07/28/10 — Woolard: Butterfield bribed

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Woolard: Butterfield bribed

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on July 28, 2010 1:46 PM

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Ashley Woolard, the Republican candidate for the First Congressional District, is calling for incumbent Democratic Rep. G.K. Butterfield to return campaign contributions he received from Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y.

Holding a series of press conferences Tuesday, Ashley Woolard, Republican candidate for the First Congressional District, accused incumbent Democrat Rep. G.K. Butterfield of accepting "political bribes."

Woolard then asked Butterfield to either return the $4,000 in campaign contributions that he has received from the National Leadership PAC -- the political action committee of Rep. Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y. -- or step down from the House ethics committee which is investigating the former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee for illegal campaign contributions, failure to report taxable income.

"G.K. Butterfield has taken a political bribe," Woolard said. "It's legal, but it ain't right. This entire thing has the perception of a bribe. We're just asking that he do the right thing and return it."

He explained that he doesn't believe that Butterfield will be able to be a fair and impartial member of the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct as long as he is beholden to Rangel for those campaign contributions.

"Justice Butterfield would have never taken money from somebody he was about to judge, and if he did, he would have recused himself," Woolard said. "I feel like my job as the Republican nominee is to hold him accountable for his actions. People want openness in government."

Furthermore, he said refusing to give back such a small contribution shows that Butterfield no longer has the district's best interest at heart.

"The sad thing is I'm here in Goldsboro talking about this when we need to be talking about how we need jobs. Rep. Butterfield stood on the House floor not three months ago and said that the First Congressional District is the fourth poorest in the nation," Woolard said. "My response to that is, you've been there six years, what have you done to change that? Do you represent the people of the First District, or do you represent the special interests and Nancy Pelosi? The appearance of this money tells me he's working for Nancy Pelosi and the liberal elements of Congress and not the people of the First District."

However, the bulk of the contributions -- $3,000 -- were made in 2004 when Butterfield was running for his first term in the House. The other $1,000 came in 2008. Butterfield was appointed to the ethics committee in 2009.

In a written statement released by Butterfield's congressional office, he explained that "it is common for members of Congress or their leadership PAC to donate funds to assist those aspiring for a congressional seat."

In that same release, Butterfield also sought to reassure constituents that the 10-member committee, made up of equal numbers of Republicans and Democrats, would be fully and faithfully discharging its duties.

"The committee is a process of peer-review, which by definition places members in positions to judge friends and acquaintances. It would be impossible to have an ethics committee composed of members who were completely unassociated with the target of an investigation," he said. "Serving as a member of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct is a serious responsibility. For 15 years I served in the judiciary of my state at both the trial and appellate levels and have a demonstrated record of fairness and impartiality. As a judge, I presided over thousands of cases, civil and criminal, where counsel made small contributions to my judicial campaign. I did not allow the contributions to affect my impartiality, and will not allow the contribution of the National Leadership PAC to affect me in any way."

The ethics committee is scheduled to begin trial proceedings Thursday unless a plea deal is reached today. And Butterfield's spokesman Ken Willis confirmed that the congressman has no plans to return the money or step down from the committee.