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NH Register raises even more petty cash concerns for Lieberman

by: Matt Browner Hamlin

Thu Nov 02, 2006 at 10:06:57 AM EST

The New Haven Register has an investigative piece into Joe Lieberman's $387,000 in unaccounted petty cash disbursements from the last days of the August primary (h/t DeanFan84). The article raises serious questions about what this money went for, as well as what itemized disbursements for consultants who claim to have never received them mean. Not surprisingly, the Lieberman campaign has declined to answer these questions.

The Register article raises three serious potential violations of campaign finance laws. The one that most interests me is the possibility that the Lieberman campaign laundered money through their field consultants to convert it to street money.

Also, [Tom] Reyes and another man, Daryl Brooks of New Haven, who ran a consultant service, said they each got one check from the campaign for their services, but they are listed in the third quarter campaign finance report as getting two checks, for a total of twice what the men said they received.

The report lists Reyes as getting two checks for $8,250, one on Aug. 4 and one on Aug. 15. Brooks received $12,200 on Aug. 11 and another check for the same amount on Aug. 15, according to the Lieberman report. Both men said this was inaccurate.

Paying for services not delivered is a hallmark of street money. By writing checks that ostensibly look like they belong, campaigns can give their operatives cash to put on the street around election. Both of these men are saying they only received one check and their bank balances may well reflect that, but it I find it hard to believe that the Lieberman campaign's accountants accidentally cut an extra $20,450 in checks or accidentally added that much money to their records.

No, I think the most probable answer is Alan Schlesinger's hypothesis, that the Lieberman campaign was putting huge sums of cash into play as street money. Schlesinger was talking specifically about Joe's petty cash slush fund, but as I explained earlier this week, street money can be deployed in more ways than just giving cash to bad people to buy votes.

Matt Browner Hamlin :: NH Register raises even more petty cash concerns for Lieberman
Lastly, street money is used to pay influential community members for services never provided. These people can then funnel the money into vote buying or using their connections to pull in more voters for the candidate who's throwing cash around.
Substitute campaign consultants for influential community members and the extra checks to Reyes and Brooks make sense. This money could well have been used as street money and it's coming from sources that we hadn't considered as legitimate possibilities before the Register article.

There are two other salient pieces of information in the Register article, though they apply more towards the Lieberman campaign's failures to keep proper clerical records of their expenditures than something necessarily as sinister as street money. That is not to say that these are not serious violations of campaign finance law that do real damage to the spirit of transparency that good government groups like Public Campaign Action Fund and Common Cause have fought for.

Several young men, who were paid $60 a day out of petty cash to canvass in Bridgeport, said they were paid in cash for aggregate earnings over $200.

Rob Dhanda, 18, or Stratford, said he earned $480 in cash over several weeks, while Walter Ruilova, 18, also of Stratford, said his total was an estimated $360 in cash. Ruilova estimated there were about 30 teenagers working out of the Bridgeport office, each earning $60 a day in cash, over a few weeks.

Michelle Ryan, a spokeswoman for the FEC, would not comment on specifics of the Lamont complaint, but said "in terms of itemization, it is required once the aggregate total to a recipient is in excess of $200."

The Lieberman campaign essentially paid campaign workers off the books. The article doesn't find people who were necessarily paid more than $100 in petty cash (which would be illegal), but these are all individuals who received over $200 and thus should be itemized on Lieberman's reports. Failure to provide full information about these people, including their names and addresses, is an avoidance of the law. At minimum this information continues to fill out our understanding of the extent to which the Lieberman campaign stopped obeying campaign finance requirements and regulations during the Democratic primary.

The Register also includes information that will surely bolster the Lamont campaign's formal complaint to the FEC about the Lieberman petty cash slush fund. Specifically, the Lamont campaign contended that Lieberman failed to keep adequate records in their petty cash journal as to what their disbursements paid for.

At least one man who was hired as a consultant, Tomas Reyes of Oxford, said he has yet to be asked by the campaign to turn over material for the journal, which would justify expenditures of $8,250.

The FEC requires the treasurer of the political committee to keep a written journal of all disbursements out of petty cash, including names, addresses, dates and purposes.

I'm not sure if Mary O'Leary, the NH Register reporter, is entirely clear in this passage as to whether or not Reyes $8,250 was a petty cash expenditure, which would require a record in the journal, or a reimbursable expense for his 8/4/06 check for "field consulting." It strikes me as odd for Reyes to claim that he had receipts for field consulting, a service he provided for the campaign. In any event, it is clear that Lieberman's books are not up to date and accurate, which is a violation of campaign finance laws.

O'Leary gave the Lieberman campaign multiple opportunities to speak on the record about these petty cash and field consulting expenditures and the failures to accurately keep the required records. As they have done since this scandal broke, the Lieberman campaign declined to speak about their petty cash problem.

The Lieberman campaign's continued silence only strengthens the need to ask questions like O'Leary has done in this article. She has brought out new information that demands answers from Joe; if she can't get them, I hope the FEC will. Every piece of evidence that comes out suggests malfeasance, albeit of varying degrees, by Joe's campaign. Lieberman's actions and Lieberman's silence do damage to the health of our elections. The need for truth has never been more clear than today.

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Wowee. (0.00 / 0)
This is getting serious.

Another point to make (0.00 / 0)
For phone calls, canvassing, and speeches, here's another point to make: Do most people know their feelings about the war are shared by the majority? Tell them this so they don't feel alone and unpatriotic:

The last New York Times/CBS News poll before the election shows overwhelming public dissatisfaction not only with the course of the war in Iraq, but also with plans for the future of the conflict.

Nearly 70% of respondents said the Bush did not have a plan to end the war, and nearly 80% said that the change in Bush's language about the war in recent weeks has not actually meant a new policy. A scant 29% approve of the way that the President has dealt with Iraq only six days before an election that continues to be framed by national issues and in particular by the unpopular foreign war.

Good work (4.00 / 1)
Clear and concise, without a lot of editorializing. The sort of good reporting of the issues involved we'd like to see more of than the stenography journalism we're so often treated to in the traditional press.

Yeah (4.00 / 1)
This is an actual investigatory piece, as was Daniel Goren's piece in the Courant on Tuesday.

I hope both Goren and O'Leary continue to follow the petty cash lead. There's obviously a lot we still do not know about Joe's GOTV operation in the primary. Who knows what he's doing now?

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

[ Parent ]
What's the Penalty? (0.00 / 0)
Does anyone know what the penalty is for FEC violations?

slaps on the wrist (0.00 / 0)
even for real serious violations.

Winners get to write the rules, and the rules are written to not really hurt those who win by cheating.

The question is not what you are, we already determined that, we are now negotiating price.
electrealdemocrats.com Online since 3/07 -- TimetogoJoe.com Online s

[ Parent ]
Keep it up, we're 90% of the way there!!! (4.00 / 1)
The MSM is starting to smell a rat.  You must be really working the phones on this one. It's great that we did the FEC research to immediately counter the "everybody does it" argument.

Ideally, this local news will get all over this.  I would suggest that the main reason Joe is blowing off the deabte tonight is that he doesn't want to answer these questions.

I think it goes NYT front page before Monday. Olbermann too.

The best thing about it is that the Lieberman campaign can't afford to play fast and lose with the rules anymore.

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

Felons (4.00 / 1)
Sorta puts that whole "hacking" story into perspective, don't it?

[ Parent ]
Sure They Can :-) (0.00 / 0)
Joe LIEberman, like George Bush, does not have to play by the same rules as the rest of us, and, I would bet, expects that he will never be held accountable for his actions. So why should he change his tactics now? If he's following the Karl Rove playbook, he won't.

[ Parent ]
Holy Cow! The falsified expenses blow this up bigtime (4.00 / 1)
The $387K in unexplained Petty Cash is likely just the tip of the iceberg (lettuce).

Unlike the Petty Cash, where people can be tricked into thinking it's legitimate, there can be no doubt that the falsified disbursements to these vendors/contractors is out and out illegal.  It's purposeful deception without any doubt, and people should definitely be able to grasp this one.

And keep in mind that this newspaper has likely only scratched the surface -- there's likely a lot more bogus expenditures put in these reports.

I wouldn't be surprised if the $387K turned out to be a mere supplement to a much larger amount of unaccounted-for cash 'created' through fictional expenditures in Lieberman's itemized expenditures.

People should go to jail for this

Covering my rep Jane Harman at From the Fever Swamp

Timing of the Fake Checks in the Report (4.00 / 1)
Assuming the first check to each of these guys was the real one and the second check bogus, then that would mean the $20,450 went out the door in these reports on the same day, August 15. 

I guess if they're making up the expenditure itself they could make up the date too, but, does the fact that both of these pretend disbursements are documented as being on the same day meaningful?

Covering my rep Jane Harman at From the Fever Swamp

Seriously, if Matt Stark is Olbermann worthy (0.00 / 0)
We should be seeing you Friday night.

This is all over dKos.

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

Patterns and Questions (4.00 / 2)
The pattern for duplicate payments may suggest a simple accounting error, but I leave it up to the good MLN community to weigh in.

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.us

In the image there are columns for name, service, date, amount, and transaction.  I warn you there may be typos.  And there are some blank page refs.  So don't bring this to court.

First observation:  Are the dates in the FEC report dates that the payments were recorded for the FEC, not the dates on the checks?  Since at least some of the field consultants were told to pay their workers in cash, the checks could not postdate the primary.  So is that what the date is for?  It does same 'Date of Dispursement'  so it seems that the date should mean the date the check was issued or when money left the account.

All of the duplicate records for payments to the field vendors happened on the 15th.  So it may be that someone keyed in the dupes by accident.  The good thing is that it should be incredibly easy for the campaign to tell us if this was an innocent error, and if the duplicate records represented uncashed checks or no checks at all.

Questions/observations concerning the recording on the 15th: 

1) Did Mary Wagley recieve any check at all?  She does not appear to have a dupe, and she was recorded in the Aug 15 batch.  Her transation ID puts her check right in there with the dupes for Aug 15.

2) JEF Associates does not appear to have a duplicate payment, even though they have one payment recorded on Aug 4th, one of the dates where the initial records for the dupes are found, with transaction IDs in the same neighborhood as JEF's. (The other date is Aug 11th.)

If all of these dupes are counted, the total goes up to ~ 40K.  Nothing compared to the petty cash, but it might matter.  All this might simply point to sloppy work, which in itself may show a disregard for the rules.

Or this is all handwaving.  I'm not a reporter or a lawyer.  I just hope the truth comes out, whatever it is.

New York Times still pushing Lieberman for national office (4.00 / 1)

They ran a story based on a lie to try and help him a couple weeks ago (Lieberman never uttered stay the course) and they're still pushing him for the highest offices in the land but all they've done on this one is have an anonymous "campaign finance expert" say that its "apparently legal."  And here's the New Haven Register exposing that one as a lie, too. 

He's a national figure trying to blow a hole in campaign finance legislation.  How about asking Chris Shays, sponsor of Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform in the House whether the man he calls a "national treasure" should be allowed to do that? 

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