Tolbert: Bookout 2010 Reports Similar To 2012, Thousands Of Unitemized Expenses (UPDATE)

by Jason Tolbert ([email protected]) 95 views 

When the complaint filed against Sen. Paul Bookout first became public last spring, The Jonesboro Sun confronted him. “I’ve always done my records accordingly like I understood we were suppose to. I’ve always abided by my understanding of what we were supposed to put in the reports,” he told them at the time.

It turns out that he very well may have been telling the truth, in part.

Don’t get me wrong. Surely, Bookout knew spending his campaign account for personal extravagances such as a $8,000 home environment system, $5,000 for women’s clothing, or taking over $18,000 in cash for himself was wrong.  However, it appears he really had always done his records like this.

A review of his filing in 2010 shows that he also had thousands in unitemized expenses in even larger amounts than in 2012.  One has to ask if similar spending for personal expenses occurred in this year as well.  You can see all the reports on the Secretary of State website  by searching “Bookout,” but the final report is linked here.

In 2010, Bookout was also unopposed.  That year, however, he was the incoming Senate President Pro Temp with a Democratic majority still certain.  It is no surprise then that he took in $106,350 in contributions from various lobbyist and business interests hoping to get in good with the incoming leader.

This is all legal as long as Bookout spent the money on properly disclosed, legitimate campaign expenses.  However, in 2010 he had $93,198.43 that was unaccounted for.  Arkansas Code 7-6-207(b)(1)(E) requires “itemization of all single expenditures made which exceed one hundred dollars ($100), including the amount of the expenditure, the name and address of any person, including the candidate, to whom the expenditure was made, and the date the expenditure was made.”  Failure to comply with this requirement was what tripped up Bookout in his 2012 campaign reports.

As you can see in the chart below prepared from his 2010 campaign filings, once again his largest campaign expense is in the unitemized category of “entertainment,” where he spent over $28,000.  This seems to be the category where Bookout put most of his personal expenses during his 2012 campaign.  He also spent over $11,500 on travel, over $6,000 on office supplies, and another $5,500 in other unitemized expenses.

Among the expenses he did itemize was over $5,800 to the Ridge Point Country Club for fundraising, $4,500 to the Democratic Party of Arkansas for his filing fee, over $1,000 to several campaign workers, and $750 in advertising.

In addition, Bookout distributed $25,883.46 at the end of his campaign to bring his account down to $15,800.  This is common with excess campaign funds as candidates can only carryforward an amount equal to their annual salary for future campaigns.  However, there are two problems with this.

First, Bookout once again did not disclose who he gave this $25,833.46 to listing only “Non Profit Organizations – (501 c3); Political Party Caucus of AR General Ass.; Returned Contributions”  As with other expense details, Bookout has to list what organizations actually got these funds and the amount he sent them.  He did not do that.

Secondly, there is no subsequent filing of the required Carryover Reports for the $15,800.  Candidates are required to report the balance and use of these funds each quarter which Bookout did not do.  The amount also does not show up anywhere – at least where I could find it – in his 2012 campaign filings going into his 2012 campaign funds.  This begs the question:  What happened to this $15,800?

It is not completely clear if it is too late for a complaint to be filed, penalties to be assessed, and/or criminal charges to be brought up from these reports as almost three years has passed since the last one was filed (although the Carryover Reports should have been filed since that time so a complaint on them seems to be in line).

These reports show a pattern of behavior for Bookout that goes back further than just 2012.

Sen. Bookout was asked for comment for this story but has not responded.  I will update if he does respond.

UPDATE – From the Arkansas Ethics Commission Rules of Practice and Procedure (V-A(2) , “complaint must be filed within four (4) years after the alleged violation occurred.”  Therefore, a citizen could still file a complaint regarding Bookout’s 2010 financial filings.