Monday, October 25, 2010

Where's Steve Gill ??

Lately, there's been a lot of talk in Wilson Co. (TN) about campaign finances. Most of the talk has involved Republicans. The ran an article, Wilson GOP Chiefs Ousted As State, County Parties Spar, mentioning a $7000 donation to Incumbent State Senator Mae Beavers which allegedly was never disclosed on her campaign financial reports. Beavers claims to have returned it, but so far, she has produced no evidence that she did. Next on October 20, 2010, the Chattanooga Times Free Press broke a story, TBI, FBI, Look at State Handling of Some Sales Tax Investigations, involving a furniture chain, D.T. McCall and Sons, which is a long-time contributor to Republican campaigns, including Beavers. Both of these stories made me curious so I decided to look at Beavers state campaign financial disclosures, which are public record and available online, to see if the $7000 check mentioned earlier was reported by her. It does not appear on any of the reports listed. So, apparently, it was not reported. My curiosity now peaking, I decided to look through all the reports available for her. My findings follow.

The booklet Campaign Finance Guidelines for Candidates published by the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance contains the Tennessee Financial Disclosure Laws. There is also a section for Frequently Asked Questions. In this section, on page 17 of the booklet, number 19 asks, "Are there any restrictions on the use of campaign contributions by candidates ?" It states :
A candidate for an elected public office is prohibited from using any campaign funds prior to, during, or after an election for the candidate's own personal use. Personal use is defined as any use of funds that would require the candidate or official to treat the use as gross income under Section 61 of the IRS code of 1986.
Seal of the Internal Revenue Service
Below this paragraph, the booklet states :
Whether an expenditure of campaign funds by a candidate is made for a political purpose depends upon the facts and circumstances surrounding the expenditure. An activity engaged in between elections by a candidate which is directly related to and supports the selection, nomination or election of that individual to public office is considered political activity. An expense which would be incurred by an individual regardless of that person's candidacy for public office is considered an expenditure for a nonpolitical purpose, except as allowed for the expenditure of surplus contributions. (emphasis added)
As I at looked Beavers reports starting with the Early Supplemental 2003 report through the 3rd Quarter 2010 report, a number of things caught my eye. For instance, I noticed that during that time period she has claimed the following as campaign expenditures :
  • over $14,000 for cell phones,
  • over $2000 for Dues (Rotary, Chamber, etc.), and
  • over $300 for Subscriptions (mostly newspapers).
In my opinion, a reasonable person would conclude that these are expenses "... which would be incurred by an individual regardless of that person's candidacy for public office ..." and " ... should be considered an expenditure for a nonpolitical purpose." So, how is Beavers able to claim them as a campaign expenditure ?? Aren't campaign expenditures things such as banners, signs, brochures, ads (TV, radio, newspaper, etc.), mailers, etc. ?? Now, I'm not claiming that these were personal expenses claimed by Beavers on her campaign financial disclosures. I'm just saying that according to the guidelines I've referred to above, they do not appear to be bona fide campaign expenditures.

Back on October 13th, I did a post on this blog titled Rocks and glass houses, peas in a pod, birds of a feather, and politics. One of the things I talked about in that post was how radio talk show host Steve Gill had badgered State Rep. Susan Lynn over an alleged campaign finance violation on her part, of which she was completely exonerated. The question I have now is - why is Gill not looking into Beavers campaign finances as he did so unmercifully in regards to Lynn ?? Fair is fair. If a measly blogger such as I can find this stuff, surely a "professional" such as Gill can, too. Plus, he would also have the resources to do a thorough investigation. Could it be that Beavers gets a pass since she is a friend of Gill's ?? Surely that's not the answer. Or, is it ??
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