A campaign-finance investigation launched into alleged “straw-man” donations by the father of U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins of Kansas continues amid filing of a new compliant regarding possible voter fraud by the congressman for listing a false home address on voting documents.
The news outlet Politico first reported the Federal Election Commission inquiry into whether Steve Watkins Sr., a Topeka physician, broke the law by giving cash to other people so they could donate to Watkins’ successful campaign for Congress in 2018.
Meanwhile, the advocacy group Americans for Public Trust requested the Office of Congressional Ethics review evidence Watkins violated the law by incorrectly claiming his home address was a UPS store when registering to vote and then casting a ballot in Topeka. The independent, non-partisan entity reviews allegations of misconduct against House members.
The Shawnee County District Attorney’s office is conducting an investigation into the voting registration issue.
Steve Watkins Sr. attracted scrutiny in 2018 by dropping more than $750,000 into a political action committee beneficial to his son.
In terms of the FEC complaint, the congressman’s father told Politico he gave money to his daughters, a construction contractor and the contractor’s wife to be passed along to his son’s campaign. These straw-man donations were illegal, but Steve Watkins Sr. said he was initially aware such third-party contributions were banned.
He said he self-reported to the FEC and the congressman’s campaign refunded $21,600 to Dennis and Katheryn Sumner and to Sumner Construction Co. The campaign reimbursed Diane Watkins, an attorney in Kansas City, Mo., $2,700.
In December, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Rep. Watkins signed a Kansas voter registration form and two other election documents declaring his address to be a UPS outlet. He also voted in a Topeka City Council race in November.
Caitlin Sutherland, executive director of Americans for Public Trust, filed the complaint Thursday with the Office of Congressional Ethics. She said Watkins"has been entrusted to uphold the law and act in a way that ensures and maintains confidence in the institution of the House.“