The Clarion-Ledger's Geoff Pender questioned State Auditor Stacey Pickering's campaign spending and reported there is a possible FBI investigation. Is this a legitimate story or last-minute campaign hijinks? The newspaper reported:
The FBI has been investigating State Auditor Stacey Pickering’s campaign finance records since at least March, multiple sources, including one of his former campaign staffers, confirmed.
It appears investigators are looking into his campaign’s purchase of a car, a recreational vehicle and a garage door and into reimbursements for thousands of dollars in non-itemized travel to himself and others during off campaign years and whether he reported or paid taxes on personal spending from campaign funds.
Pickering says he has “had no conversation with the FBI on this matter” and his office continues to work joint investigations with the federal agency. He accuses his primary opponent, Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins Butler, of spreading “nasty innuendo and insinuation” and called his former staffer “disgruntled” and said she’s working for Butler.
Tiffany Parrish worked as a fundraiser on Pickering’s first, successful run for state auditor in 2007, and left shortly thereafter. Parrish said she was surprised when FBI agents recently showed her that a BMW 325i she sold Pickering in 2011 was listed on his campaign finance report as a “fundraising fee expense” instead of a car.....
Pickering would not consent to an interview and canceled an editorial board meeting scheduled Thursday with The Clarion-Ledger. He sent a brief written statement saying he knows nothing of an FBI investigation and criticizing Butler and Parrish. He said in the statement, “We will not let these negative campaign tactics disrupt our positive message in the final 12 days of this Republican primary election.”....
Pickering’s campaign finance reports show a large amount of non-itemized travel expenditures, with payments to himself, a credit card, his wife and two banks. For 2012, 2013 and 2014, all off-years for statewide campaigns, these expenses total $135,637. During roughly this period, taxpayers reimbursed Pickering $11,125 for official state auditor travel.
In 2012, according to his campaign finance report, Pickering’s campaign spent more than $50,000 in travel. He reimbursed himself $16,231 in “travel, cellular, postage” payments, reimbursed his wife $9,850 for travel, and paid $15,533 in travel expenses to American Express and $8,414 to Regions Bank. The payments to himself included one for $8,266.
For 2013, Pickering reimbursed himself $23,198 for travel plus smaller amounts to American Express and banks, for a total of $40,149. For 2014, the campaign paid $45,460 in travel, including $27,893 to American Express and $2,605 to himself. Pickering’s finance reports also show a payment in May of last year of $3,082 to Laurel Overhead Door for a “campaign expense.”
In 2007, Pickering began making campaign payments of $701 a month to Regions Bank in Laurel listed as campaign use of a recreational vehicle. No such payments show in his 2008 report, but start again in 2009. From early 2011, what appears to be similar payments are labeled “travel expense.” They total more than $55,000..... Rest of the article.