Dustin Seaton, a Fayetteville educator and political consultant, says he has filed a complaint with the state Ethics Commission about the growing practice of political candidates making campaign contributions from their campaign accounts to other political candidates.
A recent Arkansas Democrat-Gazette article highlighted $30,000 in contributions made by Republican legislative leaders, most unopposed for re-election, from their campaign treasuries to other candidates.
The Ethics Commission created what these givers believe is a loophole in the rule banning use of campaign funds for personal purposes. The Ethics Commission said a "ticketed event" might be a place that would be useful for a political candidate to appear and thus he or she could use campaign money to pay that cost.
Politicians have begun declaring small not-so-public gatherings of a handful of legislators "ticketed events." There's a stated price, sometimes a varying one, for the invited guests, who then swap campaign checks.
Seaton wrote the Ethics Commission:
"The rule states there must be a ticketed event that 'increases public visibility of candidates' and should 'make all reasonable efforts to attend' such events.
According to his campaign finance reports, Sen. [Michael] Lamoureux gave $13,500 to nine Republican candidates for office on alleged events on 4/18/12 and 5/9/12. For one, since the state senator is unopposed in the upcoming election it is unclear how contributing to ticketed events of other same partisan campaigns benefits his constituents. Secondly, how can contributing to a congressional debt retirement (i.e. Bledsoe for Congress on 4/18) from current campaign contributions benefit his constituents? Lastly, it is apparent from other candidate finance reports that contributions to the various 'ticketed events' varied. How can a ticketed event vary in cost? For example, Sen. Lamoureux gave Dismang for Senate $1,500 on 5/9/12 and Sen. Johnny Key gave only $1,000 for the same 'event.' These financial irregularities led me to believe Sen. Michael Lamoureux is laundering campaign contributions made to his campaign to other Republican colleagues in the senate throughout the state."
The Ethics Commission's consideration of this complaint will be conducted in secret, unless probable cause of a violation is found. It cannot even confirm a complaint was filed.
Republicans have complained since the original D-G reporting that Democrats have engaged in similar use of 'ticketed events' to pass campaign contributions from a rich candidate to one in need. Two wrongs make a right? A simple rule prohibiting use of campaign money for another campaign would clear the air and is apparently overdue given the growth of the practice. The artifice is a handy way for rich contributors to evade campaign limits by contributing sums to other candidates that they know will find their way back to a targeted candidate.