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Sparks explains $500K loan to campaign

MONTGOMERY(AP) — State Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks sought to end questions Friday about a $500,000 personal loan he reported to his Democratic campaign for governor by explaining that it was a bank loan personally guaranteed by him.

The loan had raised questions about Sparks’ ability to provide that much money because the personal financial statements that he filed each year with the State Ethics Commission showed little income beyond his state salary.

“This is the honest truth. I borrowed the money from River Bank and put it in my campaign,” Sparks said in an interview Friday.

It’s not unusual for candidates to make personal loans or get bank loans for a statewide campaign.

Dicie Smith, senior vice president for River Bank & Trust in Montgomery, confirmed Sparks’ statements in a phone interview. She also provided a letter saying Sparks had a long relationship with the bank and met its loan criteria, including credit history and ability to repay.

Sparks said no one co-signed the loan with him, and he has not yet repaid the bank.

Sparks said it might have been better if his campaign finance report had shown the loan as a bank loan rather than a personal loan, but he listed it as a personal loan because he guaranteed it.

Sparks’ opponent in the Democratic primary on June 1, U.S. Rep. Artur Davis of Birmingham, questioned why it took Sparks two weeks to explain the loan.