BY: B. Keith Plunkett @Keithplunkett
Campaign finance can be a sticky subject for candidates, but it’s not rocket science. The Secretary of State’s Campaign Finance Guide is 18-pages of prohibitions, references to Mississippi Code, timelines and legalese, and those seeking elected office occasionally get things wrong.
When candidates realize they’ve made a mistake they are generally allowed to file amended reports to make things right. However, sometimes the offense is so blatant it is obvious that there is more than mere human error at play. That is why it is always a good thing for the public to review campaign finance documents.
A recent review has revealed just such a blatant lack of campaign finance disclosure in Lt. Governor Tate Reeves leadership team. Reeves chief lieutenant, President Pro-Tem Terry Brown, appears to have been much less than forthcoming regarding disbursements. In fact, he has not filed a disbursement report in at least six years, and there are no records for 2009. Our review didn’t go back any further, so it is safe to say there could be more.
Senator Brown has reported raising $119,750 and spending $88,854 from May 10, 2007 to the most recent filing deadline of January 31, 2013. Yet, he has provided no information in campaign finance reports of where he got the money or where he spent it. Think that is something the good folks in District 17 in Lowndes County may want to know?
Candidates are required to provide itemized reports of donations or receipts above $200, and an aggregate of that amount in donations or receipts to or from a person or entity during an election cycle. What Senator Brown is reporting is that he has never spent or received campaign money over the amount of $200 to or from anyone in the past 6 years.
How likely is that? Not very. Campaign signs alone run around five dollars a piece, and that doesn’t include ads in the local paper, bumper stickers and the myriad of other simple expenses. Are we also to believe that no one gave the Senator over $200 as a campaign donation?
A similar review of all other Mississippi Senator’s reports brought up no discrepancy of this magnitude, certainly none involving the amounts of money reported by Brown. Where the money is coming from and going, only Senator Brown knows.
Or does he? Whomever he has charged with his accounting could use a calculator. Many year end reports show one figure, and then the following year begins with a totally different amount with no explanation. In many cases, cash on hand and cash received amounts don’t add up. Brown’s reports are a mess.
Lt. Governor Reeves saw fit to put Brown on the Accountability, Efficiency and Transparency Committee, and the Appropriation Committee in the Senate among others. He is also Chairman of the Rules Committee. I assume there wasn’t much of a vetting process.
Brown’s campaign finance actions may be personally efficient, but they are definitely not accountable nor transparent, and they are nowhere near following the rules. Knowing this, what taxpayer would want him in charge of appropriating anything? Maybe the Lt. Governor would like to rethink those committee assignments.
Campaign Finance reports are required to be provided to the Secretary of State’s office by a particular filing deadline, staff members then file the required documents and posts them for public consumption.
Mississippi Code is somewhat confusing on with whom a complaint should be filed. But it is very clear on what the ramifications of non-compliance are.
Mississippi Code Section 23-8-11(d) says:
“No candidate who is elected to office shall receive any salary or other remuneration for the office unless and until he files all reports required by this article due as of the date such salary or remuneration is payable.”
Senator Terry Brown either owes the taxpayers money for the salary he has been paid since 2007, or a detailed disbursement report as to how his campaign money has been spent.
About Keith: Keith Plunkett has worked on communications issues with a range of public officials from aldermen to Congressmen, and a variety of businesses, governmental agencies and non-profits. He serves or has served as a board member of several non-profit, civic and political organizations. Contact him by going to HorizonMediaMarketing.com or follow him on Twitter @Keithplunkett
- Gov. Rick Scott tells House he’s not a fan of exploding campaign finance cap (miamiherald.typepad.com)
- House ratcheting down the $10,000 campaign-limits (blogs.orlandosentinel.com)
- Horne says campaign finance law unconstitutional (mysanantonio.com)