Anonymous complaint alleges misuse of nonprofit's resources by GOP Senate candidate

10/03/2014 05:22 PM

An anonymous complaint has been filed against a Republican state Senate candidate, accusing him of using the nonprofit he runs to promote his campaign.

Danny Carroll, president and CEO of Easter Seals West Kentucky in Paducah, is running against Democrat Jeff Parker for the 2nd Senate District seat vacated by independent Bob Leeper, who is vying to become McCracken County’s next judge-executive. The complaint, filed Sept. 26, alleges that Carroll has pulled the nonprofit that helps disabled and special needs clients into the forefront of his bid for the General Assembly, against the group’s charter.

The anonymous complaint, obtained by Pure Politics this week, has been forwarded to the Kentucky State Board of Elections, the Internal Revenue Service and the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission, which does not accept anonymous complaints.

Key issues in the complaint include use of the organization’s resources to make political phone calls, send fundraising emails and obtaining a database for Marshall County Republicans; filming a television ad at Easter Seals’ Paducah facility; and paying Carroll his regular salary, $63,289 in 2013 according to the organization’s tax records, while he campaigned for public office. In a complaint referral form to the IRS, the anonymous complainant checked a box citing fear of retaliation or retribution if his or her identity was exposed.

“Now maybe the Carroll campaign had this all cleared prior to the campaign but when you look at the activity as compared to the enclosed guidelines it sure seems as forbidden political activity was conducted by both Easter Seals and the Carroll campaign,” the complainant wrote.

The 30-second TV spot in question can be viewed here:

The complainant also included guidelines from Bolder Advocacy, an initiative of the Alliance for Justice, for 501c(3) employees seeking public office, that state candidates should take time off or a leave of absence if campaign activities interfere with work hours and avoid using nonprofit resources in election activities.

Carroll, reached by Pure Politics Friday, declined to discuss the complaint, calling it “a political move.”

“I’m not even going to acknowledge that,” he said. “I’m just not going to add any fuel to that fire. There’s nothing there. I just really at this point don’t want to comment on it.”

When some raised questions on Carroll’s campaign Facebook page about the use of Easter Seals as a backdrop in his TV ad, Carroll said:

Matthew Schultz, a Paducah attorney and Democratic member of the McCracken County Board of Elections, said Carroll’s alleged activities with Easter Seals may have violated campaign finance laws. He said the local elections board received the complaint, and he forwarded it on to the state board, the IRS and the state ethics commission.

Paducah’s Democratic executive committee received the complaint, who then forwarded it to Schultz, he told Pure Politics in a phone interview.

“I think there might be campaign finance violations of which I am unaware simply because I’m a new member to the board of elections and I haven’t studied all of the campaign finance laws, but yeah, I do think that he is probably violating Internal Revenue Service regulations on campaign finance and nonprofits,” Schultz said.

“And that’s why I think Easter Seals would have the most to lose in this because they could have their nonprofit status revoked if this is not taken care of or made an issue.”

Kevin Wheatley

Kevin Wheatley is a reporter for Pure Politics. He joined cn|2 in September 2014 after five years at The State Journal in Frankfort, where he covered Kentucky government and politics. You can reach him at kevin.wheatley@charter.com or 502-792-1135 and follow him on Twitter at @KWheatley_cn2.

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