WASHINGTON — While dozens of House Democrats have been returning donations from scandal-tainted Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., Rep. Jim Matheson is not giving back the $45,000 that Rangel gave him through the years.
"The money donated during past campaign cycles has been spent," so Matheson has "no further plans" for it, said Alyson Heyrend, Matheson's press secretary.
However, Matheson had reported $860,000 left in his campaign bank account after his last race in 2008 and reported $1.24 million in that account at the end of 2009.
Once specific donations are put into such general accounts, it is difficult to say that only certain donations had been spent unless all the money disappears. Matheson has always had some money left in his accounts after his races, and recently has had large amounts remaining.
Rangel stepped down earlier this month as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee after being admonished for breaking House rules by accepting corporate-financed travel.
He still faces inquiries by the House ethics committee over late payment of income taxes on a rental villa he owns in the Dominican Republic, his use of House stationery to solicit corporate donations to an educational institution that bears his name and belated disclosure of hundreds of thousands of dollars in previously unlisted wealth.
Amid that, the National Republican Congressional Committee waged an aggressive campaign calling for House Democrats who had ever received money from Rangel to return it. According to a National Journal story this week, 36 of the 76 current members who have accepted Rangel money either returned some or all of it or gave it to charity.
It said $503,000 had been returned so far by members choosing to distance themselves from the controversial Rangel, even though no allegations have been made that the money he raised and donated to other members was itself in any way tainted.
Still, Ken Spain, NRCC communications director, said in a press release last week, "While his Democrat colleagues are coughing up Charlie Rangel's dirty donations in droves, Jim Matheson's refusal to give up his $45,000 is a slap in the face to the Utah families who voted him into office."
Spain added, "Matheson has no problem associating himself with Rangel's notorious ethical problems" and said that "proves that Matheson is willing to turn a blind eye to the corruption problem that is running rampant through the ranks of Washington Democrats."
Matheson received money from Rangel's campaign or his National Leadership PAC in five previous races since he first ran for Congress in 2000 but none for his current 2010 race.
Matheson received $14,000 from Rangel's committees for his 2008 race, $7,000 for 2006, $9,000 for 2004, $8,000 for 2002 and $7,000 for 2000.
This story was reported from Salt Lake City.