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Thursday, April 27, 2017
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Editorial: State ethics board curtailing personal use of campaign funds

Last Modified: Monday, November 26, 2012 8:11 PM

Louisiana’s state Board of Ethics appears to be getting serious about curtailing the personal use of campaign funds.

And not a moment too soon we might add.

Interpretations by previous Board of Ethics about how campaign funds could be used were loose. In fact, it led to a “Wild, Wild West” mentality where gobs of questionable expenditures were approved.

This, in turn, led to the inevitable shenanigans.

In the past, elected officials or candidates in Louisiana have used campaign contributions to pay for LSU football tickets and dues to the Tiger Athletic Foundation which led to the purchase of prime seats, country club memberships, memberships in Mardi Gras krewes, dinners at expensive restaurants and automobile leases.

Candidates and elected officials, who have hosted football tailgating events, have purchased large, expensive TVs, then taken those TVs home for their own personal use.

Former Speaker of the House Charlie DeWitt used campaign funds to help purchase a Jaguar vehicle.

Not all candidates or elected officials viewed their campaign war chests as personal accounts. But these questionable spending sprees weren’t isolated either.

All of this may be coming to a screeching halt. The Board of Ethics is drafting guidelines that better defines how campaign funds can be spent.

Legal expenditures will include campaign advertising, yard signs and bumper stickers.

The verboten list will include legal fees for defense in criminal cases, home mortgage payments and country club dues.

That leaves a somewhat gray area that will presume that expenditures for personal use are illegal, unless the elected official or candidate can make a case otherwise.

The list of inappropriate expenditures will include travel, lodging, food and drink unrelated to campaign or public positions, tickets to a sporting event, theater, concert or other entertainment that is not part of a campaign fundraiser, dues or fees for civil, nonprofit or social organizations and clothing.

State Rep. Tim Burns, R-Mandeville, said the Board of Ethics’ endeavor isn’t easy.

But Ethics Board Vice Chairman Scott Schneider said the goal is to ensure that campaign funds are never used to subsidize a person’s lifestyle.

That hasn’t been the case in the past.

The Ethics Board should be applauded for trying to inject some common sense into the use of campaign funds in Louisiana.

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This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Ken Stickney, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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