Hamilton’s campaign reports and ethics filings questioned.
The Houston Chronicle reported Rep. Mike “Tuffy” Hamilton, R-Mauriceville, vowed Friday to correct a series of possible violations and errors on his campaign reports and personal ethics filings — everything from payments to his children to missing details about travel and lodging expenses.
Controversy over mixing campaign spending with personal business prompted the Legislature to clamp down on perceived abuses in 2007. But The Associated Press has uncovered several instances in which lawmakers have continued to keep campaign business in the family.
Among them is Sen. Eliot Shapleigh, D-El Paso, who pays his wife’s company for expenses associated with his campaign space in her building. On Friday, Shapleigh spokesman Anthony Martinez called the payments for paper, phones and computer usage — about $2,400 worth in the last year — both proper and legal. He said the senator will continue to reimburse his wife’s company.
According to the Houston Chronicle, Hamilton is the latest to acknowledge family payments from campaign funds, but he said he stopped once questions were raised about it.
Records show the Beaumont-area lawmaker paid at least $2,300 for “contract labor” over the last two years to two dependent children despite heavy restrictions on such expenditures.
Hamilton initially said Friday he would reimburse his campaign from personal funds for the charges but later changed his mind.
Using the campaign kitty to pay family members for various services prompted the Legislature to clamp down on the practice in 2007. Though elected officials were prohibited years ago from buying real estate with funds raised from individuals and special interests, many made payments to their spouses for the use of homes and offices.
Critics said the loophole allowed politicians to acquire second homes in Austin and benefit from fat campaign accounts. The Legislature closed the loophole last year and made it illegal for elected officials to rent property from companies they own or control.
Hamilton also had more than $15,000 in credit card expenses for travel and other items without supplying the required details, records indicate. He said he would give those details in amended reports within the next two weeks.
Hamilton also acknowledged he gave incomplete data about his real estate holdings, supplied erroneous details about a profitable stock trade and, despite a “personal use” ban, improperly charged his campaign $727.99 for dry-cleaning.
“We’ve been very busy,” Hamilton said. “That’s still no excuse. We may have made mistakes but we’ll be glad to fix anything we’ve done.”
State ethics law bans payments to spouses and dependent children for “personal services” as a way to ensure lawmakers don’t profit from their campaign accounts.
Hamilton said he determined that the payments to his children created the wrong impression and stopped.
The last one — $300 to his 17-year-old son — was made in February, records show.
After being contacted by a reporter, Hamilton said he would reimburse his campaign for those expenses. Later, he said he didn’t believe the payments to his kids fit the “personal services” definition and would not reimburse his campaign.