CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Several financial contributions made by the campaigns of public officials to a Mingo County political action committee may have done so illegally.
The campaigns for Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick, state Sen. Art Kirkendoll, Treasurer John Perdue and state Senate candidate Mark Wills gave up to $1,000 each to the Team Mingo 2012 political action committee.
That money was given to the PAC for a variety of reasons, according to campaign filings with the secretary of state's office.
Team Mingo 2012 is an unaffiliated PAC, according to the secretary of state's website.
West Virginia code does not allow for active candidate campaigns to make donations to unaffiliated PACs.
"No, that's not legal," said Jake Glance, spokesman for Secretary of State Natalie Tennant's office.
West Virginia election law outlines 16 allowable reasons for campaign expenses.
Those purposes include rent, advertising and polling.
The only allowable expenditure that references PACs reads, "for the purchase of memorials, flowers or citations by political party executive committees or political action committees representing a political party."
"That means if it's not on the list, you can't do it," Glance said.
Team Mingo represents a Democratic faction in Mingo County, where Democrats typically duke it out without any challenge from Republicans, Prosecutor C. Michael Sparks said.
Without prompting, Sparks distributed a letter Saturday to various news organizations saying he was not a member of the Team Mingo 2012 PAC. He was a member of the Team Mingo 2012 ticket - most of whom won their primary or general elections, he said - but that's different from the PAC.
Sparks said the PAC probably contributed money to rallies in which he participated. But he did not contribute any money to the PAC, and the PAC didn't give his campaign any money directly.
"There's been a lot of negative publicity, perhaps some fair, perhaps some unfair, but I didn't want to be connected," Sparks said.
The elected officials whose campaigns made the questionable contributions are experienced, Sparks said. He thought the move was a mistake, but could be evidence of a statewide issue.
As far as the Team Mingo 2012 PAC is concerned, Sparks wanted to point out there is a difference between the PAC and the ticket. The ticket was a "political marketing concept," Sparks said.
Greg "Hootie" Smith is a Mingo County commissioner and treasurer for the Team Mingo 2012 PAC. In May 2012 he told the Daily Mail the PAC's goal was to pay advertising expenses.
Smith said Friday afternoon he was on vacation in Myrtle Beach and did not have any of the financial reports readily available. He said he remembered the PAC received contributions from Wills, Kirkendoll and Helmick. He couldn't immediately remember any contribution from Perdue, but said, "if it's on the report, that's correct."
Smith said he did not know contributions by a candidate's campaign to an unaffiliated PAC were not permitted. He later said he wasn't sure of the specifics of a rule, but thought there was something in code about contributions from campaigns that were not active.
"As treasurer for Team Mingo, I will do whatever the Secretary of State tells me needs to be done," Smith said.
Helmick's campaign gave the PAC $1,000 on April 20, 2012, according to his filings with the secretary of state's office. The report lists "advertising" as the purpose of the expense.
In an email, Glance said advertising is a legal expenditure. When asked if it was legal even if the money for advertising goes to an unaffiliated PAC, Glance responded, "We don't have all the facts right now from those involved and we are not prepared to comment any further."
Helmick, a Democrat, defeated Republican Kent Leonhardt in the November 2012 election to become Agricultural Commissioner. Attempts to contact Helmick's campaign treasurer David Hill were unsuccessful.