7 legislators fail to disclose payments to themselves

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Seven members of the General Assembly have recently come under suspicion after failing to disclose payments taken from campaign funds in order to reimburse themselves. While all offered excuses for their behavior, Rep. Kelly Hastings of Cleveland County took the cake. Hastings claimed that having to move from Cleveland County to a Raleigh apartment allowed the use of campaign funds to pay for a new mattress, a new recliner, and a new TV (in order "to keep up with the news"). While Hastings may have been the most excessive, all the officials accused of using campaign funds for personal reimbursement have yet to prove these expenses were legitimate. 

Read more at the News & Observer 

Seven state lawmakers in North Carolina, including Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca, have reimbursed themselves for thousands of dollars in campaign spending without reporting details of those expenditures. 

The State Board of Elections says candidates are required to itemize those reimbursements so that state auditors and voters can tell exactly how the money was spent. House Speaker Tim Moore recently had to re-file his reports because auditors found unitemized credit card charges.

A News & Observer review of legislators’ latest campaign reports found that most legislators meticulously detail expenses they pay with campaign donations. Meal charges list the date, amount and the name of the restaurant. Travel expenses usually list where the legislator went and why.

But those details are missing from seven legislators’ 2015 reports. Instead, the reports show they paid themselves thousands of dollars as reimbursement for “expenses related to holding public office” – a method of reporting that appears to skirt the requirements of campaign-finance law.

“They have to be able to provide enough information for the public to know how they spent the money,” said Kim Strach, director of the State Board of Elections. 

Without itemized expense reports, she said, “there is no way for the public or us to know if the expenditures are compliant.”

It is likely that auditors will flag these reports and require more details, Strach said. 

State law allows campaign money to be spent only for certain purposes – and personal use is not one of them. The money must go for expenses related to campaigning or to cover “expenditures resulting from holding public office.”

The N&O’s review of legislators from both political parties found payments without an itemized listing of the expenditure this year to Apodaca; Rep. Kelly Hastings of Cleveland County; Rep. Hugh Blackwell of Morganton; Rep. Rob Bryan of Charlotte; Sen. Dan Soucek of Boone; Rep. Julia Howard of Mocksville and Sen. Warren Daniel of Morganton. All are Republicans.

Those lawmakers listed chunks of spending under the broad purpose of being for campaign use or as a result of holding office.



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