Our legislators get roughly $100 per day to cover food and lodging expenses while the legislature is in session. A number of legislators I spoke with said there are several hotels near Jones Street that offer special rates for legislators during session. Yet, we’re coming across a surprising number of legislators who are using campaign funds to pay for apartments and houses in Raleigh.
Here are two examples. Senator Fletcher Hartsell (R-Cabarrus) has been the subject of a state elections board inquiry, and has been handed off to a prosecutor for further review. if you go to his campaign report on the state board of elections web site, you’ll see him paying money to “Capitol Communications” in Granite Falls for “Rent-Oberlin.”
Capitol Communications is the firm run by uber-consultant Paul Shumaker. Sources in Raleigh confirm for us that Shumaker does indeed own an apartment in the Oberlin Road area of Raleigh. Sources also confirm for us that Hartsell was sub-letting, and in some cases, sharing the apartment with Shumaker. (That arrangement, we’re told, recently was dissolved.) Further review of Hartsell’s report reveals payments for cable service and electricity for “Oberlin” — also the Shumaker property. For what it’s worth, Shumaker DOES advertise himself as an expert in “government relations” (A/K/A lobbying).
It’s one thing to rent an apartment while in Raleigh for legislative business. It’s another to try and disguise it as a legitimate campaign expense.
Let’s look at the report of senator Jerry Tillman, the majority whip in the General Assembly’s upper chamber. Tillman’s district is centered mainly on Randolph and Moore Counties. Yet, his campaign report identifies regular rent payments for a “campaign office” in RALEIGH. Specifically, the location of said “campaign office” is Blackwolf Run Townhomes at 5448 Grand Traverse Drive in Raleigh.
Google tells us that Black Wolf Run has two pools, an athletic club, a golf course, and an on-site staff. Tillman’s report shows rental payments for the campaign office during months and years outside of campaign season.
Both of these guys take campaign contributions from individuals AND lobbyists. So, those folks are basically paying for these housing arrangements.