What is a campaign expense? Travel, housing, food, flowers, alcohol, toys cars, gas, tires, TV, computers, giving money to your wife or husband, kids (to run your campaigns), tickets to events. Virtually anything you can think of can be called a campaign expense and I've seen them all used.
Any asset you can think of can be purchased for a campaign and resold after the campaign for a few pennies on the dollar. Following the end of a campaign, the conversation might go like this: "I'll take a big screen TV for $10.00---but what did I hear? You say the candidate's wife already bought it?"
Many theories are going around as to why so few Republicans were caught in the sting. I would like to think that many of us are more moral and less willing to take bribes, and this is the case with many of the members. However, if a person wants to pass legislation they are for the most part, going to approach Democrats because they control all committee chairmanships in the House as well as the majority in the Senate. They also control the majority on all the committees in the House.
If any vote is ever close, Speaker Naifeh and Lois Deberry can come into any committee and vote as if they were on that committee or subcommittee.
We Republicans should definitely take the lead on ethics reform-and many have been working on it already. To be fair, Rep. Frank Buck (D) has run up against his own party leadership for years in his attempts at reform.
Democrats in general however, have been the roadblocks to reform. I don't have the figures, but information I have seen indicates democrats out-raise republicans 3 or 4 to 1 when it comes to PAC money contributions in Tennessee.
Republicans are accused of being the party of the "the man" or "big business" or they're the "money grabbers". But PAC facts don't support it. That is why the democrats freaked out when the republicans were the beneficiaries of their first "big donor".
They did all they could to stop this one family from being able to donate-but of course, their own big donors are exempt.
Republicans have worked a long time on ethics reform, and if we become the majority, we've been working at so long I'm optimistic that it would be a front burner issue and swept through immediately.
Light enforcement combined with no laws at all, causes people to become susceptible to mischief. Many operate upon the theory that if something is not illegal when one is campaigning, then it must be ethical.
If you want change-here are some more ideas , although I want to hear your ideas and feedback too. Of course, these are just ideas, and maybe they are viable or maybe they aren't. You may raise issues about these ideas that I might not have thought of. That is why a forum like this one is good to get discussions going. Let me know what you think.
1. Remove expenses for anything automobile related when not in session.(except gas three months before a contested race.) During those three months you might allow some reimbursement for mileage/wear and tear expenses that are part of driving a car.We get a milage/wear and tear expense when in session.
2. Remove allowable expenses for all sporting event/leisure ticket purchases. Limit sporting event tickets and leisure ticket "gifts" to maximum 2 per legislator. For instance, no 40 pack of tickets to or from a legislator so he in turn can hand them out as gifts or sell them.
3. Alcohol/Tobacco should not be a gift received or given by a legislator.
4. Limit travel expenses to within the state.
5. Tell Lt. Governor Wilder if he is going to fly everywhere, he gets the same 33 cents a mile just like everyone else gets. He should not receive the 55 cents per mile he receives to fly his private plane.
6. Let's stick to the continental U.S. No legislative trips to Hawaii for example.
7. Direct members of a candidate's family should not be paid to work on a campaign, or perhaps limit the amount they can receive.
8. All items sold after a campaign can only be deductions at 25% of value if sold to a family member and may only be fully deducted if it is a non-sellable item such as yard signs or advertising. This would stop campaigns from purchasing big screen TV's or computers to watch the results come in and then keeping it at home forever.
9. All toys or gifts for a constituent must go through a non-profit organization first. For instance, if you are going to give out gifts, the gifts should be given to a non-profit for them to distribute. For instance, some legislators might purchase 20 tickets to the Grizzlies game and then claim to take 20 kids, but how do we know he took kids instead of selling them or giveing them to big donors? friends or their family. It would be more appropriate to given them to say for example, the Boys Club.
10. Incumbents should not be able to deduct campaign headquarters expense, or at least be limited, since the state pays legislators $1,000 per month for an office or home office expense whether we use it or not. Claiming this as a campaign expense is like double dipping.
11. Employees of the state directly under the control of the person campaigning for office cannot openly campaign for that candidate. Sorry Speaker Naifeh! This will mean no more forcing all the secretaries in the State Legislature to go door to door for you because they fear for their jobs if they don't. I heard Speaker Naifeh had two busloads of state employees that only he can fire drive down to his district for door-to- door campaigning during his last race. What a shakedown!!
12. Address or place limits on the amount of anonymous campaign contributions and cash. These 2 can be abused in many ways.
13. Limit funding of fundraisers dependent on the number of guests invited. Takeing your wife out to dinner is not a campaign expense.
These are all just ideas off the top of my head. Feel free to offer your opinions, support them, point out the holes in them, or come up with your own.