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Lawmakers Using Campaign Funds to Cover Personal Expenses Now a Common Practice

By on July 7, 2015 in General with 0 Comments

In New York state, a review conducted by the Associated Press has found that lawmakers have used campaign funds to cover a variety of personal expenses, including gasoline, car repairs, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in un-itemized credit card bills.

Determining exactly how much lawmakers have spent on personal expenses has proven to be virtually impossible due to a lack of transparency in regards to how they track or manage those expenses and rather weak campaign finance laws. Under those laws, lawmakers are able to pay bills with the use of campaign donations without providing any details.

Among the largest of such expenses are un-itemized credit card bills. According to the AP, candidates in New York accumulated approximately $1.6 million in campaign-related expenses over the past decade. While some lawmakers did detail what the charges were used for, that was only the case in a small number of instances. Sen. John Flanagan was found to have charged $90,000 alone over the past 10 years.

Another area of contention relates to travel expenses. While lawmakers are also able to receive reimbursements for expenses when they travel to the state Capitol, it has been found that many lawmakers still make use of campaign funds to cover auto and gasoline expenses. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie was recently found to have received more than $20,000 in travel reimbursements in 2014. Over the last 10 years, Heastie’s campaign spent some $22,000 at Bronx mechanic.

More Lawmakers under Fire for Improper Use of Funds

Heastie is not the only lawmaker to come under criticism for the improper use of funds. In Oklahoma, the Better Business Bureau of Tulsa recently alleged that Sen. Rick Brinkley embezzled more than $1 million from the BBB during the 15 years he served as the organization’s president and chief operating officer.

According to a recent lawsuit filed by the BBB, Brinkley allegedly established corporate entities in order to receive payments for fraudulent credit card accounts as well as other expenses for the purposes of paying his personal credit card invoices, pool cleaner, and mortgage. It was further alleged that Brinkley accepted cash advances for business trips that he never actually made by drawing on the BBB’s line of credit and then falsifying records in an effort to hide his actions. Brinkley, who served as CEO and president of the BBB from 1999 to 2011 as chief operating officer, was fired from his position as chief operating officer earlier this year. According to Brinkley’s campaign expenditures, he paid almost $50,000 to the Better Business Bureau earlier this year, although exactly why he made the payment remains unclear. The current lawsuit is seeking more than $10,000 for civil relief.

New rules have recently been adopted that would make it more difficult for legislators to claim fraudulent repayments. Given the number of lawmakers under fire for the fraudulent use of campaign expenses, there still is clearly room for campaign fund reform.


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