Is Steve May Using His Campaign Account for Personal Use?

Section 6. A political committee organized or operating on behalf of a candidate for the office of governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, state secretary, treasurer and receiver general, or auditor may receive, pay and expend money or other things of value for reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the campaign of such candidate but shall not make any expenditure that is primarily for the candidate’s or any other person’s personal use…

…For the purposes of this section the term “personal use” shall not include expenses relating to the provision of constituent or legislative services or to the opening or maintaining of a legislative district office, provided that (a) said expenses are not otherwise paid, provided or reimbursed by the commonwealth or any other governmental body.

For purposes of this section the term “personal use” shall include the payment of fines, penalties, restitution or damages incurred for a violation of chapters 268A and 268B, but shall not include payments made in relation to allegations of violations of such chapters.

Violations of any provision of this section or section six A or six B shall be punished by imprisonment for not more than one year or by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars. – Office of Campaign and Political Finance

Everyone appreciates a good one-liner. David Bernstein of the Boston Phoenix on Friday’s “Ask me anything” used one while talking about my campaign finance disclosure. I am a diabetic. I am under the care of my physician and endocrinologist and my diabetes is well regulated. That having been said, in the course of campaigning 10-12 and sometimes 14 hours a day, I need to take time away from the campaign trail to address my blood sugar. The American Diabetes Association advises diabetics to eat 4-5 smaller but significant meals during the course of the day. As a practical matter that means I need to stop and eat every few hours. As such, between campaign activity #4 and #5 in a given day, I may need to stop. It also means that many of our campaign events occur around coffeehouses and restaurants. I do not apologize for this. In fact, a diabetic not managing their blood sugar spikes and dips might present in a way similar to an individual who is drunk. – Candidate Steve May via Blue Mass Group 2/5/2012

David Bernstein early in February of 2012 brought my attention via a blog post to Steve May’s campaign finance report, which can be found on-line here.  The report states that Stephen May (D-Hull), in his quest to defeat Senator Bob Hedlund (R-Weymouth), spent $8,054 on his campaign in the second half of 2011.  $1,658.68 of that was spent on 203 visits to fast food restaurants.  This is an average expenditure of $8.16.  A chart showing the categories where May spent his campaign cash is below.

The top two expenditures accounting for over $3,000 of the roughly $8,000 spent by may were for food, and mobile telephony. May spent an average of $236 a month on cell phone services.  But the fast food expenditures really are the story.  Below you will see a chart showing the top ten food expenditures of the Steve May campaign in the second half of 2011.

In the quote above directly from May, he states that he needs to “take time away from the campaign trail” to deal with his personal medical problem.  This is very understandable.  What is not understandable is why he thinks that the use of his campaign account on this personal problem is allowable under campaign finance law.  The law specifically states, that you cannot use your account on personal expenditures.  

May has of course written that all of the expenditures were in the course of his campaigning.  If that is so, why are 51% of those expenditures on a dollar basis outside of the district?  

In addition to 51% of the expenditures being outside of the district, the reason given on his OCPF reports for those expenditures is suspect. For instance.

  • May lists 9 expenditures out of the district, at an average of $3.76, for GOTV activities.  The expenditures were made at Panera Bread, Kiskadee Coffee and Dunkin Donuts.  It is hard to imagine doing get out the vote activities in Plymouth, outside the district, in December a year before the election.
  • Apparently, Dunkin Donuts, Panera Bread, and Subway now offer “New Media” services in addition to Coffee, Pastries, and Foot-long submarine sandwiches.  May spent $16.67 over four visits to these establishments on “New Media” activities.
  • In addition to “New Media” services, Panera bread is alos apparently offering “Issue Advocacy and Education” services.  Those services apparently cost one $4.90 at the Braintree Panera Bread.

    It is abundantly clear that Steve May is using his campaign account for his personal medical issues, and food needs.  It seems a stretch to say that 203 purchases of fast food items falls under the broad “furtherance of the candidate’s political future” loop-hole in campaign law.  OCPF should take a look at this report and advise May as to whether these expenditures are legal.

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