The Arkansas News Bureau recently obtained documents showing checks written on Hutchinson’s 2010 campaign totaling $2,700 were deposited into the personal bank account of Julie McGee in November and December of 2010. Hutchinson was involved in an extramarital affair with McGee at the time.
The payments were not reported on any of Hutchinson’s campaign finance reports, nor was McGee listed as a paid worker for the campaign.
When shown photocopies of the checks on Friday, Hutchinson said the signatures on the checks were forged. McGee said the checks were authentic and that Hutchinson gave her the money for living expenses, writing the checks on his campaign account so his wife would not learn of the affair.
Later Friday, Hutchinson discussed the matter with Graham Sloan, executive director of the Ethics Commission, who advised him to file a complaint against himself, according to Hutchinson.
Hutchinson said Tuesday he planned to file corrected versions of his financial reports indicating that the payments to McGee occurred and that they were made without his knowledge or permission.
He said he did not plan to report McGee as a paid campaign worker. He said she worked during the campaign as a volunteer and was paid only for work she did after the election, which involved cleaning out
Hutchinson’s campaign headquarters and picking up signs, and that he paid her from personal funds, not campaign funds, and therefore he believed he did not have to report the payments.
State law prohibits a candidate from taking campaign money as personal income or using it for an expense not related to the campaign.
Sloan said Tuesday he could not discuss individual cases, but he said that if the Ethics Commission finds any ethics laws have been violated it can issue a public letter of caution, warning or reprimand and/or impose a fine of up to $5,000 per violation.
Asked what the commission would do if it found evidence of forgery, Sloan said that would be out of its jurisdiction, but it can make recommendations to prosecutors.
“If a body fell out of a closet, we could refer that to the prosecutor,” he said.
Sloan also was asked if reporting requirements would apply to a person who does work for a campaign only after the election and is paid from the candidate’s personal funds.
He said the payment would have to be reported, but it might be permissible to list it as an in-kind contribution rather than a payment to a paid campaign worker. The law makes “no distinction” as to whether the work is done before or after the election, he said.