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Democratic chair in state fined over contributions

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Election Commission has fined Alabama Democratic Party Chairman Joe Turnham and his father $50,000 for fundraising violations stemming from Turnham's 2002 congressional campaign.

In a settlement announced Tuesday, the commission ruled that Turnham's father, Pete Turnham, who was the candidate's treasurer, made illegal contributions or loan guarantees to the campaign totaling $166,502 in 2002 and 2003. At the time, the law capped individual's contributions at $1,000 per election.

Turnham, 47, called the fine "excessive" and said he agreed to it only because fighting it in court would have been more expensive.

"Everything we've done has been in the light of day and fully recorded, and we just disagree with the FEC, but we'll settle it and move on," said Turnham, who lives next door to his father in Auburn. "The FEC rules are very complicated and they can also be very subjective."

Turnham maintained that he was being punished over personal financial issues "between a father and a son." He said he alone was repaying a $90,502 loan that his father co-signed to cover campaign debt. The FEC has classified the loan as an illegal contribution.

He also acknowledged receiving separate smaller loans from his father but said they were to cover personal expenses.

The FEC ruled otherwise. The commission, for example, said that in January 2002, Pete Turnham loaned his son $42,000 using a personal check that was deposited in the candidate's personal bank account. On the same day, the candidate wrote a check for the same amount from his personal account to his campaign committee.

The commission also found $9,000 in additional excessive contributions from several individuals and a trust.

The findings arose from a routine audit of Turnham's campaign finance reports.

Joe Turnham, Pete Turnham, 83, and the campaign committee have agreed to pay the civil penalty.

Turnham's 2002 race was his second unsuccessful bid for Congress. He lost to 3rd District Republican Mike Rogers of Saks.

He said Tuesday he has no plans to run for office again "in the near-term."

"But I'm never going to say never," he said.

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On the Net: www.fec.gov

Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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