Investigating Allegations of “Dark Money” in Bentonville Mayoral Race


BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — With each individual campaign for your local elections, candidates gather funds for various expenses, including advertising and supplies. 

While the race for mayor is a non-partisan, local election, at least one candidate has received tens of thousands of dollars from an out-of-state organization, leading his opponents to feel out-matched. 

Alex Caprariello examined the expenditure reports for this special investigation, which dives into the money behind the Bentonville Mayor’s race. 

I sat down in an exclusive interview with mayoral candidate, Stephanie Orman. She says one of her opponents is benefiting from an unfair advantage, and that’s ultimately deceiving the voters. 

“I think Super PAC Influence and big money influence in local races is wrong and I’ll be the one fighting that whatever happens,” Orman said. 

Orman says spending in the race has been lopsided. 

She says a national PAC, or political action committee, has raised major campaign funds for her opponent, Jim Webb. 

That raises a specific question from Orman. 

“Why do they have such an interest in a local mayoral race?” Orman questioned. 

Several different mailers, all paid for by the Republican State Leadership Committee, have made their way into the homes of people in Benton County. Reports show the RSLC, based in Washington, D.C., has spent over $41,000 toward Webb’s campaign in the election. 

“It’s demeaning to the process, its demeaning to the voters and it’s also not transparent to the voters,” Orman said. 

When I spoke to Webb yesterday about his campaign, he mentioned his support at the local level. I looked over his campaign contribution report, it shows donations totaling over $48,000. 

“I’ve raised a lot of money. From car lot owners, small business owners, just blue collar families, white collar families,” Webb said. “They want to see somebody in there that is going to steer this town straight, be a good rudder and keep this town on course.” 

What he left out was the money from the PAC. 

Today, I asked him about the additional $41,000 from the SLRC. He refused to go on camera but released a statement that reads, in part, “while I do not know the Republican State Leadership Committee, I am happy to have been identified by a group that supports Republican leaders at the state and local level.” 

I combed through all the campaign contribution and expenditure reports of each of the mayoral candidates. This is how they stack up when it comes to candidate funding: 

Charlie turner and Terry Shannon did not report any monetary contributions. 

Stephanie Orman and John Skaggs both hover just above the $10,000 mark. 

Jim Webb, raised over $48,000 at the local level. When you pair that with the nearly $42,000 from the Republican State Leadership Committee, that totals just over $90,000. 

The Republican State Leadership Committee released its own statement in support of Jim Webb, saying, in part, “Jim Webb is a rising star in the Republican Party as a reliable conservative that Bentonville can count on to hold the line on taxes, grow jobs and address key quality of life issues like traffic and education.” 

“Any insinuation that the Republican State Leadership Committee is ‘dark money’ is grossly ill-informed, and factually wrong.”

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