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Danny Tarkanian accused of making illegal campaign contribution

Updated February 5, 2018 - 2:33 pm

Danny Tarkanian made an “illegal corporate contribution” from a nonprofit he runs to his 2012 congressional campaign, according to a complaint filed the Federal Elections Commission.

The complaint follows a report from KLAS-TV that detailed how $40,000 went from Tarkanian’s charity basketball organization to his campaign during his 2012 bid for Nevada’s 4th Congressional District. The FEC complaint was filed by Collier Azare, who is a campaign co-chair for Dean Heller, who Tarkanian is challenging in this year’s GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

In an interview with the Review-Journal Monday, Tarkanian said he needed the $40,000 to pay for outstanding campaign expenses after he had won the primary nomination.

Tarkanian said JAMD LLC owed him more than $400,000 from previous loans. But the company did not have the $40,000 and borrowed it from Tarkanian’s basketball nonprofit to repay Tarkanian.

“I needed $40,000 to pay the expenses of my campaign. So it went from the nonprofit to the company, and then the JAMD company repaid me,” Tarkanian said.

KLAS-TV reported that on June 28, 2012, the Tarkanian Basketball Academy transferred $40,000 to JAMD LLC, a company which lists Tarkanian as the member according to records filed with the Nevada Secretary of State. The same day, JAMD LLC transferred $40,000 to Tarkanian’s personal account.

On June 29, 2012, $40,000 was transferred from Tarkanian’s personal account to his congressional campaign as a personal loan, FEC filings show.

It is illegal for a 501(c)3 nonprofit or limited liability company to transfer money to a congressional campaign, but its not illegal or uncommon for candidates to loan their own campaigns money.

On July 11, 2012, Tarkanian’s campaign transferred $53,755 back to his personal account.

The next day, Tarkanian transferred about $400,000, including the $53,755, to a bank as part of a payment for the mortgage so that he wouldn’t lose his house, Tarkanian said. The house, he said, shared a backyard walkway with the home of his father, legendary former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, and allowed him easy access to care for his father as his health deteriorated. Jerry Tarkanian died in February 2015 at age 84.

JAMD repaid the loan to the nonprofit with interest, Tarkanian said. Tarkanian said in 2014 bankruptcy court proceedings that the $40,000 loan from the charity eventually ended up in “the congressional campaign account,” according to the FEC complaint which cited court transcripts.

In his statement, Tarkanian said that he loaned the charity $2 million to start it and keep it running and that he was proud of the work the nonprofit has done, and accused Mitch McConnell, the U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and “swampers” of spreading “fake news.”

“This is exactly what Mitch McConnell’s Super PAC and the establishment did to Rand Paul and Ted Cruz,” Tarkanian said in the statement. “They take millions of dollars from special interest groups and use it to lie about good conservatives who want to drain the Swamp.”

Contact Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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