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Monday, October 23, 2006

What bloggers are saying about Lieberman's slush fund

From LamontBlog:
Lieberman's campaign today claimed that the $387,000 slush fund was used to pay salaries, food, lodging, and transportation of "young kids" doing paid canvassing.

But "Lodging for Volunteers," "Car Rental for Canvassers," "Food for Staff," a $1,700+ tab for "Food and Beverage" for Tom Lindenfeld (their field guy), multiple payments to temp and staffing agencies, multiple gas receipts for $20 and $30 each, multiple van and bus and car rentals (ground transportation alone accounts for at least $90,000 of their itemized expenses), multiple airfares, and even a $12.99 car wash are all itemized on their FEC report.

CT Local Politics:

I see two problems here. First: paying for contractors out of petty cash. Petty cash is meant to pay for small expenses where it's not practical to cut a check. There's no reason not to pay field workers with a check. Surely passing out cash daily is far less practical than having people submit an invoice for a weekly or bi-weekly payment.

Second: While the Lieberman campaign did attempt to hire up to 4,000 workers, we know they never materialized. The weekend before the primary Lieberman switched his focus from GOTV operations to media buys. And Anyone who was at the polls on primary day, or caught any stop on Joe's Tomorrow Tour knows Joe's actual number of supporters was never that large. I just don't see how the ground support that they did have adds up to $387,561.
Ok, this is getting really weird. Lieberman spoksewoman Tammy Sun is simply denying that the Lieberman campaign did anything wrong.
"This is just another reckless charge from a desperate campaign that is obsessed with reliving the primary," said Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy Sun. "The fact is, our attorney has assured us that the petty cash expenditures and the rest of our FEC report is in full compliance with the law's disclosure requirements just as every campaign Joe Lieberman has run for the last 18 years has been."
Who's the lawyer for Lieberman, because I don't believe that any competent lawyer would say anything of the sort. The law is clear.
A political committee may maintain a petty cash fund out of which it may make expenditures not in excess of $100 to any person per purchase or transaction. If a petty cash fund is maintained, it shall be the duty of the treasurer of the political committee to keep and maintain a written journal of all disbursements. This written journal shall include the name and address of every person to whom any disbursement is made, as well as the date, amount, and purpose of such disbursement. In addition, if any disbursement is made for a candidate, the journal shall include the name of that candidate and the office (including State and Congressional district) sought by such candidate.
This is $387,000, in cold hard cash. We're not talking going out and getting donuts for some volunteers here.

This could be a serious legal situation for Lieberman, and he needs to explain it and not just go on the attack. Vote-buying is illegal. And if this were some sort of clerical error, why couldn't Tammy Sun just admit that and have the story go away?
More Stoller:
The practice of vote-buying is not new or surprising in American history, but sometimes the case is particularly brazen. The FEC as a regulatory agency was created to stop these illegal practices in elections, and the key to stopping these practices, or at least limiting them, is disclosure. When someone's not disclosing, they are often not engaging in honest electioneering.

And when someone's not disclosing where $387,000 in campaign cash went in the final days before a primary, well, that's sort of a big red flag.

Speaking of which, Joe Lieberman just reported on his FEC form $387,000 in petty cash disbursements for the last eight days of the primary campaign against Ned Lamont. That's 8% of the total amount he spent, and an incredibly high number. It's also illegal; petty cash disbursements are not supposed to go above $100 apiece, for the simple reason that vote-buying, money-laundering and other illegal and unsavory tactics are easily accomplished when you can just hand out cash, as the Lieberman campaign apparently did.


All in all, it's very confusing. There are much better ways to hide payoffs than reporting illegal disbursements on your publicly accessible FEC report, but then again, the Lieberman staff at the time probably knew that they were all being fired after the primary and were totally exhausted. Attention to detail tends to lapse at times like that. Or maybe there's an innocent explanation, the Lieberman just illegal paid $387,000 in cash to canvassers in the last few days and forgot to catalogue it like the law demands.

I'm only certain of one thing. The Lieberman campaign is hiding something. Whether it's embarrassment at their incompetence or criminal activity I don't know. But they didn't admit a simple mistake and come clean, and that's very strange.

TPM Cafe
Reader drowsy points out that the Hartford Courant article about Ned Lamont's latest $2 million campaign infusion also has quite a bit to say about Lieberman's finances, namely a series of huge cash expenditures right before the August 8 primary listed in the Lieberman campaign's latest finance report. The Lamont campaign has questioned $387,000 in cash disbursements made by the Lieberman campaign shortly before the primary - labeled as "petty cash" for "volunteers" and "an alarmingly large and suspicious slush fund" by the finance report and the Lamont camp, respectively.

Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy Sun says the money was used for payments to young field workers hired in the closing weeks of the primary. But a Lamont press release remarks that this explanation raises more questions than it answers, such as: "If as Tammy Sun claims, this cash was used for volunteers, food and transportation, why does their FEC report separately itemize expenses for volunteers, food and transportation throughout their FEC report? [examples attached at bottom of release]" ... "Why were 'volunteers' paid cash?" ... and, "Did the Lieberman Campaign fill out tax forms for the paid ‘volunteers?'"


Okay, now back to that Courant article: "Sun was unable to say Saturday why the workers, some of whom appeared to have stayed for days or weeks in dormitories at the expense of the Lieberman campaign, were not listed by name and salary."

Is the Roundup missing something here?