LAS VEGAS - U.S. Senate candidate Sue Lowden said Wednesday that she "misspoke" when she described her campaign bus as a donation, and that a lease agreement shows she doesn't own the recreational vehicle despite having her name on its title.
A complaint with the Federal Election Commission filed by Democrats alleges Lowden took an excessive campaign contribution and didn't report it properly. Campaign finance laws allow individuals to donate up to $2,400 per election to each candidate or candidate committee.
"We don't own the bus, we're paying fair market value on a lease for the bus," Lowden said Wednesday during a radio interview with KXNT-AM. "And that's legit, with a lease agreement."
She dismissed the accusations as a desperate attack from her opponents as a June 8 primary approaches.
Lowden's campaign declined on Wednesday to provide a full copy of the lease agreement to The Associated Press. A redacted copy of the first page of the agreement was dated Jan. 12.
Lowden spokeswoman Crystal Feldman said the campaign reported $15,642.66 in payments related to the vehicle through the end of the first quarter.
That includes $4,560 in in-kind donations made by the RV's owners, Carl Giudici and Elsie Giudici, and $11,082.66 to Reno-Sparks RV and Auto Service for improvements, Feldman said.
An FEC campaign contribution lists the in-kind contributions from the Giudicis as being for "vehicle rental." Feldman said there were no other payments for the vehicle during the first quarter, but there will be additional payments due based on usage of the motor home.
Lowden said Wednesday that her name was on the vehicle's title for registration purposes.
But a person can't be listed on a Nevada vehicle title without being considered its owner, Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Kevin Malone said.
"The title is the ownership document," Malone told the AP. "You can't be on the title without being an owner, you can't."
Malone said the DMV doesn't recognize private leases to determine legal ownership.
Feldman said the campaign worked with the DMV to register the vehicle, and would work with the state agency to correct the ownership records if they're not right. She said the campaign plans to return the vehicle to the Giudicis after Lowden's run ends.
But the campaign's position is that the private lease agreement supersedes the DMV title for federal election purposes, Feldman said.
"For FEC purposes, she's not an owner," Feldman said. "She's not an owner in any way, shape or form."
An FEC spokeswoman said the complaint was received Wednesday, but said the agency could not comment on its specifics.
According to federal regulations code governing elections, the FEC uses applicable state law to determine assets included among a candidate's personal funds.
Lowden's clarification on Wednesday differed from previous television interviews, in which Lowden repeatedly referred to the 2001 Monaco Executive motor home as a donation.
"Let me just talk about my RV - this was donated," Lowden told KOLO-TV in Reno nearly two weeks ago. "You know, I'm really fortunate and anybody could have had a donated RV if they have supporters who want to donate."
The comments prompted an accusation from a Republican primary challenger, Danny Tarkanian, and the FEC complaint by Democrats. Lowden, Tarkanian and several others are vying to become the Republican nominee to possibly unseat U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in November.