The Secretary of State's Office has investigated a slew of complaints in recent weeks alleging election law violations in Mingo County.
During that time, the Team Mingo 2012 political action committee has returned $3,700 to four different political campaigns it allegedly received illegally.
A Secretary of State investigation is required any time any allegation is properly filed and falls under its jurisdiction, said Office Assistant General Counsel Tim Leach.
Politicians from both sides of the Mingo County Democratic divide say they have corrected any problems and believe the allegations are a result of politically motivated Republican rabblerousing.
In late May, the Daily Mail reported the campaigns for Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick, state Sen. Art Kirkendoll, Treasurer John Perdue and state Senate candidate Mark Wills gave as much as $1,000 each in 2012 to the Team Mingo 2012 PAC.
Team Mingo 2012 is an unaffiliated PAC and therefore not officially connected to any local party, according to the Secretary of State's website.
Earlier this year, Secretary of State spokesman Jake Glance said it is not legal for an active candidate's campaign to make donations to unaffiliated PACs.
The PAC returned all the money to the Helmick, Kirkendoll, Perdue and Wills campaigns 11 days after the Daily Mail story was published, according to election filings. The PAC sent $1,000 to the Kirkendoll, Perdue and Helmick campaigns and $700 to the Wills campaign, amounts that match how much each campaign contributed to the PAC preceding the 2012 election.
"Refund advertising contribution" is listed as the purpose of the expense on the PAC filing.
Advertising is one of the 16 allowable campaign expenses under state election law. Nothing in the law states a candidate committee can contribute to an unaffiliated PAC for any reason. Other allowable expenses include paying rent, polling expenses and more.
Only the Helmick campaign listed its contribution as an advertising expense, according to election filings.
Helmick, Perdue and Kirkendoll all won their elections in 2012. Wills lost to Sen. Bill Cole, R-Mercer.
Team Mingo is the name of one Democratic faction in Mingo County. That's different from the Team Mingo 2012 PAC, county prosecutor Michael Sparks told the Daily Mail in May. He is a member of the Team Mingo 2012 ticket - as were other Democrats who prevailed in the primary in 2012 - but said he did not contribute to the PAC and the PAC didn't give his campaign money.
Mingo County Commissioner Greg "Hootie" Smith is the PAC's treasurer. In May he told the Daily Mail he did not know contributions from a candidate's campaign to an unaffiliated PAC were not allowed.
"As treasurer for Team Mingo, I will do whatever the secretary of state tells me needs to be done," Smith said at the time.
Smith did not return several messages for comment on this story.
Smith contributed $800 to the PAC the day before it sent money back to the four campaigns. Fellow Mingo County Commissioner John Mark Hubbard contributed $1,000 that day as well, as did the campaign committee of former Mingo County Delegate Steve Kominar. The Kominar contribution is listed as excess funds from the campaign committee.
The PAC would not have been able to send back the $3,700 without these contributions, according to the beginning balance listed in the filing.
State law prohibits the Secretary of State's Office from commenting on any investigation, which includes acknowledging whether there is or was an investigation, Leach said. An investigation has nothing to do with whether claims have merit, he confirmed.
Republican political operative Rob Cornelius has filed a flurry of complaints against a handful of officials in connection to donations made to political action committees. Cornelius runs a political organization called West Virginia Young Republicans.
In addition to the complaints filed against the four campaigns and PAC members, he's filed other complaints against other Mingo County Democratic politicians.
Some of those complaints include allegations against House Majority Leader Harry Keith White, Delegate Justin Marcum and Hubbard. Cornelius accuses all of the officials, or their campaigns, of misusing campaign funds.
Marcum accepted $500 from the PAC in early January, according to election filings. Cornelius argues it was it was an inappropriate donation because the PAC, as an independent expenditure organization, can't give to a candidate's committee and the committee can't accept that money.
The Team Mingo PAC filing says it gave the $500 to Marcum Jan. 2 to reimburse him for fireworks.
On Thursday Marcum said he was aware of the allegations, but said it was a "categorical error." He said the Secretary of State's Office sent him a letter that cleared him of any alleged wrongdoing.
"The Secretary of State's office told me I had one of the cleanest campaign reports (they) had ever seen," Marcum said.
The Team Mingo PAC filing also states Marcum returned the $500 to the PAC June 7, the same day the PAC returned money to the Helmick, Kirkendoll, Perdue and Wills campaigns. It was also a day after the Secretary of State's office told Cornelius it had received his complaint, according to a letter Leach sent to Cornelius.