Lexington businessman Joe Palumbo raised $145,837 last year during a four-month run for the Democratic nomination for Congress. The Federal Election Commission would like to know where the money went, although Palumbo said Wednesday that he has returned it to his donors.
The FEC has sent Palumbo two warning letters — most recently on May 2 — for failing to file his mandatory campaign-finance reports since he abruptly dropped out of the primary race in November. As of his most recent report, on Oct. 15, Palumbo was an active candidate with $108,826 cash on hand.
"The failure to timely file a complete report may result in civil money penalties, an audit or legal enforcement action," FEC assistant staff director Deborah Chacona wrote to Palumbo three weeks ago. "The civil money penalty calculation for late reports does not include a grace period and begins on the day following the due date for the report."
In a phone interview Wednesday, Palumbo blamed a misunderstanding between him and his campaign treasurer, Keith Buckhout. Palumbo said he assumed that his campaign's final paperwork was properly handled, but that evidently was not the case.
"I'm trying to get to the bottom of it," Palumbo said. "Keith has spoken to the FEC; I have not. I don't have all of the information."
Regardless, he said, "I returned all of the money to anyone who contributed to me, and I have the bank statements saying as much. Any losses I covered myself."
Buckhout could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Several of Palumbo's donors confirmed Wednesday that they got refunds after he withdrew.
"I remember being surprised and thankful," said Bill Cegelka, a lawyer and at-large candidate for the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council, who gave Palumbo $1,000.
Palumbo, son of longtime state Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, sought the 6th Congressional District's Democratic nomination that went Tuesday to Elisabeth Jensen of Lexington. Jensen will face U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, R-Lexington, in the Nov. 4 election.
Palumbo cited family and business responsibilities as his reasons for ending his campaign.