Top Republican officials at odds over campaign financing


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ST. CROIX - The national committeeman for the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands said he was surprised to read a New York Times story this week that raises questions about campaign financing and fundraising being conducted in the name of the V.I. Republican Party.

Holland Redfield said he had not been aware of the way the fundraising was being done.

"That was not shared with me, to be honest with you," he said. "The only thing the state chairman had said at one point was that obviously he was going to go into a fundraising mode."

John Canegata is the chairman of the V.I. Republican Party, or VIGOP.

Redfield said he is not necessarily for or against the way the fundraising is being conducted. Instead, he said, he needs to learn more about the specifics before he makes a decision, along with other committee members.

"I have to have it presented to me, exactly what's going on, and we're looking into it now," Redfield said.

However, he does have concerns about the way the situation evolved, he said.

"I am concerned about the procedure, which has to be remedied," he said.

Redfield said that the party's territorial committee has not organized, meaning elected officers, since the 2012 election. The committee needed to make the decision about fundraising, not one person, he said.

"I want to see it completely discussed, cleaned up and put to a vote. You should have a vote on it," Redfield said.

Canegata told The Daily News that he, as party chairman, authorized the fundraising.

He indicated that he put an agreement in place between the Republican Party of the Virgin Islands, or VIGOP, and Base Connect, one of the direct mailing companies mentioned in the article.

He contended that there are no irregularities in the way the fundraising is being done and said he does not understand the criticism.

"Why are folks concerned with the local party raising money for black Republicans and local candidates?" he said.

Canegata said he was looking to build the party and raise funds for local candidates when he was elected chairman in 2012.

The New York Times article said only 4 percent of what was raised came to the V.I. Republican Party.

Canegata said he authorized the creation of the VIGOP's "federal committee" late in 2013 and appointed Scott MacKenzie - the fundraiser mentioned in the Times article - to be the treasurer.

Canegata said he has never met MacKenzie in person, only talked to him on the phone. He pointed to MacKenzie's work on national campaigns in the past. MacKenzie did not return a Daily News message on Wednesday.

Canegata said that although critics are trying to make it "sound like I'm a rogue state chairman," he just wants to help the local Republican party grow.

He said he feels like "the press" is "trying to put a spin on it."

The article said most of the money raised goes toward raising more money, but that some has gone to stateside candidates.

According to Canegata, Base Connect makes suggestions about how much money should go to which stateside candidates but that Canegata gives the OK.

Canegata also contends that the party's territorial committee was properly organized after the last election, although others disagree.

"Could I have informed our folks better? Absolutely," Canegata said. "But you know something, a lot of the folks in VIGOP could have been better listeners. I told them months ago I was working on projects raising money off-island."

Herb Schoenbohm, the former chairman of the V.I. Republican Party, said that after he was contacted by The New York Times, he put out inquiries to other party members.

"What I found out was that nobody in our party structure, in our territorial committee, in our branches, our candidates for office had any knowledge of this self-styled activity of the state chairman," he said.

Canegata won the chairmanship from Schoenbohm in 2012, and the two men are running against each other for the state chairman position in the election later this year.

Canegata says he believes Schoenbohm is fueling backlash against him, while Schoenbohm said everyone he has talked to was "shocked" at the revelations in the article.

Schoenbohm said he has several concerns about the situation, which he described as having money "washed through our party's name."

Schoenbohm said his concern is that the party is being used as a patsy and that if there are irregularities, the local Republican Party might wind up on the hook for fines or paying money back.

"My concern is that people will lose faith in the Republican party. Our message has nothing to do with this," Schoenbohm said.

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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