State Reps. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, and Tony Furman, R-Benton, have settled ethics complaints with the Arkansas Ethics Commission about their acceptance of contributions from the Saline County Republican Women group, and the commission has issued each representative a public letter of caution.
Commission Director Graham Sloan said in a letter dated Sept. 13 to Bentley that the commission sent her a letter Aug. 3 containing a copy of the complaint filed against her, and the commission is in receipt of a consent order that she signed Aug. 24 in which she agreed with a finding by the commission that she violated Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-203 (a) (1) (B) as a candidate for House District 54 during the 2022 election cycle by accepting a contribution from a contributor not found on the list of permissible contributors.
" ... We note that the final action concerning this matter was an issuance of a Public Letter of Caution," Sloan said in his letter to Bentley.
Bentley said Monday the impermissible contribution was $300 from the Saline County Republican Women and that she has returned the contribution to the group.
Sloan said in a letter dated Sept. 13 to Furman that the commission sent him a certified letter Aug. 3 with a copy containing the complaint filed against him, and the commission is in receipt of the consent order he signed Aug. 29 in which he agreed with a finding by the commission that he violated Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-203 (a) (1) (B) as a candidate for House District 82 during the 2022 election cycle by accepting a contribution from a contributor not found on the list of permissible contributors.
"... We note that the final action concerning this matter was the issuance of a Public Letter of Caution," Sloan said.
Furman said Monday the impermissible contribution was $300 from the Saline County Republican Women and that he has returned the contribution to the group.
In July, the Arkansas Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against the Saline County Republican Women that accused the group of failing to comply with state registration and reporting requirements.
The commission voted 4-0 to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that while Saline County Republican Women made contributions to five candidates, it didn't accept the money "for the purpose of making contributions to candidates" and therefore wasn't required to register and report as a political action committee, the commission said in a letter announcing the decision. Commissioner John Pitts was not present for the vote.
At that time, the commission also found that although Saline County Republican Women was not included in the list of permissible contributors found in Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-203, liability for its contributions does not fall on the organization. Instead, liability falls on candidates who accept impermissible contributions.
The Arkansas Ethics Commission's investigation began after Chris Simpson filed a citizen complaint, alleging that Saline County Republican Women was acting as a political action committee without adequately registering and reporting its status with the Arkansas secretary of state's office.
In July, Sloan said the organization didn't fit into any of the five categories of permissible contributors to candidates: individual, political party, county political party committee, legislative caucus committee or approved PAC.
"If you're not on the list when making a contribution, there's no liability for making the contribution," Sloan said. "It's on the candidate for accepting it."
The commission's letter in July didn't name the candidates who received contributions from the organization. At that time, Sloan said the Ethics Commission has the power to initiate a complaint when investigations turn up actions that are not permissible, but he declined to comment on whether the commission had opened any investigations into the candidates who accepted the impermissible contributions, saying state law prevented him from doing so.