In his latest campaign expenditure report, Searcy police chief and candidate for state representative Kyle Osborne reported a $400 expense for “rent.” The address given leads to an apartment complex in Searcy.
State ethics laws regarding the use of campaign funds for explicitly personal reasons are fairly clear — it’s a no no. However, the ethics commission reserves the right to determine whether or not expenses are for “personal use” or for campaign use.
The following paragraph is included in the ethics commission’s guidelines for campaign expenditures under Section 209, “Personal Expenses – Prohibited Uses:”
(c) Mortgage, Rent and Utility Payments - This includes any payments with respect to a personal residence of the candidate or his or her family, even if a portion of the residence is used by the campaign. It does not include (i) payments made by a candidate with respect to other buildings or offices or office space used solely for campaign purposes, such as the campaign’s headquarters, even if the candidate owns the space used, so long as the space is not the candidate’s personal residence and the campaign pays a fair market value for use of the space;
My interpretation of this law is fairly simple: campaign funds can be used for rent as long as the space is used exclusively for campaign purposes. If any part of the space is used for personal residence or purposes, campaign funds cannot be used.
I called the ethics commission and requested some clarification on these guidelines. They said my interpretation was more or less correct and that there are some circumstances in which using campaign funds for rent could be permissible, so long as the funds were not used for personal use. The determination as to whether or not an expenditure is for “personal use” or “campaign use” is an interpretation the Arkansas Ethics Commission reserves the right to make, per Section 210.
One possible explanation for the expense listed on Osborne’s report is that the apartment is being used to house campaign workers. Osborne has hired the Markham Group (he paid them $3,800 last month) out of Little Rock to run his campaign. Perhaps he is paying for an apartment for them to sleep in and stage their campaign out of. This would be somewhat of a gray area and the ethics commission would have to make a ruling about whether or not this qualified as “personal use” or “campaign use.”
If the funds were being used for a campaign office or for official campaign purposes, we might expect to see the expenses recur on Osborne’s monthly filings — he has been campaigning and reporting campaign expenses for several months. But we do not. Unless I am missing something, this rent expense is only shown on the September report.
Service in the state legislature is a part-time job. The yearly compensation is $15,689 (although that doesn’t include per diem payments), and it’s understood that legislators will probably find other employment when the General Assembly is not in session.
But legislators must obey state law. Legislators who also hold a state government job can’t accept two different paychecks for the same work period. It’s OK to get one paycheck for Monday’s work and a second paycheck for Tuesday’s work, but if you’re getting paid from two different sources for working the same work period, it’s a problem. Similarly, if you’re a legislator who is paid to be in a non-legislative state government office doing a non-legislative state government job, but you’re actually doing legislative work or political work, it’s a problem.
Accepting payment for Job 1 while actually doing Job 2 is known informally as “double-dipping.” Legislators aren’t supposed to do it: as one of George Costanza’s antagonists once said, you’re supposed to “just take one dip and end it.” Rep. Tiffany Rogers appears to have broken this rule repeatedly.
As the Director of Continuing Education for Phillips Community College, Rep. Tiffany Rogers is paid, on average, about $40,000 a year. That yearly salary figure would ordinarily be about $10,000 higher – except that, when the legislature is in session, Rogers usually takes an unpaid personal leave of absence. There’s nothing wrong with that – someone in her position would customarily take unpaid leave so as to eliminate the double-dipping that would be caused by accepting multiple paychecks for the same work. However, public records demonstrate that Rogers has repeatedly neglected to reduce her compensation from Phillips Community College while doing legislative or political work. In fact, she appears to have taken after George Costanza on at least four occasions.
I contacted State Senator Jonathan Dismang yesterday evening after learning of Governor Beebe’s unhinged comments about the Searcy bypass project.
The senator tells me he is confident that the trucker tax exemption will not effect the project:
I have talked to 3 commissioners and the director who have all repeatedly indicated that our project will not be impacted by the funding shortage created by the trucker tax exemption.
The director he’s referring to is the director of the Arkansas Highway Department, if I understood correctly. We’ll keep you posted on further developments.
In my estimation, this is further evidence that Governor Beebe is simply playing a sick political game & using a sensitive issue in his hometown to take cheap shots at Dismang. Truly ironic comments from a governor who has repeatedly spoken out against “DC politics,” and said this last fall:
“You elect people to work together to solve the problem. And you may not agree on every issue and you may not get your way on every issue. And while I’m not suggesting that you prostitute your principles, I am suggesting that you act like adults and that you try to resolve our nation’s problems…
“If the people in Washington, D.C., would take a lesson from the people in Arkansas, we could solve a lot of these problems a lot earlier.”
Seems to me that the people in DC are acting like the folks in Arkansas and that is the problem. Perhaps the governor should take his own advice and start acting like an adult.
The series will run over the next few weeks leading up to the May primary and will focus on the governing record of White County Judge Mike Lincoln.
Judge Lincoln has been in office for almost a full six years and he’s never really been vetted as a candidate. That is to say, the community, in my opinion, has never really taken an in-depth look at his record in office or his qualifications for the position. He has gone without much serious opposition the last few elections and so, despite his unpopularity, he has remained relatively unscathed.
The judge essentially said in the debate last week that his qualifications to be judge are all based on the fact that he has been judge for the last 5 years. But what has he done and is our county better off than it was when he took power?
These are important questions that need to be asked. We know the local media won’t ask them, either because of fear or because they support him. Or both. On the other hand, we have never been afraid to ask the tough questions here at The Patriot.
We are going to take at thorough look at several key events that have shaped Judge Lincoln’s judgeship, as well as a general overview of his time in office. It is beyond dispute that his administration has been plagued with scandal after scandal, many of which have been documented here on The Patriot.
In this series, we will pose questions, present our analysis, and ultimately, the decision will be yours. You must decide if Judge Lincoln has earned his keep. I think the answer is pretty clear. We will see what you think.
As we undertake this project, I earnestly encourage everyone to put aside your personal experiences and even your political biases. We want to have a conversation about the facts. We want to talk about White County. We want to make White County better. Sometimes in order to do that, we have to put aside our emotions, our preferences, and perhaps even our personal relationships so we can think objectively. What we must never surrender is our principles.
So please, if you can, put aside your preconceived notions of the judge and perhaps even of me. Let’s talk truth.
Look for our first article in the series to roll out this week.
- KARK is obsessed with Petrino. These people just can’t leave it alone. Their latest: using a pic of Petrino & a pic of Jeff Long to garner divide Hog fans.
- ‘Beat that dead horse!’ No, not us. KARK. Their viewers staged a mini-revolt on their Facebook page this week in response to their Petrino coverage.
- White County Republican primary judge debate moderated by a Democrat. This is notable as part of a larger puzzle, but apparently it didn’t help Judge Lincoln too much. He still told several outright lies & had a poor performance.
- Reviewing the county judge debate. A citizen reporter provides a summary of the debate & grades both candidates.
- The Arkansas Project releases audio of the Arkansas Surgeon General’s arrest. What crime did he commit, exactly?
- Louisiana passes Arkansas again. The Bayou State gets school vouchers, thanks to the relentless work of Gov. Bobby Jindal.
- A Louisiana Dem compares school choice to the crucifixion of Jesus. Can’t make this stuff up if we wanted to, folks.
- Arkansas Voter’s Guide. Editor Nic Horton sat down with Family Council President Jerry Cox to discuss the group’s voter guide, a very valuable resource for Arkansas voters.
- Globetrotter Smith is ineligible…again. Is this the end of the Fred Smith saga? We think not.