Brandon 'AK Guy' Herrera's campaign under FEC scrutiny for $50,000 loan

The South Texas Republican's campaign treasurer, Thomas Datwyler, also has reported ties to expelled U.S. Rep. George Santos' campaign.

click to enlarge Brandon Herrera reportedly loaned his campaign $50,000 in December, even though he listed a salary of $84,000 in a federal financial filing. - X / @TheAKGuy
X / @TheAKGuy
Brandon Herrera reportedly loaned his campaign $50,000 in December, even though he listed a salary of $84,000 in a federal financial filing.
Editor's note: This story was updated to include details about a FEC filing the Brandon Herrera campaign made after this story was initially filed.

When congressional candidate Brandon Herrera last week posted on social media that he was "not done fighting" after his narrow loss to incumbent U.S. Rep. Tony Gonzalez, a federal campaign-finance inquiry probably wasn't what he had in mind.

On Sunday, the Federal Election Commission sent four letters to Herrera campaign treasurer Thomas Datwyler — a longtime GOP political operative with reported ties to expelled New York Congressman George Santos — asking for more information on $50,000 Herrera reportedly loaned his own campaign in December.

Here may be the issue that prompted questions from the FEC: Herrera — a YouTube influencer who posts gun reviews on his channel — earned a $84,000 annual salary in 2022, according to a financial disclosure report he filed in September with the U.S. House. Unless Herrera received a substantial boost in 2023 personal income or has a deep reservoir of personal savings, the filing raises questions about his ability to fund a loan of that size.  

Herrera's campaign was unavailable for immediate comment on the FEC's inquiry.

However, hours after the Current first published this story, Herrera’s campaign filed a document with the FEC clarifying that the $50,000 in question was loaned by the candidate to his campaign using personal funds. The filing didn't explain how Herrera came up with that money.

In the correspondence, FEC officials said they're seeking additional information on the origin of the loan, including the name and address of the loan source, the date it was incurred, the original amount of the loan, the loan's due date, interest rate, cumulative payment and outstanding balance. The regulatory agency also seeks any endorsers or grantors, their mailing addresses, their names, their employers and their occupations, according to the paperwork.

What's more, the FEC is requesting that Herrera's campaign accurately amend on its federal filings the date on which the loan was issued. The initial filing states that the loan was issued Dec. 31, 1969, according to one of the letters.

Oops.

It's not the first time Datwyler, Herrera's campaign treasurer, has drawn FEC scrutiny.

Last year, Datwyler paid more than $20,000 in administrative fines for alleged violations of campaign-finance reporting rules, according to Maryland's Frederick News-Post. Those were reportedly racked up during his time as treasurer for three different congressional campaigns.

Also, the Mississippi Attorney General's Office last August opened an investigation into the Invest in Mississippi PAC, for which Datwyler was listed as treasurer, according to the Magnolia Tribune. The AG was looking into whether the PAC violated Mississippi's campaign finance and reporting laws.

Further, Datwyler's name popped up in an extensive investigation by the Daily Beast about the political scandal swirling around former New York Congressman George Santos, who was booted out of congress late last year over accusations of financial misdeeds.

The Daily Beast article suggested Datwyler may have acted as Santos' shadow campaign treasurer. Although Santos' campaign listed Andrew Olson — an account manager at a Minneapolis tool retailer — as its official treasurer, Datwyler was more likely handling Santos' books, according to the online news site's reporting on the matter.

Herrera's campaign has until July 8 to respond to the FEC's inquiry.

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Michael Karlis

Michael Karlis is a Staff Writer at the San Antonio Current. He is a graduate of American University in Washington, D.C., whose work has been featured in Salon, Alternet, Creative Loafing Tampa Bay, Orlando Weekly, NewsBreak, 420 Magazine and Mexico Travel Today. He reports primarily on breaking news, politics...

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