DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Two days after winning a hotly contested race to become Dallas mayor, Mike Rawlings’s campaign wrote large checks to two companies that are now under FBI and IRS scrutiny, CBS 11 News has learned.
Rawlings is not implicated in the probe. But he acknowledges that his campaign’s connections to the companies, and the people who run them, may send the wrong message.
“Any time there’s a smudge on it like this it’s difficult,” he said. “But I can’t worry about that, I’ve got to focus on what the city needs.”
His latest campaign financial reports, obtained by CBS 11 News, show that the Rawlings’ camp paid $15,000 in consulting fees to Kathy Nealey and Associates, one of the individuals involved in the FBI probe related to Dallas County Comissioner John Wiley Price.
On the same day, June 20, the campaign paid $9,200 to the MMS company for printing and distributing campaign literature on voters’ door knobs.
“I think that’s a fair amount,” Rawlings said of the fees paid to Nealey and MMS.
Exactly a week later, the FBI executed search warrants on Nealey, a close political ally of Commissioner John Wiley Price, and on Dapheny Fain, owner of MMS, located in a DeSoto shopping center.
Fain is also on the Dallas County payroll as the top assistant to Price. Federal agents searched all their homes and offices as part of their corruption probe.
According to the mayor, “It’s sad we’ve had to deal with this issue.”
The financial reports obtained by CBS 11 News also show that Rawlings’s campaign paid a total of $20,000 in the week leading up to the June 18t runoff election for what was described as phone banks and walk programs.
In all, the new mayor’s campaign paid Nealy’s business more than $300,000 in the general and runoff elections.
“But that’s a lot of money to spend, that’s a lot of money to spend in any race, but certainly in a runoff,” said veteran political consultant John Weekley.
He says while the numbers are large, they’re not suspiciously out of line. He’s more concerned that campaign money went to Fain’s business, since she’s a county worker.
“It doesn’t necessarily pass the ‘sniff’ test when you look at that kind of money paid to a county employee,” he said.
Weekley says the relationship may be strictly legal but it appears too cozy.
Late Wednesday a spokesperson for Rawlings said until recently Rawlings was unaware that MMS’s owner was associated with John Wiley Price.
Rawlings adds the money his campaign paid went to Nealey’s business, not to her personally. No one is accused of any wrongdoing.