The Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved campaign-finance and elections reform that includes prohibition of politicians using campaign money for personal expenses such as cars, apartments and clothes. “It’s really common sense,” said Senate Elections Chairwoman Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven. “The question you ask yourself is, ‘Is this a campaign-related expense, or an expense related to holding office?’ If the answer is yes, you’re fine. If it’s no, then you shouldn’t do it.” House Bill 797, now rewritten by the Senate, also includes a prohibition on politicians cashing out their campaign funds as a nest egg when they leave office and requires them to itemize campaign spending with a credit card. It would also prohibit legislators from soliciting campaign funds during a legislative session, although Doty said this might require changes so it doesn’t hamstring lawmakers running for other offices.
The Clarion-Ledger’s ongoing series, “Public Office/Private Gain” has shown how many Mississippi politicians have taken advantage of lax campaign finance laws and reporting regulations and nonexistent enforcement to line their own pockets and to spend money from special interests and lobbyists in ways that could land them in jail in most other states or on the federal level. Experts and politicians have called Mississippi’s campaign finance setup “a recipe for ethical disaster” and “legalized bribery.”
The lengthy bill also includes an overhaul and cleanup of election and voting laws being pushed by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, including a crackdown on PACs running anonymous ads and failing to report their creation and finances. It lacks provisions Hosemann pushed for early voting up to 21 days before an election and online voter registration. An attempt Wednesday to reinstate early voting through an amendment failed.
Full Article: Senate votes to ban personal spending of campaign money.