Mississippi Senate aims to end spending campaign money for personal use

Mississippi Senate aims to end spending campaign money for personal use

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Senate amended a bill Tuesday that would stop allowing elected officials and candidates to spend campaign money for personal use.

"The Senate Elections Committee amended House Bill 797 to say campaign money can't be used for rent, gasoline purchases, car payments or loans to candidates," according to an article from the Associated Press.

"The barrier between a bribe and a campaign contribution gets very fuzzy if you're buying boots and trips to Disneyland and the like with quote 'campaign contributions,'" said Joseph Parker, political expert and professor emeritus at the University of Southern Mississippi.

That kind of campaign spending was recently uncovered in a series of investigations by the Clarion-Ledger

"It makes people roll their eyes and say 'oh my god what is this all about,'" Parker said.

Pine Belt residents said they think campaign money should be used for campaigns.

"If I donated to someone's campaign regarding a particular election, I think it should be it should be used for that and that only," said Hattiesburg resident Vivian.

Purvis resident William Owen said, "If you donate to a campaign it should be used for a campaign, not personal."

"It could be a good thing (to use campaign funds for personal use) for them, for the politicians," said Hattiesburg resident James Lawrence. "I don't know how good it would be for the people though or they should monitor it real closely. Like check receipts."

Rep. Toby Barker, a member of House Apportionment and Elections Committee, said his committee passed Senate Bill 2374, which would require officials to itemize expenses credit card expenses on campaign reports.

"It's the big bucks items that raise questions of who are you working for," Parker said. "Are you working for your constituents or are you working for some big corporation or association of some profession or something that's putting up the money?"

Mississippi is only one of five states that allows elected officials and candidates to use campaign funds for personal items, according to a survey by the National Conference of State Legislatures and AP research.

The Senate's amendment to House Bill 797 also prevents elected officials from keeping any left over campaign funds when they retire.