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Editorial: Time to clear up campaign funds questions

Last Modified: Monday, February 04, 2013 10:08 PM

The state Ethics Board said it will take a narrow, focused approach on clarifying gray areas in laws that have left the board and public officials at odds over their interpretation.

Louisiana Board of Ethics Administrator Kathleen Allen said the board would like more clarity on four issues:

• What is permissible and what should be banned when it comes to personal use of campaign funds.

• Better defining the guidelines for reporting of contributions by political action committees.

• What portions of investigative reports and minutes of executive sessions of the board are confidential and which are public record.

• Drawing the line on when private entities doing state work become public employees governed by the state ethics code.

‘‘There’s some things we feel very strongly about and should be addressed,’’ Board Vice Chairman Scott Schneider told The Advocate of Baton Rouge.

Schneider said the board would likely settle on those four issues rather than a buffet of bills.

All four of the subjects have been prickly for the Ethics Board.

Particularly vexing for the board has been establishing hard and fast rules governing how candidates for elected office use their campaign fund. In recent years, candidates have used that donated money to purchase vehicles, LSU season football tickets and memberships in Mardi Gras krewes and country clubs.

One candidate purchased with campaign funds a large flat-screen TV for a tailgating event at a football game, then took the TV home and installed it in his house.

The Ethics Board is also locked in a court battle on what information in an ethics case can withheld from the accused and what information has to be shared with that person and his or her counsel.

State lawmakers may decide to punt on that issue since it appears destined to be decided by the state Supreme Court. They shouldn’t, though, ignore the need to once and for all clear up the questions regarding campaign funds and the personal use of them.

• • •

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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