Oneida County District Attorney Scott McNamara said Tuesday that his office is investigating the Oneida County Independence Party, which recently opted to endorse Republican Richard Hanna's bid for Congress.

Hanna, who lost a close race to U.S. Rep. Michael Arcuri, D-Utica, in 2008, is challenging the incumbent again.

That Oneida County investigation will include an examination of money Hanna has donated to the Independence Party, McNamara said Tuesday.

The Utica Observer-Dispatch reported last week that Hanna donated $4,698.50 to the chairman's club of the county's Independence Party.

"A complaint was filed with our office by a member of the party, and we're investigating the complaint, that's all I can say publicly," McNamara, a Democrat, said Tuesday.

The Auburn Citizen reported Sunday that Hanna's 2008 contribution was to be used for advertising.

"But the party did not use the money for advertising and is not permitted to use the money for advertisements," the Citizen reported. "As a result, an investigation is underway to see why this money was contributed and where it went."

Hanna spokeswoman Renee Gamela said Tuesday she could not comment on Independence Party-related matters.

The DA's probe is part of a flap over the Independence Party's role in the congressional race in the 24th Congressional District.

Last week, Hanna's campaign reported that the "Independence Party committee of Oneida, Herikimer and Cayuga (counties) unanimously endorsed Richard Hanna to be the Independence Party candidate in the 2010 election ... state committeeman Terry Karst said."

Not long after that announcement, however, Fred Farrell, an Independence Party member in Cayuga County, questioned the endorsement, saying his county's committee was not consulted, according to the Citizen.

Farrell could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

John Dote, chairman of the Oneida County Independence Party, said Tuesday that the endorsement was conducted properly.

Otsego County does not have an organized Independence Party, but the party is the state's third largest and has been known to swing close elections.

According to the state Board of Elections, the 24th Congressional District is home to 18,405 members of the Independence Party, as well as 126,348 Democrats and 149,521 Republicans.

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