Durham disputes campaign finance violations, criticizes state law

In a formal response to a Registry of Election Finance audit that found 690 potential violations of state campaign finance laws by former Rep. Jeremy Durham, the ex-legislator’s lawyer, Peter Strianse, and unnamed advisors offer explanations for some matters, generally deny any wrongdoing and criticize the laws involved.

WSMV has text of the document HERE. The Tennessean has a more lengthy narrative report on the 235-page response. An excerpt:

Durham says his wife is a constituent and campaign adviser, so he claims it is legal for him to use campaign funds to buy her football tickets, food and drinks at a game and a plane ticket to accompany him to a conference in Chicago.

Durham says his doctor recommended wearing sunglasses if he campaigned outside, so he’s allowed to use donor money to purchase $220 worth of shades.

Durham acknowledges the thousands of dollars used on suits and lawn care he paid for with campaign funds might be a problem, but he argues that because he made the purchases through a campaign loan to himself, he’ll just pay back the money to resolve the issue.

… “For the benefit of both candidates and the public at large, a complete campaign finance overhaul might be necessary to specifically outline which types of expenditures shall be permitted. Existing state laws are overly broad and ambiguous, and fail to provide the Registry with the appropriate ability to deter the conduct at issue,” the letter states.

… Durham offered an explanation for most of the expenses the auditor identified as prohibited, occasionally responding with unique statements, including:

  • “Mr. Durham does not use women’s bath products,” in response to a $43 purchase of spa products, which Durham said were part of a gift for a constituent.
  • “The expenditure was not used to purchase tickets for carnival or pony rides,” in response to a $6 purchase of a ticket through Groupon to attend the Williamson County Fair.
  • “Mr. Durham is no fan of NASCAR,” in response to $24 in purchases of food and beverages at a race in Bristol with “several donors and constituents.”
  • “Mr. Durham has never shopped at Nordstrom,” in response to a $29 purchase previously identified at the high-end department store, which Durham said was actually made at a cafe inside the store.
  • “Mr. Durham is not a fan of performing arts,” in response to $18 in concessions purchases at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center for an event with a donor/constituent, whom he did not identify.

In addition, Durham also argues that his payments for lawn care service at his home were made at the encouragement of his campaign advisers and that he paid a physician $95 who was a constituent.

 

He further argued that using $790 to cover suit alterations was necessary in order to “further Mr. Durham’s professional appearance for both campaign and legislative activities.”

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.
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