Staten Island District Attorney Daniel Donovan, now a GOP candidate for Congress, made no apologies for accepting money from House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s political action committee—even though the Louisiana Republican attracted controversy after revelations that he had spoken at a conference of a group founded by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke.
Campaign filings uploaded on the Federal Elections Commission website on Friday show Mr. Donovan’s campaign for the congressional seat covering Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn took $5,000—the maximum amount allowed—from Mr. Scalise’s leadership PAC, Eye of the Tiger. Mr. Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, drew fire last year when a blogger in his home state uncovered evidence that he had spoken at a New Orleans gathering of Mr. Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO, in 2002.
Mr. Donovan proclaimed ignorance of his campaign’s finances, but indicated he had no issues with accepting Mr. Scalise’s money.
“I don’t know who actually donated to my, I haven’t looked at my donations. If we took $5,000, I suspect that’s because he supports me,” he said
Mr. Donovan refused to say whether Mr. Scalise’s speaking engagement disturbed him, or commit to supporting him as majority whip, a role the Louisiana representative ascended to last year.
“I’ve only met the man once down there and spoke with him for a short period of time. So when I get down there, I’ll meet all the candidates who are running for leadership,” he said.
Lawmakers typically have supporters donate to their leadership PACs, which are little-regulated, and use the money to donate to their peers in order to build support for their bids for coveted top slots in the legislature. Mr. Donovan also took $5,000 from Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan’s Prosperity Action, Inc. PAC and House Speaker John Boehner’s Freedom Project PAC, among many others.
EURO, the group Mr. Scalise spoke to, depicts itself as a “white civil rights” organization promoting welfare reform, an end to affirmative action and controls on immigration. Anti-racism organizations like the Southern Poverty Law Center view it as a hate group, and its website has published pro-Nazi editorials. The New York Times reported that Mr. Scalise told his colleagues he had not been aware of EURO’s racist views when he spoke at the conference.
Mr. Duke, a lifelong proponent of anti-black and anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, attracted national attention and controversy for his unsuccessful 1991 bid as the Republican candidate for governor of Louisiana.
The mild-mannered Mr. Donovan himself became a national figure of controversy after a grand jury he impaneled decided not to indict the white police officer involved in the homicide of black Staten Islander Eric Garner. The decision spurred days of massive street protests last year.
Some Republicans have voiced concerns that Mr. Donovan’s candidacy and Mr. Scalise’s prominent position could obstruct their party’s efforts to attract black voters.