Virginia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Henry E. Howell has received almost $30,000 in contributions through 14 illegal campaign committees and has failed to disclose properly more than $17,000 in other contributions, his opponent's campaign manager charged today.
Paul Goldman, Howell's manager, immediately disputed the charge made by Walter A. Marston, Andrew P. Miller's campaign manager, and contended that the 14 committees comply with Virginia law.
In answer to the charges of improper disclosure, Goldman said that through an "oversight" the Howell campaign had failed to list the addresses and principal occupations of seven contributors of more than $500 each, as required by law. The total contribution from the seven, Marston said, was $9,775.
However, Goldman denied the Marston charge that the Howell campaign violated the law by failing to estimate the value of certain contributions of services.
Goldman said a lawyer for the Howell campaign, Rick Brahm, considers the services to be in a category of contributions that must be listed but not valued. Marston contended that they included such contributions as use of airplanes that he said clearly must be valued. He estimated the worth of the contributions in question at $8,038.
Marston made his charges at a press conference that was another in a series of bitter exchanges between the Howell and Miller campaigns that have taken place since each filed required contributions and spending reports earlier this month.
Miller's report showed that through May 10 he had collected about $699,000 in contributions, about one-third of the total from two special interest groups, trucking firms and executives and coal mine operators.
Howell immediately criticized Miller's record primary campaign expenditures of more than $700,000 as lavish. He reported receiving about $270,000 in contributions and $81,000 in loans through May 10, about one-third from coal operators and labor unions.
Resentment among Miller workers of Howell's criticism of their campaign spending was reflected by the fact that nine members of the Miller staff attended today's press conference.
Two Howell staff members also attended - to relay the charges to Goldman at Howell headquarters in Norfolk.
Marston said Howell's 14 committees, created in addition to the main Howell for Governor Committee, violate both the letter and the spirit of a 1975 revision of the state's campaign disclosure laws. These revisions, he said, were intended to end the confusion that resulted from a prolifieration or reporting committees by requiring each candidate to have a single committee, a single treasurer and only one bank account for the campaign.
He said it would require a "tortured interpretation of state election laws" well committees are "bona fide independent committees." The law provides for such committees only to permit persons operating completely independently of the candidate to make political contributions, he said.
Goldman insisted that the local autonomy of the committees qualifies them for separate reporting. "It is a matter of interpretation," he said. "Marston is a lawyer. I'm a lawyer. We disagree."
Marston said that even if the Goldman interpretation is legally sound, the local committees failed to meet the deadline for registering with the State Board of Elections after they were organized.
Goldman said that charge "may be true," but added, "These are good, honest, local people trying to abide by a complex law. They are not Philadelphia lawyers. We are talking about filing organizational papers, not disclosure of contributions and spending. We have made full disclosure."