State Rep. Jay Hughes seems somewhat bemused that he is the first to be questioned over provisions of a campaign finance reform law he supported. Hughes, a Democrat from Oxford, is running for Lt. Governor. Over the weekend, a Clarion Ledger report surfaced alleging he possibly ignored provisions of the law he backed.
Making matters worse for Hughes is the strident language he used to characterize campaign finance laws in the last two years. In a 2016 piece in Hotty Toddy, he stated, “Mississippi’s campaign finance laws are a literal joke, when candidates can buy $800 cowboy boots with their account, and then take the millions home with them when they leave office.”
“I’ve got nothing to hide,” he said Monday.
At issue is a change in state campaign finance reporting law. Previously, credit card expenditures could be reported as a lump sum. Now they cannot.
Y’all Politics obtained the redacted credit card statements from Hughes.
Jay Hughes Redacted 020419 by on Scribd
Under the revamped law passed in 2017 but not effective until Jan. 1 of this year, campaign credit card spending must be line-itemized to provide more transparency and, hopefully, avoid personal expenses from being hidden under the cloak of the campaign.
Hughes admits his initial state General Election Annual Report filed on the Jan. 31 deadline submitted a lump sum for credit card expenses. He blamed the mistake on the private accountants he pays to handle such matters and due to miscommunication with the Mississippi Secretary of State’s office. Ironically, he’s now running against that office holder.
He submitted an itemized 2018 statement of charges to the credit card he procured solely for campaign expenses to the Secretary of State via hand-delivery on Monday, the same day he provided the same information to Y’all Politics.
The statement shows wide-ranging charges for goods and services, mostly to Mississippi companies, in the total amount of $132,936.72. The largest expense was $6,615.29 to a California manufacturer for three event tents sporting the campaign logo. The smallest was $1.16 to an Oxford hardware store.
Hughes is running a largely self-funded campaign against Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, a Republican, in the November general election.
Leah Smith, spokeswoman for the Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann’s office, said a line-item accounting such as an itemized statement of charges is in line with the changes to state law. However, she said, that does not release the candidate from responsibility to also file an amended finance report within the 10 days allowed to correct any mistakes.
Violations of the reporting laws are under the jurisdiction of the Mississippi Ethics Commission, and are punishable by non-recognition as a party’s candidate, withholding of pay if elected to the office and a misdemeanor conviction punishable by up to six months in jail and up to a $3,000.00 fine.
The Ethics Commission reported no complaints of non-compliance with the revamped laws as of Monday afternoon.
Hughes said he will gladly take any steps necessary to make sure his report is in compliance before the end of the corrections period.
“I would have done it on day one,” he said. “I will always fully comply.”
(Y’all Politics Investigative Writer Jay Hughes and state Rep. Jay Hughes are not related).