Former aide raises questions about where Rasoul is getting money
Story by Chris Graham
Rick Howell remembers asking Sam Rasoul about his campaign fund-raising efforts last summer when he worked for the Sixth District Democratic Party congressional nomination candidate as his campaign manager.
And he remembers that he didn’t like the answer that he was given.
“I felt that Sam was rather vague with me about where the campaign funds were coming from. I felt that it was certainly unprofessional at the least for a political candidate to say to his campaign manager, Well, I’m not going to show you anything, but you just go on the FEC website and look it up yourself,” said Howell, who is now the treasurer for Rasoul’s nomination-race opponent, Drew Richardson.
“He mentioned something about going to Richmond and Northern Virginia raising money, and he also said something about taking a lot of trips out of state. And that kind of worried me at the time,” Howell said in an interview for today’s “Augusta Free Press Show” in which he discussed a controversial e-mail that he sent to members of the Western Virginia news media this week to bring attention to the sources of the Rasoul campaign’s money.
According to the e-mail, more than 58 percent of the money that Rasoul has raised from donors whose names have been included in the campaign’s financial-activity reports with the Federal Election Commission have come from out-of-state sources.
More damning in Howell’s eyes is that when contributions are Rasoul’s family members are accounted for, just 1.9 percent of the rest of the money that the Rasoul campaign has raised has come from other donors inside the Sixth District.
“In any campaign at the federal level, I think you’d expect some funds to come from outside the district – some. And I think you could expect to see some come from outside the state. But when you look at what he’s raised – the seventy-five thousand and whatever odd dollars are that are disclosed contributions, and of course that means contributions of $200 or more – so much of that, it’s like, 58 percent, comes from out of state. And I think it does raise questions about who are these people, and why are they supporting him, and what kind of agenda do they have, and how in any way, and if in any way, will he be beholden to them,” Howell said.
“It’s one thing to get a little bit of your money from out of state. It’s another to get more than half, well more than half, of what you disclosed and what you had to disclose from out of state. And I think it raises questions, and I think before Democrats nominate him, they ought to give this some serious consideration,” Howell said.
We made contact with Rasoul to try to give him an opportunity to address the charges from Howell on today’s “Augusta Free Press Show,” but he declined the offer.
Rasoul did appear the address the general issue of campaigning tactics in a column that was published today on our website.
“I believe it important for me to stay steadfast in my convictions to deliver a positive vision that sees an America 50 years from now with a generation that can promise a prosperous future for their children,” Rasoul wrote in the column, entitled “The importance of positive campaigning.”
“This American spirit is why we love our country so much, and though the temptation of negativism that pervades our political arena will sometimes whisper in my ear, I will not, and must not, allow that darkness to pull me in the wrong direction,” Rasoul wrote.
“While others will most surely use negative tactics against me now and in the future, I owe it to the citizens of our great Republic to remain a carrier of truth, an explorer of knowledge, and a champion for justice,” Rasoul wrote.
As far as Howell is concerned, it’s not negative campaigning to point out what some might see as a major flaw in a political rival’s campaign.
“There’s nothing personal here. It’s nothing like that. I think it was something that had to be pointed out in the interest of, How do Democrats pick the best nominee for Congress?” Howell said. “You know, after 10 years, we’re finally going to have a Democratic candidate. And I think everybody’s excited to have someone to carry that party banner. But I want to make sure – this is my interest in this – I want to make sure that we pick the best person. And with all due respect to Sam, with a little better judgment on his part, he would have realized that raising so much money from out of state would certainly raise these kinds of questions.
“Politics is not holding hands and lighting candles all the time. It’s not. It’s tough. It can be a tough game. And if Sam wants to play at this level, this is the way it’s played,” Howell said.
Chris Graham is the executive editor of The Augusta Free Press.