Campaign funds should be for just that

Published 7:00 am Thursday, January 12, 2017

Public officials in America are elected to work toward the public’s interest.

But when some of these elected officials are found to be using campaign funds for personal use, it brings into question not only whether such spending should be legal, but if they are actually supporting the public’s interest in other matters while in office.

House Speaker Phillip Gunn has been working on a bill that would ensure these officials are acting in an ethical manner.  Last year the Associated Press and The Clarion-Ledger reported that the spending of several public officials was called into question when campaign funds were found to have been used to purchase clothing and cars.

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Some of the retiring public officials were even said to have withdrawn large sums of campaign contributions upon leaving office, later used for personal purchases.

An amended version of Gunn’s bill, House Bill 479, was approved by the House Rules Committee on Wednesday, but still has to pass additional steps before becoming law.

Whether the bill becomes law this year, or next year, some type of rule needs to be established to ensure a

public official’s remaining campaign funds are put to better use than buying a car or a pair of boots, if not returned to the contributor.

There are two issues with his bill. Legislators already receive a per diem of $140 during legislative sessions.

To any taxpayer, having that much “free money” at our disposal while performing official duties seems to be more than sufficient, but Gunn’s bill would allow campaign funds to be used to cover official expenses over that amount. Additionally, the bill even provides a loophole to allow campaign funds to be used to pay mortgages on property in Jackson.

One bright spot of the bill does mandate that when a legislator leaves office that any remaining funds in their campaign fund are either donated to a nonprofit, given to another candidate, or returned to the original donor.

If the two loopholes are removed, this bill could be a big step in the right direction.