LITTLE ROCK, AR (KAIT) - An incumbent state Senator has submitted an amended campaign finance report in light of questions and a possible ethics investigation involving an August 2016 report with the Secretary of State's office.
Sen. David Burnett, D-Osceola, told Region 8 News that he will return $2,750 in contributions in light of errors found in the report.
"Please accept this amended report for the August 2016 reporting cycle," Burnett wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mark Martin. "We have returned check to small business that we inadvertently posted as contributions and wish to correct the previous report."
In the letter, Burnett said the following contributions would be returned:
* B and S Partnership - $1,000.
* Gammill Farms - $300.
* Red Barn Gardens - $50.
* Larry's Auto Sales - $100.
* Ramey Farms - $300.
* Armorel Planting - $500.
* Land & Timber Resources - $500.
When asked about the report, Burnett said nothing illegal was intended in accepting the contributions.
"They were innocent mistakes," Burnett said. "We have always been 100% transparent. If there is a mistake, it will be corrected."
Burnett said he is in the process of reviewing other campaign finance reports to see if there are other similar instances.
As for the possible investigation, Burnett said he has not been notified by the Arkansas Ethics Commission about the issue. According to state law, state ethics officials are prohibited from confirming or denying the existence of any investigation; and must keep all possible pending matters confidential.
However, a case does become public record once an investigation is completed, officials have said.
As for the contributions, Burnett said several were from farm related businesses and that state law creates an undue burden on farm businesses.
Burnett said most of the farmers in his district will use their farm accounts to pay bills and that using the accounts to make political contributions is more convenient.
Burnett is being challenged by Rep. Dave Wallace, R-Leachville in the Nov. 8 general election. The race is being closely watched by both parties this election season.
According to Burnett's amended report, he reported receiving $14,275 in contributions while spending $18,188.81. Overall, Burnett has received $72,030 in contributions while spending $42,973.21.
Major contributions to Burnett's campaign in August included $2,700 from NUCOR PAC, $1,500 from the Mississippi County Democratic Central Committee and $200 from Sen. Bruce Maloch, D-Magnolia and his wife, Martha.
During August, Wallace reported raising $3,400 in contributions and spending $21,399.75.
Major contributions to Wallace's campaign in August were $1,000 each from the Republican Party of Baxter County and the Saline County Republican Committee, $300 from the Craighead County Republican Party and $200 from the Republican Party of Crawford County.
So far, Wallace has also loaned his campaign $122,227.95.
However, as of Sept. 15, Wallace also had a nearly three to one cash advantage. Wallace had $91,940.27 while Burnett had $31,946.29.
Updated at 5:22 p.m., Sept. 28:
Earlier Wednesday, Burnett called the ethics investigation politically motivated just weeks before the election.
"I think it is political. (Billie Sue Hoggard, who has said she has filed the complaint) is a Republican operative and I think she saw a chance to take a whack at me," Burnett said.
Hoggard, who also serves as chairman of the the Craighead County Republican Committee, said in a statement that Burnett should have known better in dealing with the reports.
"David Burnett's campaign finance reports show a clear violation of state law. He accepted illegal donations from businesses and failed to report the occupation and employers of his contributors. As a longtime lawmaker, Burnett should be familiar with Arkansas law concerning his campaign finances," Hoggard said. "He is a lawyer and Judge, no excuse for his carelessness. He should know the law and how to fill out simple campaign reports."
As for the statement from Burnett about Hoggard being a "Republican operative", Hoggard said the issue transcends politics.
"I am not a political operative. I am an Arkansan and disappointed that a State Senator thinks he does not have to follow the law," Hoggard said.
Copyright 2016 KAIT. All rights reserved.