Monday, February 05, 2007

Campaign funds buy many things for politicians

Campaign funds buy many things for politicians 'In our opinion, that's flat-out wrong,' said Mr. Kauffman. 'I don't think that has anything to do with influencing the outcome of an election.'
Flat-out wrong.

Shame on them all.

Speaking of suits, I've been waiting for the opportunity to reveal these photos of when we got suits in Hong Kong. They were not paid for by campiagn donations.

From markets

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Campaign funds buy many things for politicians
Dollars for travel, meals, even new clothes

Monday, February 05, 2007
By Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The suit Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl wore on "The Late Show With David Letterman" was paid for by campaign contributors.

So was a package of All-Star Game tickets bought by council President Doug Shields and then sold, at cost, to a supporter.

Councilman William Peduto, a mayoral candidate, had his campaign reimburse him for $3,630 in out-of-pocket expenses last year, mostly for meals and travel over the prior two years.

And Councilwoman Twanda Carlisle, whose campaign practices are the subject of a probe by Allegheny County District Attorney Stephen A. Zappala Jr., paid legal bills and took a $250 personal loan from her campaign.

For city officials, like politicians at other levels, campaign coffers are proving a flexible source of money to cover travel, clothes and donations to groups.

That's possible because the state's campaign spending laws are nebulous. "You can spend it on anything that influences the outcome of an election," said Allegheny County elections division manager Mark Wolosik.

Later this month, the watchdog group Common Cause/Pennsylvania will launch an effort to rewrite the laws that govern state and local campaigns, said Director Barry Kauffman. "We'll certainly look at redefining what's a legitimate campaign expenditure," he said.

The broad spending from campaign funds is worrisome, he said, because it means the special interests that make most political donations are paying for more than standard expenses like consultants, polls and yard signs.

Mr. Ravenstahl spent $1,547 in campaign money at Charles Spiegel, a Squirrel Hill clothier, specifically for his appearance on Letterman, according to reports filed with the Elections Division on Wednesday.

"He was representing the city of Pittsburgh, with clear intentions of running for election," said Damon Andrews, the mayor's campaign manager. "He bought the clothing to make the best possible impression."

"I don't think you can justify that," said Mr. Kauffman, arguing that the clothes will outlast the campaign and so shouldn't be billed to it. "I've seen people on 'Letterman' who probably spent $50 on their clothes."

That kind of spending is "pretty unusual," he said.

It's not unique, though. Councilman Dan Deasy, a former public works employee, last year spent $554 in campaign funds on a tuxedo.

The mayor's campaign also spent $527 on JetBlue Airlines flights to and from New York for the annual Pennsylvania Society meeting, which Mr. Andrews said was part of an effort to win the endorsements of other officials.

Mr. Peduto used campaign funds to cover a $180 hotel bill in Phoenix in 2004, and a $207 hotel bill in Columbus, Ohio, in 2005. He said that was related to his attendance at Democratic Leadership Conference meetings, from which he brought ideas related to budgeting and development.

He provided an itemized list which showed that the fund in 2006 repaid him for expenses incurred in 2004 and 2005, including some four-dozen meals. "Most of it is political meetings, with finance people, political people, committee people," he said.

Ms. Carlisle's campaign fund made $1,060 in payments to her last year. Her expense disclosures indicate that some of that was for office supplies, but a $250 payment to her in June is identified as "misc/loan," and there is no indication in the reports that it was paid back.

"I think you're crossing some lines you don't want to cross at that point," Mr. Kauffman said.

Two payments by Ms. Carlisle's fund to her, totalling $375, are identified as "out of pocket/attorney." Ms. Carlisle faces an ongoing probe that Mr. Zappala said in December included "election code issues."

Ms. Carlisle could not be reached for comment, and her attorney would not answer questions about campaign spending.

Mr. Shields, like other council members, gives campaign money to community groups, last year donating $350 to the Hazelwood Initiative and $250 to the Hazelwood YMCA, for example.

"My treasurer once told me, 'What are you, a philanthropy, or a political operation?' " he said.

In June, though, his campaign fund spent $820 on All-Star Game tickets. "I didn't even go," Mr. Shields said.

Instead, he passed the tickets on to Norman Childs, owner of the Squirrel Hill eyewear store Eyetique. Mr. Childs then donated $820 to Mr. Shields' campaign in July.

"In our opinion, that's flat-out wrong," said Mr. Kauffman. "I don't think that has anything to do with influencing the outcome of an election."

(Rich Lord can be reached at or 412-263-1542. )