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    Sen. David Lucas: Where did the $28K go?

     

    By JIM WALLS

    May 9, 2014 — Nearly $28,000 in political donations appear to be missing from Sen. David Lucas’ campaign account.

    While the longtime Macon lawmaker says it isn’t so, his latest disclosure shows a negative balance in his Senate campaign account. Prior reports show no evidence that he’s spent all the money that he’s raised.

    Lucas said his campaign had money that wasn’t reflected in his most recent disclosure, but he wasn’t sure how much.

    “I don’t know,” he said in a telephone interview. “I haven’t been trying to keep with up with that. All I do is write checks.”

    The problem stems from his campaign’s failure to fill out disclosures properly. State law requires legislative candidates to carry over their total donations and expenditures on each successive filing in a two-year election cycle, reporting the difference on each report as “net balance on hand.” After the general election, they must carry over the unspent balance to the next cycle.

    Since 1998, Lucas generally followed that procedure while serving in the House of Representatives. Since his first bid for the Senate in 2011, though, Lucas has frequently carried over just the unspent balance from one disclosure to the next. When a new year begins, regardless of what the campaign might have in the bank, Lucas has carried over nothing at all.

    So, for example, he reported ending 2013 with $8,364 in the bank but beginning 2014 with no money at all.

    In an interview, Lucas said that money was still in his account in January, but he started his next report at zero “based on what the [disclosure] form says.”

    Lucas said the current election cycle started after the Legislature adjourned in March, since members may not accept donations when they’re in session.

    New election cycles seem to pop up frequently in Lucas’ campaign disclosures. He started over with a zero balance, even though he appeared to have had money in his account, in August 2011, January 2012, July 2012, January 2013 and January 2014.

    Overall, disclosures show Lucas has raised more than $111,000 since May 2011 for his Senate campaign account and loaned it at least $16,600 more, for total income of $127,730. Over the same period of time, he’s reported spending $99,810.

    That should leave a balance of $27,920, but Lucas’ latest filing shows a campaign deficit of $375.

    Campaign disclosures, when filled out correctly, tell the public how much money a candidate has raised and how he or she has spent it. Candidates can use them to assess another campaign’s financial health. Watchdogs and enforcement agencies can review them to make sure that a candidate is following the rules and, when a campaign account is closed, that the remaining funds are disposed of properly.

    A footnote: Lucas’ reporting of loans to his campaign has been inconsistent as well. The campaign’s reported debt has increased twice by a total of $8,328 without a corresponding disclosure of a loan, suggesting he may have loaned it more money or simply neglected to carry over old debts.

    Lucas was elected to the House of Representatives in 1975 and re-elected 18 times. He stepped down to run for the state Senate, losing in 2011 to former Macon City Council President Miriam Paris but winning the seat in a 2012 rematch.

    The two face off again in the May 20 Democratic primary.

     

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