Arkansas Democrats Request Ethics Probe Of Rep. Tom Cotton

Oct 29, 2013

Benton Smith, a campaign law and finance attorney for the Arkansas Democratic Party, speaks to reporters outside the state Capitol Tuesday.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR

The Arkansas Democratic Party is asking the Office of Congressional Ethics to investigate whether Republican Rep. Tom Cotton illegally solicited contributions for his Senate campaign during an interview inside the U.S. Capitol.

But Cotton’s campaign says conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt misspoke when he said Cotton was in the Capitol as he joined the talk show by phone on Sept. 30.

During a press conference in Little Rock Tuesday, Democratic Party campaign law and finance attorney Benton Smith alleged a violation of federal campaign law had occurred.

“Congressman Cotton repeatedly directs people to his campaign website if they want to make a donation to his campaign,” Smith said. “The host repeatedly says Congressman Cotton was calling from a specific room inside the United States Capitol, just off the floor of the House.”

Cotton's campaign responded by calling the complaint a "partisan publicity stunt" by the Democratic Party and suggested he had moved outside the Capitol by the time he went on the air with Hewitt.

But Smith maintains that the broadcast suggests otherwise.

“Congressman Cotton made no effort to correct the host about his whereabouts during the interview and when a news reporter first approached Cotton’s office with questions (afterward), his spokesman, in fact, confirmed that he began the interview from inside the United States Capitol.”

The request for an investigation was sent Tuesday and there’s no indication yet whether it will be conducted.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.