Monday, October 8, 2012

Complaint in works on Republican candidate's campaign spending

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2012 at 11:23 AM

JOHN HUTCHISON
Jonesboro lawyer Scott Troutt has a news conference scheduled shortly to outline allegations of violation of state campaign finance rules by John Hutchison of Harrisburg, a Republican candidate for legislature against Democrat L.J. Bryant.

I write in advance of the news conference. But a quick perusal of Hutchison's reports on-line indicates one area of inquiry.

In August and September, Hutchinson reported four payments totaling $4,700 in campaign funds to himself for "L. expenses." Campaign funds may not be used for personal reasons, except, the state Ethics Commission rules provide:

(2) An opposed candidate who, during and before the election, takes a leave of absence without pay from his primary place of employment shall be authorized to take campaign funds before the election as personal income up to the amount of employment income lost as a result of such leave of absence.

Hutchison, 53, says he took leave from this $500-a-week job on his brother-in-law's farm in June and believed he has drawn offsetting amounts from his campaign funds legally. "I couldn't have ran for this office if it didn't enable me to do that right there," he told me by phone in citing the published ethics rule. Hutchison said he'd been trying to get by on "as little as I can." By the time the election comes, he vowed this on payments from his campaign: "It won't be more than I had coming."

Campaigns also may employ spouses, the rules say. Hutchison has also reimbursed himself for mileage expenses and $3,000 to repay his filing fee. He didn't first report a loan of personal money to the campaign before repaying himself.

"If I'm wrong, please let me know," Hutchison said. "I don't intend to be wrong. I'm probably the plainest kind of guy that ever ran."

Hutchison added that he may be the only Republican candidate who didn't sign the no-tax pledge being circulated by outside interest groups spending large sums on Republican legislative candidates who sign the pledge. "I didn't receive that money," he said. "I want to work for the people. I'm not working for no outside group."

I'm still waiting for copy of documents distributed at the news conference. Some of this may turn on the question of whether Hutchison's actions — and Ethics Commission rules — exceed what's allowed by statute.

Meanwhile, I note that Rep. Jon "Stonewall" Hubbard is on the card along with U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford for a political rally for Hutchison in Harrisburg tomorrow. Maybe they can sing a chorus of the Bonnie Blue Flag.

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