Questions continue to linger over the source of a great deal of money that Frank Guinta revealed in a July financial disclosure statement. Guinta is the Republican candidate in the first congressional district. The size of the account is noteworthy - at least a quarter of a million dollars. NHPR’s Jon Greenberg has tried to track the source of that money and he has this report on what he has found.
*Reporting assistance provide by Propublica
Note: This story was republished from NHPR's old website in order to restore audio and video link access. It was originally published on October 12, 2010.
Get into the details. Follow the money and the documents yourself by clicking the PLAY arrow on the slideshow below.
Briefly, by June of this year, Frank Guinta had loaned his campaign 245 thousand dollars. His run for the GOP nomination was challenged by a well-heeled businessman who was able to pour hundreds of thousands of dollars into HIS campaign.
A reporter noted Guinta’s personal donation and about ten days later, Guinta amended his financial disclosure statement. The big change was the appearance of an account at the Bank of America worth between a quarter and half a million dollars.
Guinta explained that the disclosure rules are convoluted, but that once he saw his mistake he fixed it. Above all, he said, the money was his.
GUINTA: Prior to my service in public life, I’ve been in real estate development. I’ve been in insurance consulting where I’ve been fortunate enough to make some money. I’ve been in the workforce for twenty years.
During the primary, Guinta’s Republican opponents were not satisfied with that reply. Rich Ashooh.
ASHOOH: The controversy surrounds the source of his funds.
BESTANI: I think if he could produce the one bank statement that would show that these funds were in there, that that would resolve it.
And Sean Mahoney.
MAHONEY: I think more and more people who look at that issue and start to really peel back the layers of the onion, get more and more concerned, the more they look at it.
In a display of solidarity, Ashooh and Mahoney now co-chair Guinta’s campaign, but we took Mahoney’s advice and tried to peel back the layers of the onion. When asked about the money, Guinta speaks about two lines of work.
GUINTA: I’ve been in real estate development.
Since 2001, Guinta has owned four residential properties in Manchester. He was able to buy low and sell high. When he sold one property, most of the gain went into the next house. We estimate, on terms favorable to Guinta, that after all was said and done, he might have made about 43 thousand dollars from these transactions.
One property has three apartments. Based on interviews with real estate agents, over the past five years, that building might have produced net rental income of 52 thousand dollars, for a grand total of $95,000 dollars from real estate.
That’s a fair bit of money but it is well short of a quarter of a million dollars – the size of the account he revealed in July.
Guinta’s other line of work is harder to pin down.
GUINTA: I’ve been in insurance consulting where I’ve been fortunate enough to make some money.
In the mid-1990’s, soon after college, Guinta worked as a Claims Manager. The average salary in that field today is about 40,000 dollars. Then he had two stints as an insurance consultant. One before he went back to school and one afterwards. He left that last consulting job to become a staffer to Representative Jeb Bradley for about 55,000 dollars. On the face of it, it is not obvious that this work experience would generate the hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings Guinta would need to substantiate his claim.
Republicans, at least on the record, are now silent about Guinta’s finances but the Democrats have taken up the cry. State party Executive Director Mike Brunelle thinks Guinta’s explanations are less than robust.
BRUNELE: I don’t think any middle class family in the state of New Hampshire, in the first congressional district, could even fathom being able to come up with that money, based on that salary.
Democrats have filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission.
It is not impossible that Guinta made this money himself. We simply do not have enough information to know and he has yet to produce a bank statement to confirm his claims. But some Republicans think the money could have come from his parents.
Four months before Guinta announced his candidacy, they sold a second home on the Jersey shore for $820,000. They could have given a large part of that to their son as a gift. Paul Ryan, Associate Counsel at the Campaign Legal Center in Washington, says in terms of campaign finance law, that gift would present no problem if, and this is a big IF, if it was given with no intent of helping Guinta win the election. Emotional ties don’t matter.
RYAN: The fact that it was an act of love has nothing to do with it. The test is, if the money was given for the purpose of influencing a federal election, then it is a contribution under federal law and it is subject to limits.
No reporter has asked Guinta if his parents are the source of his money. We tried but didn’t get far.
JG: Did your parents gift you a great deal of money?
GUINTA: I’m going to focus on the issues of economy, and jobs, and moving this country forward.
JG: Did your parents gift you a great deal of money?[pause] I didn’t hear an answer.
GUINTA: I’ve already addressed the matter that you’re trying to talk about.
JG: And you’re not answering the question yes or no.[pause]
Once when he was answering questions about his money, Guinta said , I don’t wear my financial success on my sleeve. It’s unbecoming.” Guinta might be a modest man. Or he might be a man of more modest means, means that fell short of the money he needed for his campaign.