Who watches the watchers of state’s campaign finance? – Jackson Clarion Ledger

11 months ago Comments Off on Who watches the watchers of state’s campaign finance? – Jackson Clarion Ledger

If anyone in state government were going to question, examine or investigate whether politicians are properly using and reporting campaign money or reimbursements, it would be the attorney general, state auditor and secretary of state.

But an examination of their campaign finance reports — particularly the attorney general and auditor — raises some of the same questions as for those they might regulate or investigate. No one appears to be riding herd on Mississippi campaign finances.

State Auditor Stacey Pickering and Attorney General Jim Hood each spend tens of thousands of dollars each year — even in off-election years — on campaign credit cards without explanation of what the spending was for.

RELATED: Many Mississippi politicians use campaign accounts as private funds

While Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann is one of few statewide politicians who doesn’t use a campaign credit card, his campaign reimburses him for relatively large amounts without explanation of what he spent — nearly $53,000 over roughly the last four years.

Politicians are supposed to itemize campaign expenditures of $200 or more, but many simply list large lump-sum payments to credit cards or reimbursement to themselves without further detail.

Pickering and Hood, commute to their jobs in the capital from Laurel in Jones County and Houston in Chickasaw County, respectively, spend thousands of dollars a year on campaign credit cards and reimbursing themselves.

Hood paid himself and two campaign credit cards more than $268,000 over nearly four years. Pickering for the same period paid himself, his wife and credit cards more than $170,000 from his campaign account, most listed only as travel reimbursement.

Hosemann said he does not spend any campaign money on personal expenses. He said reimbursements to himself are for printing or other campaign costs he covered out of pocket.

SERIES: Public Office, Private Gain in Mississippi

Hood and Pickering indicated they pay taxes on any personal spending from their campaign accounts.

Records show the state last year reimbursed Hood $6,147 for travel, Pickering $4,788 and Hosemann $2,580.

Hood and Hosemann this year are calling for reform in campaign finance laws and reporting.

Hosemann said his office lacks enforcement authority over any campaign laws. He said his office is “really just a repository for the forms” on campaign finance. He said he did change one regulation last year and began requiring candidates provide additional information on campaign donors.

Hood would not answer specific questions about his campaign finances.

He appears to spend campaign money on car insurance and upkeep such as oil changes and in July began making monthly payments of $804.05 to “Ally” in Bloomington, Minnesota. Ally Financial Services is located in Bloomington.

Hood also made a payment last year of $928.21 to the Chickasaw County tax collector listed only as “tax.”

Pickering has used campaign money to purchase a BMW car he gave to his daughter — listed on his report as a fundraising fee — a garage door for his home in Laurel and an RV his wife has described as the family’s “second home” at a Disney World campground.

Contact Geoff Pender at (601) 961-7266 or gpender@jackson.gannett.com. Contact Kate Royals at (601) 360-4619 or kroyals@jackson.gannett.com. Contact Mollie Bryant at mbryant2@gannett.com or (601) 961-7251. Follow @GeoffPender, @KRRoyals and @MollieEBryant on Twitter.

Who watches the watchers of state’s campaign finance? – Jackson Clarion Ledger}

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