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
From The Arkansas Project:
How well I remember my days as a candidate! Alderman Arnett kept a busy schedule putting eyebrow-raising posts on her Facebook campaign page about her funeral, and bragging about how many neighborhoods she walked while regularly parking in the handicapped parking space at city hall. Working so hard for the people of Searcy, even campaigning for local tax increases on top of her regular duties, this driven public servant has been forced to catch up on sleep by napping through city council meetings! (VIDEO)
Many aldermen just want to make city government work better. But that’s not enough for Alderman Mary Ann Arnett. Her agenda: stamp out the extraordinary dangers of unregulated yard sales. Well, not all yard sales – just the ones run by dark-skinned people. Don’t believe me? Well, I can reproduce email just as well as the next blogger. Here’s her request to Searcy code enforcement personnel, dated June 2, 2009:
Visit The Arkansas Project for Arnett’s full comments.
Here’s a list of our top stories from this week:
- Democrat Kyle Osborne says he is against Obamacare…but it’s ‘not a bad idea.’ Read the full recap of this week’s healthcare forum in Searcy. (Still waiting to hear what Governor Beebe has to say about this)
- Joe Biden thanks Dr. Pepper. And The Patriot thanks you too! (ad check in the mail?)
- Local media hits new low & uses tragic death of 4-year old to solicit ‘likes’ & retweets. No apology or deletion of the post that we know of yet.
- Introducing Patriot Talk! This is our new video project to keep you informed about what’s going on in politics around the county, state, and country. The response has been terrific!
- Full text of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. You know, the one that Congressman Crawford broke.
- Is the ‘Constitutional Carry Act’ Constitutional? Just what was the original intent of the founders regarding the federal Bill of Rights. Constitutional nerds, enjoy.
As always, thank you for reading!
I attended the health care forum in Searcy last night. It was a discussion between incumbent state rep. Mark Biviano & his challenger, Kyle Osborne, who currently serves as Searcy police chief.
Here’s what I learned:
1. Kyle Osborne is opposed to Obamacare…kind of. His direct quote:
“I’m not for Obamacare…but we have to do something to fix health care.”
Throughout the rest of the debate, he continued to say we should do something, but it should not be until the Supreme Court rules on Obamacare’s constitutionality, and he failed to specify what ideas he has to fix the problems. In fact, he offered this gem later in the discussion:
“As a Democrat, I do not have all of the ideas.”
That is a direct quote. He also said ‘we shouldn’t have the White House telling us how to do it.’
Later on, Osborne said he was ‘opposed to the way Obamacare is now,’ but added ‘it’s not a bad idea.’
When asked what parts of Obamacare should be preserved, Osborne cited the preexisting conditions & provisions that allow adults to stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26.
Osborne stopped just short of saying he thinks the law is unconstitutional, but did say he thinks it will be ruled that way by the Supreme Court.
Where does Osborne stand on Obamacare, you ask? I have no idea. But I cannot wait to hear what Osborne’s golf buddy, Governor Beebe, has to say about these developments.
2. Rep. Biviano opposes Obamacare fully, says it is unconstitutional, and should be scrapped.
As for pre-existing conditions provisions, Biviano said this policy is already adding to the cost of premiums for consumers.
When asked what effect Obamacare will have on the state, Biviano cited Arkansas’ doctor shortage and predicted that Obamacare would add 400,000 patients to the Medcaid rolls, a program that is already on life support. He also predicted health care rationing in the state if the program is fully implemented here.
(Osborne said we should wait and see how the Supreme Court rules before he answers this question)
When asked for alternative solutions to Obamacare, Biviano said he has traveled the world working in the health care industry and the only real solutions he has seen have been private and market-driven.
Biviano also said that 80% of employers may opt-out of health care plans for their employees if Obamacare remains intact.
3. Osborne thinks services may have to be cut to save Medicaid.
“No one wants to say that services will be cut, but that’s an option that’s on the table.”
(Direct quote, can be read here.) He concluded his recommendations on saving Medicaid with,
4. Biviano says we can avoid cutting services/raising taxes if we deal with shortfalls Medicaid now.
Biviano reiterated that Republicans tried to apply this year’s surplus to fill the void in Medicaid, but the Governor blocked the effort.
Here are some of the other questions that were asked & the candidates’ responses:
Q: If you are elected and Obamacare is struck down, how will you work to fix health care in Arkansas?
Biviano: “I will continue to work to block the implementation of exchanges in our state. Did you know you cannot buy health insurance from another state? You should be able to buy health plans online.”
Osborne: “If elected, I will meet with anyone who has ideas. As a Democrat, I do not have all the ideas.”
Q: Do you think we should crack down harder on Medicaid fraud?
Osborne: “We have to stop fraud, and to do that we’re going to have to hire a lot more prosecutors & judges.”
Biviano: “Before we can hire more prosecutors & judges, we have to identify the problem. I was proud to help craft the Westerman plan to rein in fraud.”
Q: Has Obama’s accommodation on mandated birth control coverage solved the problem?
Biviano: “No, this is about freedom. We shouldn’t be mandating this.”
Osborne: “No, it hasn’t fixed the problem.”
Q: Should we have federal or state health care exchanges?
Biviano: “The Democrats want to make a distinction between state & federal exchanges but you cannot do it. The federal government will have its hands all in it. We cannot afford a state exchange under federal guidelines.”
Osborne: “I was under the impression that we had the opportunity to opt-out of some federal guidelines.”
Q: Some say Obamacare is a symbol of the end of limited government. Do you think government has gotten too big?
Osborne: “Obamacare, that’s an example of how they’ve gotten too big. But I can’t answer the rest of that question until the Supreme Court rules.”
Q: Is Obamacare going to make it more difficult for insurance companies to provide coverage?
Biviano: “Yes, they’re going to pass their additional costs on to consumers.”
Osborne: “I was an insurance agent 35 years ago.”
Q: The independent advisory board morally appropriate?
Biviano: “No, it goes against the democratic principles that this country was founded on.”
Osborne: “We are treading new ground with Obamacare. No one knows what to expect.” (he then asked if the board is at the federal or state level)
From my perspective, the contrast was pretty clear between the two candidates. Despite the fact that Mr. Osborne agreed with Mr. Biviano on almost every point, Biviano’s knowledge of the health care industry and health care policy was clearly evident, while frankly Osborne just rambled through most of the discussion. By my count, he did not offer a single policy recommendation, substantive or otherwise.
Now, remind me: which party is the one that wants to cut services? Which party is it that doesn’t have solutions, but just talking points, just wanting to throw ‘granny off a cliff?’ It’s not the Republican party, and that was fully evident last night.
I got to visit with State Rep. Mark Biviano on Thursday morning for a few minutes, after news broke Wednesday afternoon that the Governor’s budget was moving to the floor of the House without the $21 million in cuts that the GOP leader had proposed. I had hoped to post these comments sooner, while they were fresh, but I’ve been busy. Life happens.
I asked Rep. Biviano to fill us in about what happened Wednesday and where we go from here. He clarified that the budget itself has not actually passed, just a resolution to move the budget bill to the floor. This could not have happened without some Republican support, but now that it has moved to the floor, Republicans cannot stop its passage. Only a simple majority will be needed to send it to the governor’s desk. Biviano predicted the budget will pass with little changes to its current form.
But Biviano said the real story here is the Democrats’ unwillingness to slow the growth government.
The real story is that there’s an unwillingness in the Democrat Party to slow government growth. They’ve characterized our plan as ‘massive cuts with massive layoffs.’ In fact, the Governor’s plan grows government by $163 million. Our plan only grew it by $142 million.
Biviano also said Democrats in Little Rock have proven to be unwilling to compromise and look ahead at the imminent Medicaid crisis.
We’re going to have a Medicaid crisis next year. Republicans were trying to be proactive and look down the road. We asked to slow the growth of the budget by .45%. The Democrats want to continue to grow government but not address these challenges.
Remember, my interview with Biviano was on Thursday morning. On Friday morning, a report surfaced that the Medicaid shortfall may be as much as $400 million, and there appears to be some question about whether or not the Governor was honest with lawmakers (and taxpayers) about how deep the shortfall could be.
As far as where we go from here, Biviano said a tax increase proposal from Democrats is likely imminent.
It will be interesting to see how Democrats plan to pay for the shortfalls. My concern is that their plan is going to have to include a tax increase. They want to continue to grow government. But if we’re not willing to stop the growth of government, how are we going to pay for the $250 million shortfall?
I don’t think anyone believes that there’s not some waste in our state government, whether you’re Republican or Democrat.
As I told Rep. Biviano, this is yet another example of Obama-style governing being implemented in the state–run up the bill, create a crisis, and then call for a tax increase. Taxpayers can only hope we have a strong enough Republican caucus in both house of the legislature next year to stop any tax hikes. The next battle is at the ballot box.
I have attempted numerous, numerous times to contact Searcy Police Chief Kyle Osborne, Biviano’s 2012 opponent, for comment on these types of issues facing the state right now. Taxpayers would like to know if he supports Governor Beebe’s plan to continue to grow government. Thus far he has not responded. I am still hopeful that he will sit down for an interview with me, as he promised a few weeks ago.