Congressional Candidate Accused of Funneling Cash from Non-Profit to Campaign
Congressional candidate Chris Nwasike, one of three Republicans attempting to unseat Congresswoman Corrine Brown this year, tells voters that he is the right person to take his district in a new direction.
Prior to launching his Congressional campaign in April, Nwasike was the driving force behind a March event called Keep God in America, a rally organized under the umbrella of a 501(c)(3) non-profit. Tens of thousands of dollars were raised to help put on the event, with the largest single contribution coming as a $5,000 donation from W.W. Gay Mechanical Contractors.
Other prominent leaders and organizations gave financially or lent their names to Keep God in America, including First Coast Tea Party organizers Billie Tucker and Carole McManus, Jacksonville City Councilman Clay Yarborough and several talk or Christian music radio stations. The rally’s website even features video interviews and endorsements from Congresswoman Michele Bachmann of Minnesota and Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia.
However, The Jacksonville Observer has learned that several of Nwasike’s former partners from Keep God in America are now raising questions over how some of the money donated to the rally was spent. The Observer has obtained documents showing that the rally’s treasurer, Jay Fields, was also acting as the Nwasike campaign’s treasurer until recently.
Acting on instructions from Nwasike, Fields issued a $2,000 check to his wife, Jorgine, for “services rendered” on April 28, 2010. That same day, Jay Fields also made a $2,000 contribution to the Nwasike campaign.
Nwasike’s campaign consultant, Bert Ralston, charges that the checks are not related and that no wrongdoing has occurred.
“This is nothing but a political smear job by people that are supporting one of Chris Nwasike’s opponents in the primary,” said Ralston. “The people spreading these lies are doing so because they were denied funds from Keep God in America to advertise on their now defunct radio show.”
Nwasike’s partners in Keep God in America, Jerod Powers and Raymond Johnson, previously hosted a weekly radio program on ABC 1320 WBOB.
“Furthermore, Chris did not sign any checks,” Ralston adds. “He did not have the authority to do so.”
Powers and Johnson refute the notion that they are motivated by sour grapes over an advertising arrangement gone bad.
“Initially we did send him [Nwasike] a proposal for advertising,” said Powers. “When he responded that there wasn’t sufficient money in the budget for it, we still had him on the program several times as a guest, we had every speaker at the event on as a guest, and we also provided significant amounts of advertising for W.W. Gay. Ultimately, we gave the event thousands of dollars worth of advertising for free.”
In addition to the $2,000 check, several hundred dollars from the Keep God in America account were also used to pay business expenses for Jay Fields, who is a handyman. The charges were made to Lowe’s, Ace Hardware, Sherwin Williams, Wal-Mart and other retail outlets.
Keep God in America funds were used for this purpose because Fields was experiencing financial hardship and Nwasike authorized him to dip into the account to cover his personal bills. Though it is not immediately clear how much of that money has been repaid to Keep God in America, the fact that Fields was in such dire financial straits calls the legitimacy of his $2,000 campaign contribution into serious question.
Making matters worse, at the time the $2,000 check was given to Jorgine Fields, Keep God in America was still carrying several thousand dollars in unpaid bills.
When pressed to explain why the contribution was returned to Fields after questions were raised by the media, Ralston responds that the whole matter “had become a distraction to the campaign. It was in the best interests of the campaign, for Mr. Fields and all involved to move on.”
Ralston maintains that Fields was intended to serve only as a temporary treasurer for the campaign, and that his replacement by Marcus Brooks had nothing to do with the questionable movement of money from Keep God in America.
The $2,000 contribution was returned to Fields on June 30 and he was replaced as Treasurer on July 5, more than two months after the campaign account was originally opened.
Nwasike was formerly employed by Wachovia, but left that position to run full-time as a candidate for U.S. Congress in April. He was founder of the now defunct Duval County Young Republicans and was appointed by Mayor Peyton to the Northwest Jacksonville Economic Development Fund's Board of Directors. Nwasike is currently serving as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the entity, which is responsible for watching over the use of millions of dollars in public funds to provide capital for project development in some of Jacksonville's poorest neighborhoods.