Saturday night he wasn’t allowed to take a $50,000 loan made to his aborted congressional campaign, but emphasized he hadn’t intended to violate the law.
“Unfortunately I misinterpreted the FEC rules around personal loans,” Abney told 12 News in a statement, referring to the Federal Election Commission. “I have repaid the loan with interest and will file the appropriate information with the FEC.”
He continued, “I apologize to my constituents, friends, and colleagues and want them to know that I did not intend to violate their trust.”
The Newport Democrat, who holds one of the General Assembly’s most influential positions, had announced plans to run in the primary to replace former Congressman David Cicilline but failed to submit enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.
On May 1, while in the process of setting up his campaign, Abney took out an unsecured loan from Newport resident John Brooks for $50,000 at 6.5% interest. Brooks also gave Abney a $3,300 donation the same day.
Under FEC rules, a loan to a campaign from an individual — as opposed to a bank or other financial institution — is considered an individual contribution and therefore capped at $3,300 per year.
Abney faced questions about the loan as soon as he reported it when he submitted his July campaign-finance report, and the R.I. Republican Party quickly filed a formal complaint with the FEC accusing him of violating federal law.
GOP Chairman Joe Powers also called on House Speaker Joe Shekarchi to have Abney step down as Finance Committee chairman due to the loan.
“It is strange how House speakers repeatedly appoint persons to the House Finance Committee who have trouble managing money,” Powers said in a statement, linking Abney with the scandal-tarred former lawmakers Ray Gallison, Ken Marshall and Carlos Tobon.
Abney, 73, was first elected to the House in 2012. He has led the powerful finance panel since May 2016, when then-Speaker Nick Mattiello appointed him to replace Gallison, who had resigned amid an investigation that eventually sent him to prison.
Ted Nesi (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a Target 12 investigative reporter and 12 News politics/business editor. He co-hosts Newsmakers and writes Nesi’s Notes on Saturdays. Connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.
Eli Sherman contributed to this report.