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.
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.
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 popped into the White County Republican Women’s meeting on Tuesday evening to hear State Rep. Mark Biviano unveil part of the House Republicans’ platform for next year’s general assembly. Biviano is serving as Policy Director for the House GOP caucus. (Minority Leader Bruce Westerman told me earlier this week that the full platform will be unveiled by the end of the month)
So, here’s a sneak peek at some of what we should see on the Republican platform in a few weeks:
1. Reigning in Government Spending. Biviano said, “We can’t keep growing government and expect taxpayers to keep paying the bill.” He added that a big part of reigning in spending is transparency: “The people deserve to know the good news & the bad news.” That’s change I can believe in right there.
Biviano cited the shortfalls in the Forestry department, the unemployment overpayments, and the increased projected shortfalls in the state’s Medicaid program as prime examples of how a little transparency could go a long way: “I learned about the increased projected shortfalls in Medicaid the same time y’all did, when I read the paper.” This is a serious problem that is rampant throughout the state government: shortfalls are being hidden for political purposes, and we, the taxpayers, are paying for it. Literally.
Biviano said reigning in government spending also includes implementing performance-based budgeting for state agencies. This system would give departments increases (or decreases) based on their performances, rather than across the board increases because ‘the governor said so.’
2. Tax Reform. Biviano said tax reform in Arkansas starts with eliminating the capital gains tax to encourage growth in the state. (click here to read a recent report from Goldwater Institute about the positive effects of such a repeal)
3. Fixing Medicaid. Biviano said Republicans wanted to use the state’s surplus from this year to cover the shortfalls in the program, but the governor did not want to listen. I would expect, and hope, that Republican solutions to the crisis will look something like this.
4. Protecting Arkansas’ Future. This part of the platform includes more pro-life legislation, which may include (if I understood correctly) a fetal pain bill.
Protecting the future also means reforming unemployment benefits & instituting voter ID requirements in the state, said Biviano. Biviano said we need drug testing before Arkansans can receive unemployment benefits, as well as some non-prohibitive voter ID requirement to prevent voter fraud in our state.
5. Educational Excellence. Biviano started by setting the record straight on Arkansas’ standing in education:
Despite what you may read in the papers, we rank 45th in the ability to achieve. 50% of Arkansas high school graduates have to take additional coursework before college.
I am a believer in school choice. It’s in our best interest as a state to put our students where they can succeed.
Biviano also added that we spend more than $11,000 per student in Arkansas which is more than enough to cover the cost of private education. (I believe when I was in private high school the tuition was right around $5,000 per year, or less than half what the taxpayers are currently paying–and I believe I got a better return on my investment)
And this is just the preview! This is very exciting for idea-oriented conservatives across the state. And even aside from the content, which is excellent, it’s just a great idea for the caucus to present a detailed, no-nonsense plan like this to the voters. It’s a ‘contract with America’ approach that is bold, clear, and principled.
If they stick to it, it’s a winner for Republicans and a winner for Arkansas. It will resonate with voters. It already is.
I have so much to cover, including some local stuff, but so little time. However, I want to start by taking just a minute to weigh on some developments that happened in Little Rock yesterday.
In case you haven’t heard, Senator Jason Rapert announced yesterday that he planned to pull SJR 1 or the National Debt Relief Amendment.
Rapert’s campaign tells me that all of the Republicans on the State Agencies Committee were in support of the bill, but they could not get any Democrats to break ranks with their party and move the bill to the floor. There remained one legislative option to advance the bill–forcing a floor vote–but the campaign says the senator has ‘too much respect for the institution’ to enact such a tactic, one that has been compared to the U.S. Senate’s ‘nuclear option.’
In a statement, Rapert said:
Despite a bipartisan group of 47 members supporting SJR 1 in the General Assembly, and growing national support to address the out of control federal debt, we could not overcome the partisan divide of the Senate State Agencies Committee with only a few days left in the fiscal session. SJR 1 has achieved a positive result in that more people are focused on the issue of the national debt, how the debt affects hardworking Arkansas taxpayers, and the constitutional options granted to states by our Founding Fathers.
While NDRA has passed two states, been introduced in Congress, and would have passed the Arkansas Senate had it been brought to the floor, I respect the institution of the Senate and will let this bill run its course through regular order instead of putting the chamber through the painful process of a floor vote to extract it forcibly from committee when we have much bigger issues like the $400 million Medicaid shortfall facing our state.
This is yet another example of the Democrats’ unwillingness to compromise or even consider out-of-the-box solutions to problems we face in the state. This is also a real loss for the taxpayers: this was our best chance to reign in federal spending.
Despite the misinformation/fear-mongering campaign that was waged by Paulbots & Secure Arkansas, SJR 1 called for an amendment convention, not a ‘constitutional convention’ as they were inaccurately saying. As Advance Arkansas Institute and others stated, this would not have been a ‘free for all’ assault on the U.S. Constitution. It would have been a meeting for a specific purpose, limited in scope, and anything that came out of the convention would have had to go before the states for ratification, just like any constitutional amendment.
I’m not sure what these groups accomplished by siding with Democrats in a misinformation campaign against one of Arkansas’s most conservative legislators and a downright constitutional idea to reign in federal spending, but I hope they’re happy. The taxpayers will now suffer the result.
I commend Senator Rapert & his co-sponsors, including Rep. Mark Biviano, for their courage & leadership on this issue. The only way we’re ever going to reign in the federal government is through state-based solutions. I am very thankful we have some members of the state legislature that understand this and are willing to fight to make it happen.
It also shows real leadership that Senator Rapert was willing to drop this issue for now and focus on a more pressing issue for the state at this time, our imminent Medicaid crisis. With constitutional conservative fighters like Senator Rapert, I am confident we can avoid disaster, but it will not–and should not–be through tax increases. It’s going to take cuts. Will Democrats work with Republicans to solve the crisis, or will they continue to refuse to compromise?
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.