The Jonesboro Sun reports in an article picked up by AP that former Sen. Paul Bookout is voluntarily paying back campaign contributors to his 2012 campaign. He was unopposed and resigned from office after the Ethics Commission found he had spent $53,000 of the money he raised on personal expenses, from a home entertainment system to clothing. He was fined $8,000.
Bookout’s attorney emphasized that Bookout made the decision voluntarily and was not ordered to repay the money by the Ethics Commission. But it was pretty well a necessity, given that converting the money to personal use could have created a taxable event. My sources have been saying for weeks that a special state prosecutor’s review of the Bookout case has expanded to federal authorities. State law provides only misdemeanors for use of campaign money, but federal authorities can enhance potential violations through use of mail fraud and income tax statutes. Repayment of money never erases a crime, but it can be considered in mitigating penalties. Bookout’s case runs deep, because there’s suspicion that the 2012 campaign wasn’t Bookout’s first in which contributions in excess of campaign expenses might have been spent in questionable ways.
CC: Mark Darr.