Matthew Hill's campaign finances questioned at state level

Gary B. Gray • Jul 18, 2014 at 8:35 AM

A generous donation to state Rep. Matthew Hill, R-7th, may be headed for review by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance Board.

An email sent to the Johnson City Press by Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe arrived replete with allegations of Hill’s wrongdoing, including breaking laws regarding campaign contribution amounts. The Press, which had all financial documents in hand, talked with Registry of Election Finance Executive Director Drew Rawlins.

Though there is no limit on the amount one political action committee can give to another, the funds are supposed to be used for certain purposes. Hill’s personal second-quarter campaign financial disclosure lists Overmountain — a Jonesborough-based PAC for which Hill is treasurer — as contributing a total of $9,995.

But Overmountain missed its July 10 filing deadline, and the state’s Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance sent Hill a “notice for failure to file,” giving him five days to turn in the group’s disclosure. Hill turned in the disclosure Thursday, avoiding penalties.

The Overmountain PAC statement revealed five individual contributions (to the PAC), each dated June 30. A sixth contribution of $12,600 from the Tennessee Education Association Fund for Children and Public Education was dated May 21.

This is what caught Rawlins’ attention about the possible rerouting of money.

“There is a $7,400 limit on one-time donations from a PAC to a candidate for a certain election,” Rawlins said. “In this case that appears to have occurred in a contribution to Hill for the primary. But the total of all contributions from Overmountain is nearly $10,000. In itself, there nothing wrong with this amount. But it appears that from the total of $13,825 reported in the Overmountain disclosure, the $9,995 may have been moved to the candidate’s personal disclosure.”

Rawlins said his staff will likely review all documents and decide whether to recommend that the full board investigate.

“I would have to say yes,” Rawlins said when asked if there seemed to be something amiss. “The board would have to look at this and see if it warrants further investigation. (Thursday) is the first day I’ve been made aware of it.”

Hill was not amused with what he said is Wolfe’s attempt to make him look bad as early voting kicks off.

“First of all, the Overmountain PAC has done nothing wrong,” Hill said. “And if the Registry finds that there is anything wrong, I assure you it will be corrected. It’s clear to me what’s going on. You have a person who sits on the Republican Executive Committee (Wolfe).

“It’s no surprise to me that someone who favors my opponent (Phil Carriger) is slinging mud. At the end of the day. Mr. Wolfe is not on the ballot against me; Mr. Carriger is.”

Follow Gary B. Gray on Twitter @ggrayjcpress. Like him on Facebook at www.facebook.com/garybgrayjcp.

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