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Two state representatives settle contribution complaints with Arkansas Ethics Commission

by Michael R. Wickline | September 18, 2023 at 9:20 a.m.
State Reps. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, and Tony Furman, R-Benton are shown in this combined photo.

State Reps. Mary Bentley, R-Perryville, and Tony Furman, R-Benton, have settled ethics complaints with the Arkansas Ethics Commission about their acceptance of contributions from the Saline County County Republican Women group. 

The commission has issued each representative a public letter of caution. Bentley represents House District 54, and Furman represents House District 82. 

Commission Director Graham Sloan said in Sept. 13 letters to both representatives that they were sent letters on Aug. 3 which contained copies of the complaints filed against them. 

The September letters noted that the commission had received the consent order Bentley signed on Aug. 24 and the consent order Furman signed on Aug. 29. In those orders, the two agreed with the commission's findings that they violated Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-203 (a) (1) (B) as candidates for their house districts during the 2022 election cycle. Both further agreed in the orders that their violation was accepting a contribution from a contributor not found on the list of permissible contributors. 

"… we note that the final action concerning this matter was an issuance of a Public Letter of Caution,” Sloan said in his letters to Bentley and Furman. 

The impermissable contributions were $300 apiece, from the Saline County Republican Women, the representatives said on Monday. They also said the contributions had been returned to the group.

In July, the Arkansas Ethics Commission dismissed a complaint against the Saline County Republican Women that accused the group of failing to comply with state registration and reporting requirements.

The commission voted 4-0 to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that, while Saline County Republican Women made contributions to five candidates, it didn’t accept the money “for the purpose of making contributions to candidates” and therefore wasn’t required to register and report as a political action committee, the commission said in a letter announcing the decision. Commissioner John Pitts was not present for the vote.

At that time, the commission also found that, although Saline County Republican Women was not included in the list of permissible contributors found in Arkansas Code Annotated 7-6-203, liability for its contributions does not fall on the organization. Instead, liability falls on candidates who accept impermissible contributions.


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