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My Left Nutmeg

Hive Mind Project: Comparative Petty Cash Study

by: Matt Browner Hamlin

Fri Oct 27, 2006 at 09:57:42 AM EDT


Update: Results are coming in...and I'm noticing a trend.

Joe Lieberman spent over $387,000 in undisclosed petty cash disbursements. The campaign has refused to provide the journal that their treasurer is legally required to keep, noting every cent of disbursements and the name and address of every individual who receives petty cash. I'd hazard that, based on the law of parsimony, the Lieberman campaign failed to keep an accurate and legal journal and thus will never produce one for public scrutiny.

Beyond the almost certainly illegal failure of the Lieberman campaign to keep legally required records of their petty cash expenditures and beyond the likelihood that since the going rate for Lieberman's paid "volunteers" was $150 per day [Times Select link], people need to understand how abnormal a petty cash expenditure of this size is.

With that in mind, I'm asking for your help. Go to the FEC filings for the October quarterly filing for the following fifteen candidates - what I imagine is a decent and representative sample of campaigns, though by all means search for others - and find out how large the petty cash disbursements for each campaign were. Remember: Ned Lamont's were $500, Joe Lieberman's $387,000. The Lieberman campaign claims they're in the clear, let's prove them wrong by looking at what law-abiding campaigns were spending via petty cash.

  • Ben Cardin (MD) - $0.00

  • Kweisi Mfume (MD) -$0.00

  • Lincoln Chafee (RI) - $650.00

  • Stephen Laffey (RI) - $0.00

  • Hillary Clinton (NY) - $0.00

  • Jonathan Tasini (NY) - $0.00

  • George Allen (VA) - $0.00

  • Jim Webb (VA) - $0.00

  • Harris Miller (VA) - $0.00

  • John Tester (MT) - $0.00

  • Conrad Burns (MT) - $0.00

  • Bob Corker (TN) - $0.00

  • Harold Ford (TN) - $1500.00

  • Sherrod Brown (OH) - $0.00

  • Mike DeWine (OH) - $0.00

  • Ed Case (HI) - $0.00

  • Daniel Akaka (HI) - $0.00

  • Alan Schlesinger (CT) - $0.00

  • Ned Lamont (CT) - $500.00

  • Joe Lieberman (CT) - $387,000.00

Here are a few tips on searching the FEC filings, courtesy of Aldon Hynes:

Matt Browner Hamlin :: Hive Mind Project: Comparative Petty Cash Study
Go to http://www.fec.gov/finance/disclosure/imaging_info.shtml

Type in the name of the candidate you want to research.

You may have to poke around to find the appropriate committee since there are often multiple committees associated with a candidate.

When you find the right committee, you need to select a filing.  To keep things apples to apples, look the October Quarterly filing.  Searching a candidate that has had a tough primary makes it a more fair comparison.  The odds are you will be looking for filings that are over 1000 pages long.

The first part of the filing is the receipts.  The second part is the disbursements.

It is fun to read through these reports, not only to see what people have done for 'petty cash', but also where they are spending their money.  Any guesses on where Mark Foley has been spending his campaign cash?

If you use a binary search, you can find, relatively quickly where the first disbursement is.  So, as an illustration, George Allen's report is 1717 pages long, and it only took a little while to find out that the first disbursement was on page 1510.  That means 207 pages of disbursements.

I won't waste time commenting on what Aldon thinks is "fun," but please get to it!

Please leave a comment if you're able to help out and let us know who you'll be investigating so we don't double up on work. Report your results and together we'll build a list that we all know will show Joe Lieberman's petty cash expenditures as grossly unusual and not something that his campaign or the media can brush off without full investigation.

MLNer joejoejoe has already found out that both Daniel Akaka and Ed Case had $0.00 in petty cash disbursements in the Hawaii senate primary. This is a great start.

As I said before, we have to keep this story alive and our research here will go to proving that petty cash disbursement like Lieberman's don't happen all the time.

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Waste of Time (0.00 / 0)
This is a waste of time.  Only the FEC can punish him and they won't be able to investigate and act before the election.  Do something constructive instead.  Use the time you'd be doing this to get on a phone bank or go out ringing doorbells for our candidates.  Focus, people!

Easy buddy (0.00 / 0)
I guess you're assuming no Connecticut voter will pick up a newspaper or turn on the TV between now and the election. I actually think it might make some sense to try to shape media stories between now and the election. Maybe $400K doesn't strike you as a lot of money to go unaccounted for, but it is to me and most people in Connecticut. I think people can relate to the idea that the Lieberman campaign has done something horribly illegal here and I want to talk to them about it.

You don't want to help, fine. But stow this negativity - your tone is the only thing that's nonconstructive here.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union


[ Parent ]
We all contribute in our own way (0.00 / 0)
And some of us have to work - I'm doing Chaffee now.

[ Parent ]
Thanks (0.00 / 0)
Thanks for helping out Jon.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
Not Having Much Luck (0.00 / 0)
The records are not digitized - just copies, so not searchable, and in fact, not legible. I'll keep trying.

[ Parent ]
Legible When Printed (0.00 / 0)
I'm read 80+ pages now,

[ Parent ]
Eureka! (2.00 / 1)
Chaffee - October Quarterly Report - Petty Cash $100

[ Parent ]
Why don't you call people and ask? (0.00 / 0)
Look, the campaigns that are favorable to Ned and have nothing to hide will probably fax you copies or email them to you, if they electronically filed.

Explain why you are asking and what you intend to do with the info.  Offer to give references on your sterling character.

It might be faster to make a bunch of calls than to deal with the way the records are set up.

If they won't give you records, ask them to call you back with the page number on which the petty cash info appears so you can go right to it, and get their totals from them.

Could get a preliminary, unvetted version pretty quickly this way.

just a thought.


[ Parent ]
And you could ask how they would handle info requests (0.00 / 0)
It would be great to say that all the offices asked for this info were more than happy to comply and felt it was their obligation to the public and their constituents...

could make it very clear that there is one senator only who thinks he is above the rules and who has contempt for the citizens' right to know.


[ Parent ]
FYI (0.00 / 0)
All of Ned Lamont's FEC filings can be viewed here.

All of Joe Lieberman's FEC filings can be viewed here.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union


I'm doing Tester.... (0.00 / 0)
....depending on how long it takes, I may be able to do Burns as well.

Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
It's a tedious process, which is why I'm asking for help. The more people pitch in, the easier it will go.


Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
John Tester..... (0.00 / 0)
ZERO Petty cash disbursements.

On to Conrad Burns.

--Donna


[ Parent ]
I should note... (0.00 / 0)
...that Tester's pages were ALPHABETIZED, so once I found the P's, it was easy! Love that guy!

[ Parent ]
That's brilliant (0.00 / 0)
I'll add "Anal Retentive Bookkeeping" to reasons why Tester will be a great senator.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
I'll Do Clinton Next (0.00 / 0)
It shouldn't take long.

Pre-Primary Disbursements - 235 pages (0.00 / 0)
May take a while.

[ Parent ]
I'll try my the next senator from TN Harold Ford! (0.00 / 0)
1128 pages. generating pdf.

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me

Let's keep this thread clean and concise. (0.00 / 0)
We may want to direct the MSM to it to show how fairly it was done and how quickly they can verify it.

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me

Harold Ford Q3 $1,500 (0.00 / 0)
$1,000 on 8/4/06, $500 on 9/12/06.

Out of $3.3 million spent.

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me


In case anyone evers checks this - (0.00 / 0)
Ford's disbursements were generally in alphabetical order. While both entries that I found were referenced "Petty Cash" one was where "cash" would be alphabetically, the other was where "petty" should be.

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me

[ Parent ]
CONRAD BURNS (0.00 / 0)
While he had no disbursements listed as "petty cash" in the October quarterly report, he did make frequent use of a disbursement listed as:

MISCELLANEOUS Under $200 (non-itemized)

There were 57 total disbursements using this designation, with details such as "event expense," "volunteer meals," "lodging," "office supplies," "fuel," "mileage," "screen printing," "photocopying," and my favorite, "volunteer appreciation."

The TOTAL for all 57 of these disbursements was $6276.75

(Incidentally, seven of his "under $200" miscellaneous non-itemized disbursements were for amounts OVER $200--the largest being $736.56 for "mileage." )


Time for 1 more - Guess I'll do Corker too. (0.00 / 0)
Cmon Bob - Be legible!

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me

I think we're outta luck for now on Corker. (0.00 / 0)
He filed all his receipts info on time, but the disbursements are missing. He's filed a 178 page amendment on 10/21, but its not available on line yet.

I'll move on to Cardin.

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me


got it (0.00 / 0)
I've updated Corker & Schlesinger above. Schlesinger's filing: 7 pages long, no petty cash disbursements.

Remember, the disbursements themselves are not illegal assuming they're under $100 per person and properly accounted for. Everything we're finding so far is that Lieberman went exponentially beyond what any other senator is doing this election cycle.

I'll work on Mfume.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union


[ Parent ]
Cardin - Zero Petty Cash or Miscellaneous (0.00 / 0)
1.275 million in Q3 disbursements - Itemized down to $4.08 for office supplies.

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me

[ Parent ]
Jim Webb next for me. (0.00 / 0)
go

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me

[ Parent ]
Mfume done (0.00 / 0)
Zero. Also, mostly alphabeticaly, but then I guess they lost the primary and their orderly initiative.

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
Suggestion (0.00 / 0)
You should put the updated figures in bold print.

There is great progress here. There are only 33 Senate in play in 2006. We should be able to get all the competitive primary candidates and incumbents done with a comprehensive list.

http://www.thegreenp...


[ Parent ]
I checked OHIO (0.00 / 0)
Neither Mike DeWine nor Sherrod Brown had any petty cash disbursements listed on their October quarterlies.

Stephen Laffey... (0.00 / 0)
...fed his volunteers Papa Gino's pizza and rented a dumpster the week after he lost the Rhode Island Republican Senate Primary, but he had:

NO petty cash disbursements.

Okay, that's it for me today! It's been fun!

Donna


Thanks! (0.00 / 0)
Harris Miller has no petty cash receipts, but a whole lot of loans...

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
Tasini (0.00 / 0)
Petty Cash - $0.00
Starbucks - $3.p6

Disclosure: I'm proud to work for the Service Employees International Union

[ Parent ]
Jim Webb Q3 - No Petty Cash Disbursements (0.00 / 0)
$1.1 million spent.

1,991 pages. 1,800 of contributions.
How about that. The power of the Net.

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me


Never would have guessed this. (0.00 / 0)
I knew this stunk, but holy cow.

My narrative is this is the reason he would show for another debate. Joe doesn't want to have to explain this!

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me


NOT show for the 4th debate (0.00 / 0)
Typing hands a little shaky

It's Morning in America. Too bad Reagan's not here to see it. - Me

[ Parent ]
Thank you so much for doing this. (0.00 / 0)
This is great press release material for when the FEC announces they're going forward.

I called the FEC for search tips (0.00 / 0)
They said that there is not a consistent way in which people annotate cash disbursements.  They may list them but not call it "petty cash," and she was saying (as I understood it) that you can't tell from the logs if it's cash, check or what.

Only the people who did this research will know if these comments jive with what you're seeing.  I talked to someone in "information" and another person in "records".

Like I said, a call to these offices to confirm the amount and ask how they handle public requests for this info might prove a useful contrast from this stonewalling.


Well, (0.00 / 0)
I think everyone knows what "petty cash" is supposed to be, no matter what it's actually called. Printer runs out of ink, someone gives a volunteer $30 to run to the store for a cartridge, receipt gets lost, bingo, a "petty cash" expenditure. Or, unemployed volunteer who's worked her butt off for 2 months shows up in the morning with 3 dozen donuts and 2 vats of coffee. Campaign doesn't want to her have to spend all that money, insists on reimbursing her out of the petty cash fund. Stuff like that. $10 here, $25 dollars there to pay for small expenses, where there is no itemized receipt.

The point remains, $387,000 listed as "petty cash" is nonsense. And fishy. "Petty" means minor--specifically, "having little or no importance or significance" (per Webster's). There is NOTHING minor about 400k, and we're showing that no one else either in the Senate or running for Senate has attempted to hide money going out of their campaign in this way.


[ Parent ]
I'm completely on board - it is a technical question (0.00 / 0)
I asked because I was trying to find an easy way to pull lines from everyone's reports at once (some figures can be pulled from FEC reports like that, they said) rather than go through all the pages.

It brought up the question as to how difficult it will be to say with certainty what the petty cash totals are.

Maybe it's irrelevant since we are talking orders of magnitude and anything remotely close still shows a stark contrast.


[ Parent ]
 
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