Lawmakers are considering a bill that would tighten the rules for how candidates in New Hampshire spend their campaign funds.
An investigation by NHPR last year found that lawmakers in New Hampshire routinely use campaign money on items including flower arrangements, dry cleaning and auto mechanic bills, raising questions about the appropriateness of such expenses.
Democrat Anita Burroughs of Glen told members of the Election Law Committee that those types of expenses aren’t what donors have in mind when they make small-dollar contributions to their local candidates for office.
She’s sponsoring HB 1191, which would spell out what campaign funds can’t be used on, closing what she told colleagues is a “gray area” in the law.
“When I first ran for office, I went into the Secretary of State’s office, and I asked a question: is this okay? Is that okay? And I was told for a number of them, it is a gray area,” said Burroughs.
Current law prohibits spending campaign funds for “personal use,” but doesn’t offer any additional guidance.
The measure seeks to clarify that expenses including vehicle maintenance, gifts such as floral arrangements or tickets to sporting events, fees for service organizations including chambers of commerce, as well as a range of other expenses, would be prohibited.
Lawmakers in New Hampshire receive only a $100 salary along with mileage reimbursement, prompting some to use their accumulated campaign funds in more creative ways.
“I’m not saying it is prevalent, I’m not saying a lot of people are doing it, but I think there are people who are kind of using the gray area to stretch it as far as it goes in a way that I don’t think is appropriate,” said Burroughs.
Last year, lawmakers passed a measure that permits spending campaign funds on childcare expenses, despite concerns from the Secretary of State’s office.