Potomac News Online | Stoffregen won’t name contributor

Sheriff E. Lee Stoffregen III has attributed thousands of dollars in campaign donations to a company which denies any knowledge of those contributions.

Stoffregen reported a $1,000 donation made Aug. 25 by Van Kampen Investments’ Kansas City office for the July-August campaign finance filing period, the most recent period for which reports were available.

This brought Van Kampen’s total donations to $3,500 between July 2000 and now, according to finance reports.

On Monday, Stoffregen referred to the unidentified donor as “just a friend,” who shares his vision for the Prince William County Sheriff’s Office.

He would not release the man’s name saying the donor wished to remain anonymous.

But, in Virginia, anonymous donations are illegal, according to local and state election officials.

A spokesman for the State Board of Elections said if the donor is an individual contributor — which Stoffregen acknowledged on Monday he is — then that person’s name, address, occupation, employment location and name of employer must be listed.

Stoffregen is a lightning rod for controversy because his increased efforts to police the county have riled police officials and rival politicians. He is locked in a bitter campaign against Republican Glendell Hill, the superintendent of the Prince William-Manassas regional jail, in the Nov. 4 General Election.

“[The donor’s] a businessman in the community that supports what we do and likes the sheriff’s office and the programs that we’re running,” the sheriff said.

Van Kampen auditors reviewed all charitable contributions and fund requests between 2001 and 2003, according to company spokeswoman Connie Kain. No checks or contributions were made out to Stoffregen from the company and the company’s code of conduct prohibits political contributions, she said.

Stoffregen said Monday the donations may have been listed improperly by his sister and campaign treasurer Donna Hancock.

“All I’m telling you is that, what I’m assuming is, that when our treasurer got this check, she assumed it was from Van Kampen Investments,” he said Monday. But he made no apologies, saying he’s “not sure we’re wrong yet.”

Such a mistake would be tantamount to listing a bank as a donor when a personal check was written by one of its account holders, Kain said.

Stoffregen, who claimed it would be easy to make such a mistake several times, said the most recent donation was one of two or three he has received.

Each gift was attributed to Van Kampen Investments.

“I do a lot of checks every day and I’ve never had a problem with any of them,” Hancock said. “Had there been a name, I surely probably would have put it as I do on all of them.”

Hancock said there could have been an error entering the information on the log forms. Had the contributor’s name been on the check, she said, it would have been listed.

“I guess what I’m saying is I’d have to see it to believe it,” she said of the check.

Stoffregen could not provide a copy of the actual donation check.

After speaking with the donor Monday, the sheriff said the man has a money market account with the investment firm. He claims the gift came from the donor’s Van Kampen checking account.

He provided a copy of a processed check written by the donor to illustrate how Hancock could confuse the personal check with one issued by the company, he said.

The check Stoffregen provided is made out to a bank and has nothing to do with the re-election campaign.

The company’s name and Kansas City address appear in the top, left corner of the personal check. Immediately to the right is the donor’s name and address which Stoffregen blacked out before faxing the check.

Stoffregen was asked about the Van Kampen donation for an article about the July-August campaign finance reports published in the Potomac News and Manassas Journal Messenger on Sept. 26. At that time he said the donation came from the owner of Van Kampen Investments which is based in Oakbrook Terrace, Ill., a city about a half-hour west of Chicago.

Van Kampen is actually owned by Morgan-Stanley, a multi-national, publicly traded, financial services company.

Monday, Stoffregen disavowed any knowledge of the firm, saying he doesn’t “know Van Kampen at all.”

Campaign donors in Virginia cannot remain anonymous, said Donna Green, executive assistant to the Prince William County electoral board. “You have to know in the state of Virginia where that money came from and where that person is employed.”

None of that information is included on Stoffregen’s Van Kampen listing.

Stoffregen stressed that his reports are impeccable because “there’s not another candidate that goes through closer scrutiny,” he said. “It’s within the reporting guidelines.”

“We are concerned about the way our name is utilized,” Kain said. “He [Stoffregen] needs to tell us what the situation is.”

Kain said Stoffregen has not returned two calls she placed to his office.

The sheriff said none of his relatives have accounts with Van Kampen Investments, nor has he has ever done business with them.

“I don’t think I’m going to talk about finances any more for the next two weeks,” Stoffregen said. “I’m busy campaigning.”

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