Rep. Knight refuses to reject campaign cash from tainted veterans group

Congressman Steve Knight

Congressman Steve Knight refuses to distance himself from campaign contributions linked to a charity for veterans under investigation for ripping off and deceiving donors.

Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) refuses to return campaign cash from Put Vets First! PAC, a controversial political action committee (PAC) tied to a deceptive charity. Several other politicians say they will either return the money or donate it to charity, but not Knight.

Put Vets First! PAC is affiliated with the Center for American Homeless Veterans, a charity under investigation for “misleading donors to believe funds would be used for veterans-assistance programs and organizations, when funds were not used for those purposes.”

According to the Center for Public Integrity, “the Center for American Homeless Veterans and two sister organizations run by the same man — retired Army Maj. Brian Arthur Hampton — together have raised millions of dollars from donors across the country, but very little of the money goes to veterans themselves.” In 2015, the Center for American Homeless Veterans raised $2.5 million, and only gave out $200 in grants. Most of the money raised went to pay telemarketers.

Hampton also runs Put Vets First! PAC out of the same office. The PAC donated $1,000 to Knight’s campaign, money it seems that Knight will keep despite the brewing scandal, which has led to investigations in both New York and Virginia.

Lindsey Stover, a Democratic candidate running in Virginia, decided to donate the money to a local nonprofit that helps people who have lost a loved one in the military. Stover, who previously worked at the Department of Veterans Affairs, “takes advocacy for veterans extremely seriously, ” said campaign manager Emma Brown.

Taking a markedly different approach, the Knight campaign refused to give a direct answer about the contribution, claiming cryptically that “the money is not earmarked.”

Knight has struggled in the fundraising, repeatedly outraised by Democratic opponent Katie Hill. Two other Democrats, Brian Caforio and Jess Phoenix, have also raised sizeable war chests ahead of the June 5 primary.

Knight’s lackluster fundraising helped earn him the unenviable title of most at-risk Republican incumbent in the country, according to a recent analysis by Cook Political Report.

Knight’s refusal to distance himself from a group accused of scamming donors is an interesting choice for politician in such a tight re-election race.