Politicians like to talk tough on ethics — banning gifts from lobbyists, limiting contribution amounts, that kind of thing. But what does all that matter when people with interests before a particular legislative body simply donate to a pol’s “campaign fund” which is then used as a slush fund for living expenses by said politicians?
For example, let’s look at state Rep. Jason Saine (R) of Lincoln County. We all know about his taste in clothes. The guy has no primary or general election opposition. Yet, his latest campaign finance disclosure report shows $122,598.04 in “campaign expenditures.”
What is there to spend money on when you have NO OPPONENTS? There was a “volunteer dinner” at Lincoln Country Club in January to the tune of $167.17. Interesting. What are those folks volunteering FOR when there is no campaign to run?
Anyway, he took the “volunteers” to dinner again. This time, it was in Charlotte in February at “The Open Kitchen” for $80.72. Charlotte is well outside his legislative district. And ANOTHER “dinner with volunteers” in February at Raleigh’s “Village Draft House” to the tune of $103.27. *Boy, he’s making those “volunteers” drive all over the state for, um, “dinner.”*
For the record, Saine — like other legislators — gets $104 per day that the legislature is in session to cover room and board expenses. That’s in addition to the $13,951 per year salary.
Where is the state board of elections on stuff like this? Folks like this are really stretching the definition of “campaigning.” You have numerous legislators who are clearly LIVING off of their campaign funds — which are predominantly stocked (and-re-stocked) by lobbyists and other special interests seeking stuff from Jones Street. What is the point of campaign finance laws if stuff like this is winked and nodded at?