0

Whitehead held 2 events at resort

WASHINGTON - Former Georgia state Sen. Jim Whitehead held not one but two campaign fundraisers at the same resort where the late Rep. Charlie Norwood's campaign simultaneously ran up a $63,000 bill more than two months after Norwood's death.

The second event - a poolside cookout with entertainment from a bluegrass band - raises new questions about the Whitehead campaign's claims that it paid its own way at the Ritz Carlton on Reynolds Plantation in Greensboro during the weekend of April 20.

Two local Republican officials who later donated time or money to Whitehead said they attended the Whitehead cookout and stayed at the hotel on Norwood's bill. One of those officials said she recognized about a half-dozen other couples who did the same thing.

The quoted price for renting the facility used for both Whitehead events is more than twice the $2,275 the Whitehead campaign reported spending at the hotel.

Campaign finance watchdogs said the spending warrants further scrutiny.

'It's incredibly fishy, and probably something illegal happened,' said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

Kent Cooper, a former assistant staff director for disclosure at the FEC who now runs a Web site monitoring campaign finance, said the circumstances suggest 'a set-up deal, with the same staff for both campaigns taking advantage of the situation.'

Whitehead, a friend of Norwood's and a fellow Republican, had emerged as the heir apparent to the late congressman. He won the endorsement of Norwood's family, hired six former Norwood staffers as campaign aides and raised far more money than his opponent, Paul Broun.

Last week, Whitehead lost to Broun, also a Republican, by fewer than 400 votes.