Pickering releases statement after reported FBI investigation

Pickering releases statement after reported FBI investigation

JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Mississippi State Auditor Stacey Pickering released a statement Friday morning, following reports of an FBI investigation into his campaign funds.

According to an article from the Clarion Ledger, Pickering is being investigated for lavish purchases with campaign money such as cars, a garage door, and thousands of dollars worth of reimbursement fees for itemized travel.

Pickering said the allegations were a "series of vicious and untrue attacks" leveled upon him by his opponent, Mary Hawkins- Butler.

"She entered this race with the strategy of attacking the Madison County Board of Supervisors and other Madison County vendors, and now has sadly turned her attacks toward my family and me. She knows her campaign is in dire trouble, and with 11 days until Election Day she is using the oldest trick in the book by trying to smear my credibility. I am embarrassed a so-called Republican would stoop to this level of personal destruction," Pickering said in his statement.

Pickering also cited his 12 years of public service working with the FBI and law enforcement on a daily basis, and works to prosecute those who misuse public funds.

"My record speaks for itself," Pickering said.

Pickering also outlined many points addressed in the Clarion Ledger's article.

"There are three points of concern that the Clarion Ledger article addressed.

• Point #1 – Reimbursements filed on my campaign finance reports

o My campaign finance reports have always been filed in a timely manner and strictly following state law. I have thoroughly disclosed disbursements from my campaign account and to whom they were given. They are fully transparent and are in compliance with state law.

o Being a statewide elected official is more than a 9-to-5 job, and the state auditor's budget does not allow for extensive travel. Throughout my political career, I have traveled extensively during weekends and evenings on behalf of Mississippi Republicans and national Republican candidates. As Auditor, I'm keenly aware that not all of those expenses should be borne by taxpayers. They're political in nature. I have made countless campaign stops on behalf of state legislative campaigns, fellow statewide officials, local Republican officials and the Mississippi Republican Party. I proudly served as the state Chairman for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, which required multiple trips in and out of state. Serving on boards for the Governmental Accounting Office as well as the National State Auditors Association, some travel was paid for out of the campaign fund and fully allowable under state law.

• Point #2 – Reimbursements to staff

o Over the years, I have had several staffers from the Auditor's office who have worked on minor projects for my campaigns. They did this work during their own personal time. As reiterated by the Clarion Ledger, this is not prohibited, thus, I reimbursed them from my campaign account for their travel and/or expenses. 

• Point #3 – Campaign purchase of a campaign car, mobile campaign office and home security 

o Following the same path of many campaigns, my campaign purchased a campaign car in 2011—when my daughter was 15. It was an 8-year-old used car (2003) purchased to perform the regular functions of a campaign car. We personally paid the car insurance and taxes on the campaign car since its purchase to cover any personal use and it wasn't until it reached well over 180,000 miles and was worth less than $1,500 according to Kelly Blue Book, that our daughter drove it on a consistent basis. The car is still used for campaign functions. Katie drove it to numerous campaign stops this month. She frequently campaigns side-by-side with me and even as a surrogate for events that Whitney and I cannot attend.

o When I first decided to run for statewide office, my four children were still very young. Whitney and I decided that it would be a wise investment for the campaign to purchase a small, Class B RV, so that our family could spend as much time together as we campaigned across the state. This ended up saving the campaign money on costly hotel rooms. It was important to me that voters not only personally meet me, but also meet my family as well. They are an important part of who I am and voters needed to see that. We have paid the insurance and taxes on the vehicle since it was purchased to cover any personal use. 

o When I am performing my job as State Auditor, it sometimes causes me to make harsh enemies. It's part of my job and I will never back away from that aspect of it. However, I refuse to have my family's safety threatened. On a number of occasions our home garage was ransacked, which was very frightening to my wife and children. Unlike other statewide elected officials, I do not have a security detail, so I made the decision that I had to install a garage door at my home to protect my family. I filed it on my personal taxes, following the law. I am not going to stop pursuing high-profile cases because that is what I was elected to do. However, my family's safety is my top priority, and that is why I took the action to secure our home from those who may wish to intimidate or cause me harm."

Pickering said he will continue to campaign throughout the state leading to the primary election, and looks forward to talking with voters and media about his plans for the next four years.