CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's Republican candidate for state treasurer sharply criticized incumbent John Perdue Tuesday for accepting $28,800 in campaign contributions from at least 35 state employees who work in Perdue's office.
"It appears to be a shakedown of employees," said Mike Hall, the state Senate minority leader who's running against Perdue in the Nov. 6 primary.
Perdue, a Democrat, said he never solicited a dime from any Treasurer's Office worker. His office has about 90 full-time employees, Perdue said.
"I'm not shaking down any employee," he said. "I never have asked an employee for any donations."
Hall and Perdue met with Gazette editors Tuesday.
About half of the 35 employees donated $1,000 - the maximum allowed. The others gave as little as $25, and up to $750.
Hall alleged that relatives of Perdue's staff donated an additional $16,145 to the treasurer's reelection campaign.
"It's like it's an operation, a ready-made campaign machine that guys like me don't have," said Hall.
Perdue said he "crossed all the Ts and dotted all the Is," while accepting donations form his office staff.
"These are professional people who make up their minds to donate," he said. "I did not solicit any of those contributions. It is a legal donation."
This isn't the first time Perdue employees have contributed to their boss's campaign.
While running in the Democratic primary in 2011, Perdue accepted more than $38,000 in donations from at least 41 state employees who worked in the Treasurer's Office. Thirty-five of those workers gave the $1,000 maximum.
Some of those employees earned less than $35,000 a year, raising questions about how they could afford to contribute $1,000.
Last November, FBI agents fanned out across West Virginia, asking Perdue's employees about the 2011 gubernatorial campaign contributions.
The interviews came amid a federal investigation of Perdue's property sale in Mason County to Charleston housing developer Douglas E. Pauley.
Pauley, a longtime Perdue friend and campaign donor, is cooperating with the ongoing investigation and won't face criminal charges, if he continues to provide information to federal prosecutors, according to an agreement he has with the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Perdue said Tuesday he didn't know the status of the federal investigation.
Pauley received $3.47 million in federal stimulus funds to build a 32-unit housing project - called Milton Place - and named after Perdue's late father-in-law. The West Virginia Housing Fund awarded the stimulus funds. Perdue sits on the agency's board of directors.
In 2007, the state Ethics Commission gave Perdue the green light to sell his land to Pauley for the project.