Mike Scanlon, a former House Republican aide now under Senate investigation for allegedly charging excessive fees to American Indian tribes, gave $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association in late 2002, according to a new campaign finance report.
The contribution from the former spokesman to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) made him the top contributor to the Republican Governors Association during the 2001-02 election cycle, when 36 of 50 state governors were up for re-election.
But the two checks from Scanlon — plus hundreds of others sent by other donors in the months before the November election — were not disclosed until last week, when the GOP organization began updating its campaign-finance reports for the past year and a half.
The new report includes 693 previously unreported donations totaling more than $4 million, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.com, the money-in-politics watchdog that first discovered the amended financial statement from the GOP organization.
RGA spokesman Harvey Valentine said that the association has been conducting an internal audit into its fundraising reports since mid-2002, when it spun off from the Republican National Committee.
“It was a time of transition and it sounds like we might have been overwhelmed,” said Valentine, who blamed the errors on “growing pains.”
The RGA noticed a problem in its reports last fall and began an audit in January. So far, the RGA has filed corrected reports for 2002. It hopes to file updated reports for all of 2003 by the end of the month.
“We became aware of it in the fall and it’s just about done, but not quite,” Valentine said.
Valentine said that the RGA told the IRS about the errors in its financial reports once “we got a grip on it.”
Newly disclosed contributions in the updated reports include $300,000 from the United Brotherhood of Carpenters; $150,000 from Alfa Mutual Insurance; and $100,000 apiece from AT&T and the Corrections Corporation of America, according to PoliticalMoneyLine.
The RGA’s newly issued reports also recategorized the way it listed several donations that were received in 2002.
For example, a $150,000 donation from Mitch Delk, a former Freddie Mac lobbyist, is now listed as a contribution from the company. Likewise, the $100,000 contribution from lobbyist Tim McKone has been updated to show that it came from McKone’s firm, SBC Communications.
The two $250,000 checks from Scanlon came on Oct. 17 and Oct. 22, 2002, from his political consulting firm, Capitol Campaign Strategies.
Together, the $500,000 from Scanlon made the 31-year-old one of the most generous individuals ever to make a contribution to the RGA.
In an interview with Roll Call, Scanlon said 2002 “was a big year across the country and I wanted to ensure that Republicans coast to coast were victorious.”
He added: “The best way to do that was make a contribution to the RGA. If there is as big an election year for Republican governors in the future, I’ll give again.”
Scanlon and Jack Abramoff, a prominent GOP lobbyist, are under Senate investigation for billing $45 million in fees from several American Indian tribes during the last three years.
After word of the unusually large contracts leaked out, Abramoff was pushed out of his firm, Greenberg Traurig, and has since landed a position with Cassidy & Associates.
The RGA said it has no plans to return the $500,000 to Scanlon.
“I believe the money has been spent,” Valentine said.
Abramoff, one of the top fundraisers for President Bush, has not made any political contributions since he became the focus of a Senate investigation by Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Last year, Abramoff and his wife contributed $75,000 to Congressional Republicans, more than nearly all other lobbyists on K Street.
In mid-February, DeLay’s political action committee returned a $5,000 check from Abramoff.
Five days later, The Washington Post reported that Abramoff and Scanlon had received $45 million from the Indian tribes over the last three years.
Meanwhile, Abramoff’s old firm, Greenberg Traurig, has given money this year to several Senators who will have influence over the Senate’s investigation.
In March, the Miami-based firm gave $1,000 donations to Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.), as well as three members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee: Sens. Kent Conrad (D-N.D.), Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii).