Complaint made on campaign contribution gimmick | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Complaint made on campaign contribution gimmick

Posted By on Tue, Jul 17, 2012 at 6:34 AM

TICKETMASETER: Sen. Michael Lamoureux targeted for transferring campaign cash at ticketed events.
  • TICKETMASETER: Sen. Michael Lamoureux targeted for transferring campaign cash at 'ticketed events.'
I received overnight this copy of a complaint supposedly filed with the state Ethics Commission on the ruse by which Arkansas politicians — Republican senators are cited here — are funneling their excess campaign cash into the campaign funds of other Republican politicians.

It's a little complicated, but at the same time very simple. Some years back, the state Ethics Commission decided it would not be a personal use of campaign money (which is illegal) to spend campaign money to go to "ticketed events." That is, a candidate might want to pay $50 to attend a volunteer fire department fund-raising pie supper. It would raise his or her public profile and put the candidate at a public event suitable for campaigning. Or so the thinking went.

Candidates have driven a semi-truck through that loophole. Democrats and Republicans alike over the years have declared the likes of lunchtime gatherings of a handful of candidates a "ticketed event." You might find a cluster of Republican politicians at Doe's for these ticketed events. Maybe four of them write checks from their campaign fund to another candidate. Since the gathering was announced in advance and carried an admission price, it is a "ticketed event" and thus perfectly legal.

Hogwash. It's personal use of campaign money, of no discernible political benefit except buying the loving admiration of the beneficiary in future legislative discussions.

The complaint I've received must be signed and notarized before the Ethics Commission will undertake an investigation. (UPDATE: Dustin Seaton of Fayetteville, who sent me the complaint, said he's taken this step. He's a teacher and political consultant for a couple of Democratic candidates this year, but said he focused on use of campaign money by unopposed candidates.) An investigation, if undertaken, would undoubtedly last beyond the election season. In terms of current relevance, then, it's of little importance.

But the complaint details how candidates who have no opposition are writing checks to attend these little ticketed events to give, at one time, maximum contributions to another candidate's primary and general election campaigns. It is a perversion of the law, simply wrong. An Ethics Commmission worthy of its name would not let politicians dance on the head of a pin with this kind of subterfuge. They also wouldn't have needed a formal citizens' complaint to act to end it after recent reporting by the Democrat-Gazette about how the process is abused. Lamoureux, unopposed this year, has been a particular leader in largesse, including making contributions to federal candidates. The potential for abuse is obvious. It's a way for corporate donors to increase their giving to a candidate they've already maxed-out on by giving more to other candidates who ship the money back to a candidate in need. Smelly stuff.

BTW: Republican-paid mouthpieces' response to this will be — "Democrats do it, too." Fine. Let's have Republicans be the party of ethics. File a complaint against the Democrats who've supposedly done the same. Refund the dirty contributions made by anyone who's engaged in the practice, beginning with Republicans Sens. Michael Lamoureux, Johnny Key and Eddie Joe Williams, John Burris, Bruce Westerman and Co. (Only the senators are named in the ethics complaint linked here.) Propose legislation to make it crystal clear that one candidate's campaign funds can't be given to another candidate.

Another worthy topic for an ethics initiative. And another good example of how wrong the Republicans are when they say disclosure cures all ethical ills. Here, they blithely disclose corruption of the law, shamelessly.

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