CONCORD, N.H. – U.S. Rep. Frank Guinta said Monday he'll remain in office despite calls from fellow Republicans that he resign after the Federal Election Commission found he broke the law by accepting campaign donations from his parents.
In 2010, Guinta reported lending himself $355,000 and amended a disclosure form to add a previously unreported bank account, prompting questions from his Republican primary rivals and Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter, whom he defeated.
Over the years, Guinta, who lost to Shea-Porter in 2012 but reclaimed the seat in November, flatly denied the money came from his parents or was an illegal campaign donation. But the FEC said the opposite in a recent agreement and ordered Guinta to re-pay the money plus a $15,000 fine.
In a letter posted Sunday on his campaign website, Guinta, 44, insisted the money was his because he contributed to his parents' account over 40 years. He apologized to constituents but maintained his only error was not properly reporting the money.
The explanation didn't satisfy the state's other high-ranking Republicans. U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte said Monday if she were in Guinta's position she'd resign.
"I think he needs to fully explain his actions. This is a matter of public trust," Ayotte said. "The FEC finding of violations is not consistent with how he's framing this."
Republican state Senate President Chuck Morse and House Speaker Shawn Jasper said Guinta should resign, and the head of the state Republican Party, Jennifer Horn, called the situation "serious and extremely troubling." She has asked Guinta or his staff to discuss the issue at Monday night's meeting of the state GOP's Executive Committee.
U.S. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., when asked if Guinta should resign, said he hadn't talked to Guinta and didn't know enough about the case to comment.
Ayotte faces re-election next year in a competitive state, and Guinta could become a drag on the GOP ticket. In response to Ayotte's comments, Guinta said he understood her disappointment with the issue, saying, "I share in that frustration."
He added, "I will continue to meet with, listen to and serve Granite Staters of the 1st Congressional District."
Several Democrats also have called on Guinta to step down, while the House GOP campaign organization remained neutral Monday.
"Frank Guinta works hard for the people of New Hampshire, and we know this is a difficult time for him and his family," National Republican Congressional Committee spokeswoman Katie Martin said. "We are continuing to evaluate this very complex situation."
Guinta had said he and his wife saved the money working in the private sector before he was elected mayor of Manchester in 2005. But in an agreement made public last week, the FEC concluded the money came from his parents' bank accounts. According to the commission, Guinta received 10 checks signed by his parents totaling $381,000 in 2009 and 2010 and used money from his parents' accounts to make the campaign loans.
Guinta said on his website that through appreciation, interest, investments and more he was responsible for funds exceeding the amount he loaned the 2010 campaign.
"Did my parents issue checks? Yes. ... Was it their money? No. Documents prove the funds were mine," he said. "I understand and share with you the frustration of this process, and I am sorry for my error that caused it."
Guinta also said he has shown documents to several media outlets to prove he added more money to the account than he received in donations. According to WMUR-TV, those documents show he deposited $100,000 into the account.
In editorials, the Eagle-Tribune and New Hampshire Union Leader called on Guinta to resign. The Eagle-Tribune said, "It is reasonable to conclude that the people of New Hampshire's 1st Congressional District are being represented by a fraud and a cheat." Monday's Union Leader piece followed up on a more blunt statement Friday. In its entirety, it read: "Frank Guinta is a damned liar."