FIRST ON FOX – A non-partisan ethics watchdog has filed a formal complaint against a House Democrat running for re-election, calling for the Federal Election Commission (FEC) to investigate potentially “illegal” contributions from a controversial marijuana dispensary chain.
The Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust (FACT) submitted the complaint on Monday, alleging that Rep. Andrea Salinas’, D-Ore., 2022 campaign and her joint fundraising committee each accepted a donation from La Mota, Oregon’s second-largest cannabis dispensary, that “appears to be an illegal prohibited contribution,” or an “inadequately disclosed contribution.”
But a source with knowledge of the transactions is pushing back on the complaint, telling Fox News Digital that there was actually only one donation, that it was “improperly reported” due to a “data entry error,” and that it was ultimately donated in full to a non-profit once negative news reports about La Mota began to surface.
According to the complaint, Salinas’ campaign committee, Andrea Salinas for Oregon, and her joint fundraising committee, Salinas Victory Fund, both reported $1,000 contributions from La Mota in Aug. 2022, ahead of the November general election. It added that neither included the person within the Limited Liability Company (LLC) responsible for the donation, as required by federal law.
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Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Ore., speaks during House Minority Whip Katherine Clarks news conference with freshman women of the 118th Congress at the House Democrats 2023 Issues Conference in Baltimore, Md., on Thursday, March 2, 2023. (Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)
However, the source with knowledge of the transactions told Fox News Digital that there was actually only one contribution of $1,000, not two, and that it was given to the Salinas Victory Fund, which in turn transferred it to the campaign on the same day — the typical flow of campaign cash donated to joint-fundraising committees.
Concerning the identity of the contributor, the complaint noted that an LLC can either be treated as a corporation, and therefore be prohibited from making contributions, or as a partnership that can make contributions so long as the contributions are attributed to “partners,” and subject to the federal individual contribution limit.
“An LLC is treated as a corporation if it has publicly traded shares or has chosen to file as a corporation under Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules, and is generally prohibited from making political contributions,” the complaint said. “An LLC is treated as a partnership if it has chosen to file as a partnership or has made no choice as to whether it is a corporation or partnership under IRS rules.”
It added that an LLC must notify the recipient that it’s eligible to make the contribution, and who within the LLC the contribution comes from on its FEC filings, which Salinas’ organization did not do in the case of La Mota.
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“Evidence that the Salinas campaign committee and her joint fundraising committee either accepted an illegal contribution from an LLC or improperly reported funds from ‘La Mota’ are provided from their own FEC filings, which clearly do not inform the public as to the true source of the funds,” FACT Executive Director Kendra Arnold said in a statement.
“What makes this case even more troublesome is the suspected contributor’s involvement in significant political scandals and numerous legal issues — with which the campaign obviously would not want to be publicly associated. We urge the FEC to investigate and impose the proper penalties to deter future violations,” she added.
Arnold’s mention of La Mota’s past “scandals” and “issues,” referred to multiple civil lawsuits, federal investigations, and federal tax liens the company has faced, including a controversy involving former Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, a Democrat, who resigned last year after it was discovered she was working as a consultant for La Mota during the same time her office conducted an audit on the cannabis industry.
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Rep. Andrea Salinas, D-Ore., is facing a complaint from a non-partisan watchdog group over potentially “illegal” campaign donations from a marijuana dispensary chain. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)
The source pushing back on the complaint told Fox News Digital that the transactions occurred eight months before any negative reporting concerning La Mota came to light, and that once it did, the $1,000 was then donated to the Marion Polk Food Share in Salem, Oregon, since the Salinas Victory Fund had already been approved for termination by the FEC in early 2023 and the contribution couldn’t be returned. Fox News Digital verified the donation to the non-profit.
Fox News Digital has reached out to Salinas’ campaign for comment.
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Salinas was first elected in 2022, and is running for re-election in Oregon’s 6th Congressional District. She currently faces no challengers in the Democrat primary.
Elections analysts rate the race as “lean” or “likely” Democrat.
Get the latest updates from the 2024 campaign trail, exclusive interviews and more at our Fox News Digital election hub.