Lawmakers spend campaign funds on travel, cigar bars

State lawmakers spent campaign cash on items ranging from cigar bars to hotels in France, according to an analysis by The Tennessean’s Joel Ebert.

Ebert reports Sen. Paul Bailey (R-Sparta) spent more than $1,000 to stay at hotels in Paris and Verdun during a a visit to France for the 100th anniversary of Sgt. Alvin York’s heroic deeds during World War I. Campaign funds also paid for Bailey’s $900 flight.

Rep. Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Rep. Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) used campaign funds to cover expenses at cigar bars. A Hill spokesman said the $110 he expensed at a cigar lounge in Johnson City was a “reporting error,” and that he planned to reimburse his account. A Staples spokesman said the lawmaker spent the money during “constituent appreciation” events at the cigar bar in Nashville.

Sen. Steve Southerland (R-Morristown) dropped about $28,300 to buy a car from Lee Beaman’s dealership. He also used campaign finds to cover the cost of car washes and license plate fees.

“He utilizes the automobile to travel to the Capitol on official state business, which is allowable under state law,” a spokeswoman for Southerland told The Tennessean.

Read more of Ebert’s reports about lawmaker spending habits and problems with disclosures.


8 Responses to Lawmakers spend campaign funds on travel, cigar bars

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    James White says:

    Good job Erik, keep digging. The “errors” and “allowed” are just ways for them to rip us off.

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    Eddie White says:

    How are you being “ripped off” James? These are not tax dollars. Did you contribute to their campaigns? I may not agree with the expenditures, but did they violate campaign spending laws?

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    Cannoneer2 says:

    If you’ve given money to anyone, politicians included, it’s a gift, and you don’t have much reason to be upset if that money is used for things like this. Use it as a learning experience and don’t throw more money their way in the future.

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    David Collins says:

    It may not be a violation of any state laws, but I think the IRS would require that the value of these “expenditures” be listed as additional income on their 1040’s.

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    Josh Read says:

    This idea that a vehicle used for campaigning is an illegitimate expense but large un-itemized campaign expenses paid to third party consultung companies is considered copacetic is the kind of idiocy we’ve come to expect from the Tennessee ethics commission and registry of election finance policy administration along with our mentally challenged TN press corps

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