A spokeswoman for a political action committee headed by potential 2016 presidential candidate Jim Webb released a statement on Tuesday responding to a Business Insider story that raised questions about nearly $US100,000 in payments the committee made to Webb’s family.
“This story as written misrepresents reasonable compensation for real and provable work done. Adding up numbers across several years for a sensational headline doesn’t tell the story. We’re happy to be fully transparent on this for journalists interested in the whole story,” Ashleigh Owens said.
However, this statement did not identify a single factually inaccurate element of the story. It also did not address several of the major questions raised about the committee, which was supposedly established to support “candidates and entities” who advocate economic fairness, “reorienting our national security posture,” and developing greater accountability in government.
Despite Owen’s claim Webb’s team is willing to be “fully transparent” about this issue, they repeatedly declined to communicate with Business Insider about these issues.
Business Insider first reached out to Owens about this story before it was published on Tuesday. She asked us to provide a list of specific questions. Owens never answered those questions or any subsequent emails. Neither Webb, a former Virginia senator, or his staff responded to requests to discuss their statement on Wednesday.
Owens’ statement went on to defend the payments the committee made to Webb’s daughter, Amy, and his wife, Hong Le Webb. Campaign finance reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show they were paid about $US91,000 from 2009 through Nov. 24, 2014.
“Amy Webb has been involved in the administration, management and design of Jim Webb’s websites for many years, including the management of JamesWebb.com since 2001,” Owens said. “She has provided the same services to the Born Fighting PAC since 2009, including the handling of FEC compliance matters since 2013.”
The statement did not address the fact the story pointed out the committee paid Amy Webb was paid $US1,000 for “website services” in 2013 even though archived versions of the Born Fighting PAC site showed it was not updated at all during this period apart from a two-sentence note thanking donors for their “past support.”
Owens’ statement also did not address the fact the committee continued to take donations from 2011 through 2014 even though it made no contributions to any other entity whatsoever during this period.
The statement claimed Hong Le Webb was paid “for her activities relating to various aspects of multiple website designs from the period February through September 2014, including vetting design consultants, negotiating contracts and content management.” The records show she received $US13,800 for overseeing the redesign of the committee’s relatively simple site. At the same time, the firm that executed the design seems to have been paid less. It received $US10,000.
Owens’ statement also did not address a separate issue raised by the Business Insider story.
In addition to the money paid to Webb’s family, the records show the committee only used about 20% of the money it spent to support its stated mission of contributing to political candidates and groups. The PAC spent over four times as much as it took in after receiving nearly $US1 million in donations.
The fact so little of the donor money taken in by Webb’s PAC went to its stated purpose was entirely ignored in Owens’ statement.