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Thursday, November 02, 2006

New Haven Register exposes more petty cash problems

This story has legs (warning, this is a LONG but important post).

The New Haven Register came out today with an article regarding the 387,000 in petty cash Joe Lieberman dished out in the final days before the primary.

Matt Browner Hamlin over at MLN highlights three MAJOR problems that the paper dug up.
The Register article raises three serious potential violations of campaign finance laws. The one that most interests me is the possibility that the Lieberman campaign laundered money through their field consultants to convert it to street money.
Also, [Tom] Reyes and another man, Daryl Brooks of New Haven, who ran a consultant service, said they each got one check from the campaign for their services, but they are listed in the third quarter campaign finance report as getting two checks, for a total of twice what the men said they received.

The report lists Reyes as getting two checks for $8,250, one on Aug. 4 and one on Aug. 15. Brooks received $12,200 on Aug. 11 and another check for the same amount on Aug. 15, according to the Lieberman report. Both men said this was inaccurate.
Paying for services not delivered is a hallmark of street money. By writing checks that ostensibly look like they belong, campaigns can give their operatives cash to put on the street around election. Both of these men are saying they only received one check and their bank balances may well reflect that, but it I find it hard to believe that the Lieberman campaign's accountants accidentally cut an extra $20,450 in checks or accidentally added that much money to their records.

No, I think the most probable answer is Alan Schlesinger's hypothesis, that the Lieberman campaign was putting huge sums of cash into play as street money. Schlesinger was talking specifically about Joe's petty cash slush fund, but as I explained earlier this week, street money can be deployed in more ways than just giving cash to bad people to buy votes.
Lastly, street money is used to pay influential community members for services never provided. These people can then funnel the money into vote buying or using their connections to pull in more voters for the candidate who's throwing cash around.
Substitute campaign consultants for influential community members and the extra checks to Reyes and Brooks make sense. This money could well have been used as street money and it's coming from sources that we hadn't considered as legitimate possibilities before the Register article.
This is a serious problem. Again, we're talking about 387,000 dollars spend during the last 12 days before the primary. By comparison, the Lamont campaign reported only 500 dollars in petty cash.

387,000 dollars to 500 dollars...strange isn't it?

Back to Matt:
There are two other salient pieces of information in the Register article, though they apply more towards the Lieberman campaign's failures to keep proper clerical records of their expenditures than something necessarily as sinister as street money. That is not to say that these are not serious violations of campaign finance law that do real damage to the spirit of transparency that good government groups like Public Campaign Action Fund and Common Cause have fought for.
Several young men, who were paid $60 a day out of petty cash to canvass in Bridgeport, said they were paid in cash for aggregate earnings over $200.

Rob Dhanda, 18, or Stratford, said he earned $480 in cash over several weeks, while Walter Ruilova, 18, also of Stratford, said his total was an estimated $360 in cash. Ruilova estimated there were about 30 teenagers working out of the Bridgeport office, each earning $60 a day in cash, over a few weeks.

Michelle Ryan, a spokeswoman for the FEC, would not comment on specifics of the Lamont complaint, but said "in terms of itemization, it is required once the aggregate total to a recipient is in excess of $200."
The Lieberman campaign essentially paid campaign workers off the books. The article doesn't find people who were necessarily paid more than $100 in petty cash (which would be illegal), but these are all individuals who received over $200 and thus should be itemized on Lieberman's reports. Failure to provide full information about these people, including their names and addresses, is an avoidance of the law. At minimum this information continues to fill out our understanding of the extent to which the Lieberman campaign stopped obeying campaign finance requirements and regulations during the Democratic primary.

The Register also includes information that will surely bolster the Lamont campaign's formal complaint to the FEC about the Lieberman petty cash slush fund. Specifically, the Lamont campaign contended that Lieberman failed to keep adequate records in their petty cash journal as to what their disbursements paid for.
At least one man who was hired as a consultant, Tomas Reyes of Oxford, said he has yet to be asked by the campaign to turn over material for the journal, which would justify expenditures of $8,250.

The FEC requires the treasurer of the political committee to keep a written journal of all disbursements out of petty cash, including names, addresses, dates and purposes.
I'm not sure if Mary O'Leary, the NH Register reporter, is entirely clear in this passage as to whether or not Reyes $8,250 was a petty cash expenditure, which would require a record in the journal, or a reimbursable expense for his 8/4/06 check for "field consulting." It strikes me as odd for Reyes to claim that he had receipts for field consulting, a service he provided for the campaign. In any event, it is clear that Lieberman's books are not up to date and accurate, which is a violation of campaign finance laws.

O'Leary gave the Lieberman campaign multiple opportunities to speak on the record about these petty cash and field consulting expenditures and the failures to accurately keep the required records. As they have done since this scandal broke, the Lieberman campaign declined to speak about their petty cash problem.

The Lieberman campaign's continued silence only strengthens the need to ask questions like O'Leary has done in this article. She has brought out new information that demands answers from Joe; if she can't get them, I hope the FEC will. Every piece of evidence that comes out suggests malfeasance, albeit of varying degrees, by Joe's campaign. Lieberman's actions and Lieberman's silence do damage to the health of our elections. The need for truth has never been more clear than today.
I don't want to repeat myself here but if I must.

387,000 in COLD HARD CASH was dished out by the Lieberman campaign in a span of 12 days prior to the priamary and no one knows how the money was used.

Here's Lamontblog's timeline.
First, Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy Sun said she wasn't there when it happened:
Lieberman spokeswoman Tammy Sun said she wasn't with the campaign at the time of the primary, but her understanding is that there was a staffer in charge of keeping track of petty cash. (NH Register, 10/22)

Then she promised she'd produce the journal detailing petty cash expenditures - one that is required by FEC law:
She said the money was used to cover salaries, food, lodging and transportation for hundreds who were hired to do statewide canvassing. The daily rates ranged from $60 to $75 to $100 for the work, Sun said. She said she would attempt to find the petty cash report by Monday. (NH Register, 10/22)

Then she was "unable to say" why the young workers who assumedly got all this cash weren't listed by name and salary in the FEC report, while their lodging and transportation was:
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. (Courant, 10/22)

Then she hid behind the campaign's lawyer:
"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." (AP, 10/23)

Then she reversed herself, said the cash was not used to pay workers, but to pay field coordinators who then threw the cash around to kids:
Lieberman's campaign spokeswoman, Tammy Sun, said today the cash was paid to field coordinators who then distributed the money to workers who canvassed for the three-term incumbent, who's running as an independent candidate after his primary loss to Lamont in August. (Journal-Inquirer, 10/24)

Then she reversed herself, and told reporters they couldn't see the petty cash journal:
Sun declined Monday to allow reporters to examine the campaign's petty cash journal. (Courant, 10/24)

Now, despite promising reporters she would produce records of how almost $400,000 in cash was spent and then suddenly telling reporters they couldn't look at them, and despite still being "unable to say" why the slush fund even existed in the first place, she's calling the whole thing a "kooky conspiracy theory":
"We are in full compliance with the FEC's disclosure requirements, have done nothing wrong, and there's not a shred of evidence to suggest otherwise. We will not be going beyond the law to release the journal simply because Ned Lamont has some kooky conspiracy theory." (NH Register, 10/24)
Well, I think the New haven Registger just unearth a shred of evidence and raised some seriosu concerns about the petty cash.

Remember, Joe Lieberman will do anything to get re-elected:

* Lieberman threw the Democratic Party under the bus by actively looking for Republican support therby placing the Congressioanl Democrats in trouble.

* Lieberman's campaign passed out race-baiting flyers throughout the African American community days before the primary, accusing Lamont of not caring about race-relations (although he taught at an inner city high school in Bridgeport and the quote Lieberman used in the flyer was TOTALLY taken out of context).

* Lieberman paid a staggering $17,550 to Urban Voters and Associates ( a buisness which is run out of a house) for "field consulting."

17,550 dollars for field consulting?

Accoring to the Courant, Urban Voters and Associates "employee" Prenzina Holloway distrbuted absentee ballots throughout the African-American community in Hartford's North-End for Lieberman although she is barred from doing so.
Holloway acknowledges working for Urban Voters and Associates, a company paid $17,550 by the Lieberman campaign since September to do "field work." But she said she isn't involved in the company's absentee ballot operations.

"That is just a no-no," she said. "And I know it is a no-no."

But five people at a Vine Street housing complex for the elderly have told The Courant that Holloway and another person came to their doors to give them absentee ballot applications, and a security worker at another complex on Woodland Street said Holloway tried to get into the building to distribute applications there. Holloway was barred from the building after getting into a verbal altercation with the worker after he made supportive comments about Lieberman's main challenger, Ned Lamont.

Something just isn't right here and at this point, the mainstream media should quesiton Joe Lieberman and mroe forcefully go after this story.

Here's a chart and a list of Lieberman's petty cash spending compared to other politicians during the same eleciton cycle.
Joe's Petty Cash Cropped

* Ben Cardin (MD) - $0.00
* Kweisi Mfume (MD) -$0.00
* Lincoln Chafee (RI) - $650.00
* Stephen Laffey (RI) - $0.00
* Hillary Clinton (NY) - $0.00
* Jonathan Tasini (NY) - $0.00
* George Allen (VA) - $0.00
* Jim Webb (VA) - $0.00
* Harris Miller (VA) - $0.00
* John Tester (MT) - $0.00
* Conrad Burns (MT) - $0.00
* Bob Corker (TN) - $0.00
* Harold Ford (TN) - $1500.00
* Sherrod Brown (OH) - $0.00
* Mike DeWine (OH) - $0.00
* Ed Case (HI) - $0.00
* Daniel Akaka (HI) - $0.00
* Alan Schlesinger (CT) - $0.00
* Ned Lamont (CT) - $500.00
* Joe Lieberman (CT) - $387,000.00

Lets go back and see what the candidates had to say about Joe's petty cash.

Lamont campaign:

Alan Schlesinger:

387,000 in COLD HARD CASH. Many questions, no answers.