The Friday night line is open. Closing out:
* BOOKOUT’S PLUNDERING: Files of the state Ethics Commission investigation into former Democratic Sen. Paul Bookout’s misuse of campaign money on personal expenses are now open to the public. KAIT in Jonesboro recites here some of the spending. It had been summarized by the Ethics Commission in its finding of multiple law violations by Bookout, but the specifics remain stunning — deposits of campaign money into an account from which checks were drawn for clothing, furniture, cash for Bookout and his wife and even at least one payment to the IRS. He also gave $2,500 to the First Baptist Church of Jonesboro.
A special prosecutor was appointed to review the case for potential criminal prosecution. The ethics violations, though multiple, are only misdemeanors under state law. But multiple sources indicate federal authorities are reviewing the case, too. Wire fraud statutes can be used whenever credit cards, checks and faxes are used in transmitting money and information used in furtherance of obtaining money illegally.
There has been a notable silence from state legislators about lack of action on the case. This perhaps is because 1) legislators write the laws that make campaign violations only misdemeanors and 2) Bookout is, without doubt, not the only elected official who’s ever drawn money from a campaign account for personal expenses. Republican Lt. Gov. Mark Darr resigned after a similar finding of misuse of his campaign account. Former Treasurer Martha Shoffner, a Democrat, faces a federal indictment over personal use of her campaign money.
The sums spent by Bookout are in a different league. The Ethics Commission questioned $49,000 in spending in in his 2010 race. But he raised and spent hundreds of thousands in multiple unopposed races for office with little by way of itemized expenditures and evidence is that a great part of it went for his personal use. Personal use of campaign money that isn’t reported as income also can have tax law consequences.