ALBANY-- Facing claims of unethical conduct from four of the five Republican primary candidates for Congress, Donald Cole said he intends to resign from his position as chairman for the Second District Republican Party.
During an interview Tuesday with The Albany Herald, Cole said he had already announced his intentions to resign his post last week to State Party Chair Sue Everhart and several of the members of the district committee.
Republican candidate Lee Ferrell held a news conference Tuesday afternoon asking for the immediate resignation of Cole on the grounds that he "has helped another congressional candidate, Mike Keown, in the race for Congress."
According to documentation from the Federal Election Commission, Keown, a state representative from Cooolidge, has received an individual contribution of $505 from Cole and has listed Cole's consulting and compliance firm, RTT Associates, as an operating expenditure. RTT Associates has received more than $10,000 from Keown for services.
In a phone interview with The Herald, Keown said Cole's firm was assisting with campaign compliance. So far, Keown's campaign is by far the biggest fundraiser among the five announced Republican candidates, with about $250,000 in contributions.
"They (Cole's firm) take care of my filing. They file on my behalf for the FEC," he said.
Everhart said Cole's actions are legal under both state and district party rules.
"We do not like a chairman to take positions in races, but we cannot do anything about freedom of speech as long as you do not use your title or make a donation on behalf of the committee," she said.
Everhart said she was unaware that Cole's firm received payment from Keown and that Cole has resigned from the his position as chairman.
"He has resigned and is only acting as chairman while we try to find a replacement," she said.
Cole said he supports Keown because "he is the candidate who has a proven record of leadership and can beat Sanford Bishop."
In a written statement to The Herald, Cole added that he intends to resign his position as chairman to dedicate all his attention to the congressional race.
"I will do everything I can to help Mike Keown win in November," he said in his statement.
Ferrell said Cole's resignation was necessary for the benefit of the Republican Party.
"How can we defeat Congressman Bishop while the Republican Party has corruption itself?" he said during his new conference Tuesday.