When last we left Ray Griffin, that Republican State Central Committee member who purportedly doubles as a political pundit, he was lamenting the fact that 5th Congressional District candidate Vance McAllister, a “wealthy, self-funding political novice,” was (gasp) using his own money to bankroll his campaign against Bobby Jindal-anointed State Sen. Neil Riser.
That’s right. McAllister’s biggest sin, according to Griffin, was using his own money for political campaign purposes.
Strangely enough, Griffin, whom we still question as the real author of that post on The Hayride, managed to skirt entirely the issue of using political campaign funds for personal uses.
Well, call us nitpickers, but we at LouisianaVoice choose not to look the other way on such matters. In our perverted, warped minds, we look upon private use of campaign funds as a bit more egregious than spending one’s personal funds for political campaigns.
And apparently state campaign finance laws agree with us.
Louisiana Revised Statute 18:1505.2 (I) says it quite succinctly: “Campaign funds may not be used for any personal use unrelated to a political campaign or the holding of public office.”
Further down, in R.S. 18:1505.2 (J) 1(1), the law says it again, in a slightly different way: “…contributions received by a candidate or a political committee may be expended for any lawful purpose, but such funds shall not be used, loaned, or pledged by any person for any personal use unrelated to a political campaign, the holding of a public office, or party position (emphasis ours).
That should be clear enough.
But wait. Apparently it was not quite so clear for Riser.
From January through December of 2012, Riser made 12 monthly payments of $678.20 to Ford Credit in Dallas. The notation on the expenditure was “Truck Note.”
That represents a total of $8,138.84 he spent from his campaign funds in 2012 on his personal vehicle.
And it would be quite a stretch to claim he was using the vehicle for campaign purposes. The most recent election was in October of 2011—and he was unopposed for re-election.
Perhaps he was campaigning already for Congress. If he was, it would make him, Jindal and Rodney Alexander all liars; they claim there was no collusion in Alexander’s sudden “retirement” in favor of a $130,000-a-year job as head of the Louisiana Office of Veterans’ Affairs—a development that conveniently opened the door for Riser.
There were some other questionable “campaign” expenditures as well.
During 2012, Riser made 11 payments to T.A. Roberts Oil in Grayson for “fuel for campaign.” Those 11 fuel purchases totaled $6,656.86, or $605.17 per payment. Either he has a huge gas tank on that truck, or he was running a tab at Roberts Oil.
Riser also made two payments of $502.86 each ($1,005.72 total) on June 1 and Dec. 5 to Farm Bureau Insurance for insurance coverage on his truck
So, in 2012, Riser spent a grand total of $15,801.42 from his campaign funds on his personal vehicle.
But, hey, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Riser, who like his mentor Jindal, actively courts the religious right as the beacon of all things pure and righteous (he made numerous $25 contributions to protestant churches all over his district), is apparently almost as generous with OPM (other people’s money) when it comes to hiring staff members.
During 2012, he paid $13,550 to Annette McGuffee of Columbia ($5,250), Mason Dupree of Baton Rouge ($6,000), and Nicholas Walts of Columbia ($2,300) for “campaign work” even though there was no campaign in 2012 and Riser had won re-election unopposed the year before.
So now, we’re up to $29,351.42 in questionable expenditures from Riser’s campaign funds—in 2012 alone. And yes, there’s more.
How many of us would love to have a slush fund to dip into to pay for roof repairs? Well, Riser did so on two occasions in 2012. In March, he paid Home Hardware in Columbia $72.45 and in August he paid David Wilson Construction of Columbia $250. Both expenditures ($322.45 total) were listed as “Roof Repair.”
How about a couple of meals in the House Dining Hall totaling $538.46?
And $100 for membership in the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC);
Of course, we can’t overlook those purchases from the Louisiana Senate: Shirts ($49.18), Windbreaker ($36.16), Umbrella ($26), Shirts ($47.60), T-shirt and lanyard ($15.09), lapel pins ($31.05), and $34 to the Louisiana Capital Foundation for “Ornaments”—all purchases ostensibly for “campaign purposes.”
Grand total: $30,551.41.
Now, let’s hit the high spots for the years 2009-2011:
- Kwik Mart, Columbia—20 payments totaling $3,228.95 for fuel;
- Mason Dupree—seven payments totaling $3,500 for “Campaign Work.” (Remember, he was unopposed in 2011.);
- LSU Ticket Office—$2,000 for athletic tickets;
- Riser & Son Funeral Home (Riser’s business) in Columbia—$1,013.67 reimbursement for purchase of an I-Pad (WHAT?!!);
- William R. Hulsey, CPA, of Monroe—$370 for professional fees (probably trying to figure a way to take a business deduction on that I-Pad);
- White Ford Co., Winnsboro—$678.20 for lease on vehicle;
- Farm Bureau Insurance Co.—$670.10 for vehicle insurance;
- Louisiana State Senate—$646.50 for Senate plates;
- Louisiana State Senate—$183.33 for Senate china;
- Louisiana State Senate—$187 for luncheon;
- Louisiana State Senate—$337.14 for flags;
- Louisiana State Senate—$147.60 for shirts and parade throws;
- Louisiana State Senate—$101.90 for shirts;
- Louisiana State Senate—$62.24 for a Senate jacket;
- Louisiana State Senate—$108.10 for flags;
- Louisiana State Senate—$26.32 for Senate pad folios;
- Louisiana State Senate—$25.45 for shirts;
- Louisiana State Senate—$18.50 for a watch;
- Louisiana House Dining Hall—$91.41 for meal;
- National Rifle Association—$125 for membership dues;
- American Legislative Exchange Council—$100 for membership dues;
- T.A. Roberts Oil, Grayson—three payments totaling $1,140.38 for fuel;
- State of Louisiana—three payments totaling $740 for rent of Pentagon Barracks Apartment;
- Ruston Flying Service—$100 for trip (we didn’t know you could taxi down the runway for $100);
- Wal-Mart—$76.62 for a router;
- Johnny’s Pizza—$30.72 donation (donation?);
So now we’re looking at a minimum of $46,000 in expenditures from Neil Riser’s campaign funds from 2009 through 2012—mostly in 2012, well after he was returned to office in 2011 with no opposition—that probably warrant a closer look by the Louisiana Board of Ethics.
Discounting the payments he made for “campaign work” to various individuals, there remains some $25,600 which should be counted as income. That amount includes truck payments, insurance, fuel, the router, roof repairs, LSU football tickets and of course, that I-Pad.
We have to wonder if Riser 1) claimed mileage on his income taxes and 2) if he reported the $25,600 as income. If the answers are yes to the first and no to the second, the IRS might suddenly take an interest and request a conference to go over his return.
And Neil Riser is asking voters in the 5th District to send him to Washington this Saturday so that he can join all the other Tea partiers in reining in all that wasteful governmental spending.
Wonder why Ray Griffin didn’t mention this in his column about campaign finance?