FEC cites Blackburn for illegal transaction between committees

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn received an illegal political contribution from a political action committee she created.

Federal Election Commission officials say Wedge PAC exceeded the $2,100 legal contribution limit with a $5,000 payment to Blackburn's campaign committee on Dec. 30.

Wedge PAC, created by Blackburn and whose previous treasurer was her son-in-law Paul J. Ketchel III, in February requested repayment of the $2,900 over the limit.

FEC campaign finance analyst Ryan J. Lanz wrote in a filing that the agency "may take further legal action regarding the excessive contributions," but would take into account Wedge PAC's request for repayment.

Ketchel has been replaced as PAC treasure by George Johnson of Brentwood, according to documents filed last month with the FEC.

The illegal contribution comes after The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported in February that Blackburn paid a firm owned by Ketchel more than $123,000 from her congressional campaign and political action committee accounts, records show.

The payments reported are not improper or uncommon, campaign finance experts said.

The money went to Political Concepts LLC, a home-based business in Nashville founded by Ketchel.

Political Concepts received $46,935 for campaign work leading up to Blackburn's 2004 re-election, when she didn't have an opponent in the primary or general elections. It has so far received $76,100 in the current cycle leading up to this year's election in November, where she faces opposition from Democrat and teacher Bill Morrison of Shelby County.

Since 2004, Political Concepts LLC has received regular payments through Dec. 31 totaling $65,678 from Marsha Blackburn for Congress Inc. for political consulting, administration and fundraising, salaries and overhead. It has gotten $10,422 from Wedge PAC, a political action committee Blackburn created last year.

Blackburn's campaign committee also paid $9,497 to her daughter and son-in-law for travel reimbursement, computer equipment and other expenses.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)