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.
Last night, I witnessed the Searcy debate between incumbent Rep. Mark Biviano and his Democrat challenger Kyle Osborne. If the voters make a choice based on the candidates’ performances, Osborne is in serious trouble.
In his opening statement, Osborne began by saying he’s running for state representative because he has 30 years of law enforcement experience and “we need a little law enforcement in Little Rock.” He continued by saying he wants to go to the legislature to “serve alongside our hometown boy Mike Beebe.” You know, the Governor Beebe that’s running around the state calling for “civility” while telling Republicans to “shut their mouths” and accusing AFP of “trashing Arkansas.”
He also repeated the tired talking point that “Arkansas is 5th in education” (again, this claim has been fully debunked here at The Arkansas Project). Osborne also said he wanted to help Beebe finish eliminating the grocery tax and that, as police chief, “I’ve done everything I could to double the training budget for the city police.”
Biviano began by asking the moderator if the altitude had been properly adjusted in the room before the debate: “You’ve gotta love Al Gore,” he quipped. He then began the substantive portion of his remarks by saying he was running for reelection to give his children better opportunities. He said that,
“To be an effective legislator, you have to want to serve. We have too many rubber stamp legislators.”
As for his platform, Biviano espoused his belief in lower taxes, education reform, and a business-friendly regulatory climate. Citing the statistic that Arkansas has lost 30,000 private sector jobs in the last 5 years, he ended his remarks by saying, “It’s time for Arkansas to do better.”
Read the full story from The Arkansas Project.
The Searcy police chief created quite a stir over the weekend after his comments in the Sunday paper. According to the article, published by the Daily Citizen, Kyle Osborne called incumbent state Rep. Mark Biviano “desperate” for signing Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Osborne is challenging Biviano for his seat in this fall’s election.
“My first thought was, ‘Desperate.’ How desperate are you to get re-elected to lock yourself into something like that?”
But then we get to the crux of the matter–Osborne realizes he’s been backed into a political corner, and so he spins:
“I don’t want to lock myself into signing a pledge for a special interest group out of Washington, D.C., that has no concerns for the state of Arkansas. Once you sign that, whatever the circumstances are, you can’t change your mind.”
Osborne said that, were he elected and were a tax increase proposed, he would meet with his constituents to see what they wanted him to do.
“If they say yes, then that’s what I’ll support. If they say no, then I’ll oppose it.”
A layman’s translation: “I will vote for tax increases if people tell me to.”
It occurs to me that Osborne lacks a basic understanding of governance. Governance is not (or should not be) a game where government raises taxes every time it overspends or has a new idea for a fun project. Governance should be about operating within a budget.
Furthermore, we do not live in a direct democracy–candidates should be elected based on their values, and their constituents should be able to trust them to act based on those values. For example, Rep. Biviano says he is against tax increases and will oppose them. People who vote for him know when they cast their ballot that this is the case. Unfortunately, those who vote for Mr. Osborne are not so lucky. They’ll have to wait and see what the legislative session brings and then hope to gain Osborne’s attention long enough to find out where he stands.
Osborne also fails to consider the possibility that the interests of “the special interest group in DC” are the same interests of the people of Arkansas–and that they are furthered by a refusal to give government more money to waste. Osborne lives in a city and a county full of people that have repeatedly voted down unnecessary tax increases over the last several years–the same region that elected Mark Biviano in 2010, a champion of limited government. Continue reading
If you’re thinking about voting for the latest Searcy tax proposal, you should know that you apparently won’t be voting for improvements to the city pool–which, in my estimation, is the impression that most Searcy voters are under (the last A&P tax was proposed to fund the previous mayor’s pet project, an aquatic center, and the most recent proposal was preceded by city officials bemoaning the need for pool improvements in the local paper).
The Parks & Rec committee has apparently released a list of projects they would like to pursue with the A&P money over the next five years. Maybe I am missing something, but I do not see any pool improvements listed. From the paper:
The tax is forecasted to bring in $971,392.68 in one year, based on five months of 2009 A&P revenues. The tax does not have a sunset.
For the first five years, the large projects are as follows:
Year one: Sports complex expansion with land acquisition and development.
Year two: Expansion and development of the bike trail
Year three: Riverside Park expansion
Year four: New park development
Year five: Soccer complex drainage.
Undoubtedly, someone will rebut my comments here by claiming this list is not extensive. I’ll concede that point. But don’t you think that, if the pool repairs were of highest priority, it would be listed?
This whole thing is one big mess. The city passed this tax without listing any specific projects, but knowing full well that people would assume it was for pool improvements. Now, this list comes forth, without any pool repairs listed? It’s almost as if the city council had to pass the A&P ordinance before they could find out what it was going for (reminds me of another one of my favorite politicians).
Many of you may have been willing to pay for pool improvements, but are any of the things on this list so vital that you still support a cumulative 4% tax increase?
And take a look at Year Four: a new park? We can’t afford the parks we have, which is why we need this new tax, so if we get it, we are going to build MORE parks, which we also will not be able to afford!
They also expect us to believe that raising these sales taxes and spending all of this money on parks will magically attract businesses and new residents to Searcy.
More mismanagement by Searcy officials, facilitating more distrust in Searcy voters.