The Arkansas Ethics Commission has released a 127-page document that outlines the investigation into the campaign spending of former state Senator Paul Bookout (D). According to the report, Senator Bookout “believed in his heart” that all of his spending was campaign related. Apparently, the hearts of the ethics commissioners were not so certain.
From the report:
While Mr. Bookout believed in his heart that all of the expenditures he made during his campaign were related to his campaign, he chose to defend only $13,964.00 as being legitimate campaign expenses. That amount, $13,964.00, consists of five (5) expenditures that Mr. Bookout identified.
The report goes on to say that, of the five expenses Bookout defended, only four appeared to be legitimate. The fifth was an expense of $4,000 to the Democratic Party of Arkansas. The Commission said this “donation” should not have been made until after the November 2012 election, per Ark. Code Ann. 7-6-203(h)(3)(A). (No word from the DPA about this apparently prohibited “donation” yet. I’m sitting by the phone.)
When news broke of the investigation into Bookout’s spending, Bookout told local press “I’ll do whatever I need to do to comply.” At his first hearing before the Commission, however, he said he didn’t have any receipts of his spending and therefore couldn’t provide any information as to how his campaign funds were spent. But wouldn’t you know it: Bookout’s bank actually keeps records of cleared checks and debit card transactions. Somehow, perhaps through magic, the Commission was able to obtain copies.
The 127-page report from the Commission also includes a list of all of the expenses that exceeded $100 and were not itemized, as required by state law. Some of the more egregious include:
- $400 to Paul Bookout
- $800 to Paul Bookout
- $600 to Paul Bookout
- $450 to Paul Bookout
- $200 to Paul Bookout
- $218.09 to Steamroller Blues, a women’s clothing store
- $289.04 to Ridgepointe Pro Shop
- Another $1200 and change to Steamroller Blues
- Another $150 to Ridgepoint Pro Shop
- $140.17 to Kimono Japanese Steakhouse (although, in the Senator’s defense, I ate there last night and they do have great sushi)
- $389.41 to Home Depot
- $8,402.47 to Sound Concepts for a home theater system
According to Bookout’s heart, all of these expenses were made in support of his re-election effort. Keep in mind, however, that he didn’t actually have an election opponent.
In total, Senator Bookout transferred more than $18,000 from his campaign account to his personal bank account. Various other expenses are shown at local restaurants, department stores, and liquor stores.
Bookout ultimately resigned from the Senate at the end of August. Now a special election is underway to fill his seat. The primary election will be held on October 8th. The general election will be in January.
Read my interviews with the Republican Senate candidates: