More on Durham audit — up to 500 violations, June hearing set

From The Tennessean’s overview story:

Former state Rep. Jeremy Durham violated state campaign finance law possibly as many as 500 times, including spending more than $10,000 of campaign funds illegally to buy an airplane ticket for his wife, custom suits, spa products and sunglasses, according to a state campaign finance audit released Wednesday.

He also used campaign money for more mundane bills, including lawn care and paint for his home office, the audit shows.

Durham made at least 55 illegal purchases using money given by donors; the state report outlines 39 expenses, but some include multiple purchases. The former Franklin lawmaker also used campaign funds to invest more than $100,000 in the company of a wealthy GOP donor, loan nearly $30,000 to a professional gambler who has a criminal past and loan $25,000 to his wife, auditors found.

Durham paid himself $7,702 from his campaign account for expenses he’d already been reimbursed for by the state, according to the audit. The practice is more commonly known as double-dipping.

…In addition to the illegal use of campaign finances, the audit details how Durham invested more than $100,000 in Life Watch Pharmacy, a company owned by Andrew Miller, a prominent Republican donor who has advocated for anti-Islam policy in the state.

…The report also states David Whitis, a professional gambler who has a criminal record, received three checks totaling $29,800 from Durham’s campaign account…Two of the checks to Whitis indicate the funds are a “loan to friend.” Additional information provided to the auditors by Durham states the money was “capital for a startup venture.”

From WPLN’s report:

Durham’s attorney has a “laundry list” of objections to the findings. Peter Strianse also says he thought the report was a draft that would not yet be distributed widely.

“I understand if that’s they’re procedure and those are the steps we have to go through,” says the lawyer. “But why in the world would you make public a report that you know is going to be subject to significant challenge?”

But a Registry official says the office followed standard protocol.  

Durham’s attorney has until May to respond to the findings, before a hearing slated for June.

The Franklin Republican was expelled from the legislature last year following nearly two dozen anonymous claims of sexual harassment.

A federal investigation into potential campaign finance violations is ongoing. 

 

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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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