Party-switching Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.) on Tuesday cut a $7,000 check to a local veterans memorial foundation in an effort to distance himself from campaign donations he received from scandal-tinged Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.).
The National Republican Congressional Committee has called on Democratic Members to return Rangel’s past contributions to their campaigns amid the ethics investigations that led the New York Congressman to step down as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. But Griffith’s financial connection to Rangel wasn’t brought to light until local press asked the Congressman about two donations from Rangel — which came during the 2008 cycle, when Griffith was a Democrat — at a fundraiser that House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) held for the Alabama Congressman on Monday.
Griffith spokeswoman Heather Johnson said Tuesday evening that after the $2,000 donation from Rangel and $5,000 donation from Rangel’s political action committee were brought to Griffith’s attention, the Congressman decided to cut the check to the Madison County Veterans Memorial Foundation.
According to a report from WAFF News in Alabama on Monday, Boehner appeared to indicate that he would leave it up to Griffith whether to return the money.
But a Boehner aide clarified the Minority Leader’s stance on the issue on Tuesday.
“Contrary to the report, Boehner agrees with the NRCC position, and it’s our understanding Mr. Griffith has given the Rangel money to charity — an action which is also consistent with the NRCC position.” the aide said.
The move by Griffith to donate the amount of the 2008 donations from Rangel appears to be an exception to a policy the Congressman announced earlier this year when he was being asked by Democratic donors to return contributions they had made to his 2008 campaign in the wake of his December party switch.
While Griffith has returned donations made to his 2010 campaign, he released a statement in mid-January saying that he would be unable to return donations made to his 2008 campaign.
“While I understand your feelings regarding my recent decision to join the Republican Conference, we are unable to refund any contributions from the previous campaign cycle. Our records indicate that your contribution was made toward my 2008 campaign debt, and those funds were spent during that election contest,” Griffith said in the statement.
Johnson explained that the Rangel donations are being treated differently because they represent an ethical issue.
“This is not a party-switch issue and because it is an ethical issue we’re more than happy to refund those contributions,” she said.