Congressional candidate Weston Wamp's work status raises questions

Congressional candidate Weston Wamp's work status raises questions

July 16th, 2014 by Louie Brogdon in Local Regional News

Weston Wamp talks directly to U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., during a one-on-one debate inside the WTCI television studio in Chattanooga.

Photo by Tim Barber/Times Free Press.

If 3rd District congressional candidate Weston Wamp has been on paid leave from Lamp Post Group - as a founding partner said early this month - he could find himself in an election finance nightmare.

Money that he was paid for times he wasn't working could be counted as a campaign contribution, said Larry Noble, a lawyer for Campaign Legal Center and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission.

"When you are a doing a job that is a regular job that has defined duties, and you aren't doing it, it's a campaign contribution," Noble said.

"It could also even be an illegal contribution," he said, because corporations can't make political donations to candidates.

But another partner at the business incubator said Tuesday the company doesn't offer paid leave, and that his colleague misspoke. He said Wamp is working remotely.

Wamp is challenging U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann in the Aug. 7 Republican primary. The winner will face Democratic candidate Mary Headrick in November.

FEC rules say a candidate's normal salary or wages are considered personal funds and aren't directly tied to the campaign.

"However, compensation paid to a candidate in excess of actual hours worked is generally considered a contribution from the employer," according to FEC rules. If a complaint was filed and found valid, he could have to repay the money.

On July 3, after announcing a $300,000 personal contribution to the Character Counts PAC to help Wamp's campaign, Lamp Post founder Allan Davis said Wamp had been on paid leave since he hit the campaign trail in January. And when asked Tuesday, Davis again said Wamp was on paid leave.

But Jack Studer, also a Lamp Post partner, said Davis was mistaken.

"We don't have a paid leave status -- he's not in it. If there is one, I want to get in. It sounds like a pretty sweet deal," Studer said. "Allan is obviously one of our founders and does great work here, but he's not a detail guy."

Studer said Wamp has been working for the company, just not at the office or during traditional work hours.

As communication director, Wamp works with startup companies aided by Lamp Post Group and helps them with marketing. He also coaches them on talking to the press, Studer said.

"He continues to work with other companies who need him. But he's working more remotely. His schedule has obviously flexed a lot to make up for that workload," Studer said. "If he doesn't need to sleep and can run a campaign at the same time, more power to him."

Wamp, who was campaigning in Campbell County on Tuesday, also said he's been hard at work.

"For the six-and-a-half months I've been campaigning, I've been active at Lamp Post. I've been working remotely, I've been in and out of the office," Wamp said. "Obviously, while I've been campaigning I've been out a bit. But I think he misspoke."

Wamp said Davis is not as involved in the day-to-day operations and was probably not aware Wamp was working on the road.

Wamp and Davis are prohibited from interacting, since Davis has donated to a political action committee to help Wamp get elected.

Studer said Lamp Post has been careful about that.

"Obviously when Allan told us he was going to be doing the Character Counts thing ... we also needed to put some walls up between he and Weston," Studer said.

Neither Wamp nor Fleischmann had filed second-quarter federal campaign finance by press time Tuesday. The filing deadline was 11:59 p.m. Tuesday.

Contact staff writer Louie Brogdon at lbrogdon@timesfreepress.com or at 423-757-6481.