CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Although a Mingo County political action committee accepted "improper contributions," it did not violate any state law.
That's because state law doesn't prohibit a PAC from receiving donations that were illegal for a contributor to make, according to a letter sent to the committee by an attorney with the Secretary of State's office.
"Except for four specifically identified circumstances, West Virginia Code does not make it a violation for a PAC to receive money, which may have been improperly donated," wrote Tim Leach, an attorney for the Secretary of State's Office, in a letter.
"None of the four specific prohibitions apply to Team Mingo 2012," Leach stated later in the letter.
Leach sent the letter, dated Aug. 28, to Greg "Hootie" Smith, a Mingo County commissioner and treasurer of the Team Mingo 2012 PAC. Unprompted, Smith provided the Daily Mail with a copy of the letter. He declined further comment.
While Leach said the PAC committed no violations and the office was dismissing the complaint against the PAC, he wrote, "we are troubled" that no state law or regulation covers these particular circumstances.
"Although the Code does not specifically address receipt of a prohibited contribution, it is difficult to conclude that the recipient should be allowed to benefit from a prohibited contribution," Leach wrote.
"Federal regulation apparently covers this and requires repayment once the prohibited status is brought to the attention of the recipient."
Leach said the office plans to study the federal model and potentially "clarify" state regulations or laws with an amendment. It is up to the Legislature to add any circumstances where a PAC could not receive money, Leach wrote.
Leach described the four specific circumstances where state law prohibits a PAC from accepting a donation:
n The donation can't be anonymous.
n It can't be more than $50 if it's in cash.
n It can't come from another PAC.
n A PAC cannot receive more than $1,000 from the same contributor during an election period.
A PAC that only makes independent expenditures can receive more than $1,000 from the same contributor, Leach said, citing a ruling from a federal judge for the southern district of West Virginia.
The Secretary of State's office has investigated the PAC and contributions it received from the campaigns of Agriculture Commissioner Walt Helmick, Treasurer John Perdue, state Sen. Art Kirkendoll and state Senate candidate Mark Wills. All are Democrats.