JACKSON, Miss. – State Auditor Stacey Pickering speaks out after the Clarion Ledger reports his campaign finance records are being investigated by the FBI. Pickering claims it’s a political ploy by his opponent Madison Mayor Mary Hawkins-Butler. The two Republicans will square off in the August 4th primary election for state auditor. “My opponent has seen the same poll numbers I have. She knows she’s made 40 points behind the polls. It’s a desperate act by a desperate politician,” says Pickering. Mayor Hawkins-Butler could not be reached for a response. According to the FBI they can neither confirm nor deny the existence of an investigation.
State Auditor Stacey Pickering released this statement in regards to an article published in the Clarion Ledger, that stated the FBI is investigating his campaign finance records:
I was disappointed to read yesterday a series of vicious and untrue attacks leveled upon me by my opponent, Mary Hawkins-Butler. She entered this race with the strategy of attacking the Madison County Board of Supervisors and other Madison County vendors, and now has sadly turned her attacks toward my family and me. She knows her campaign is in dire trouble, and with 11 days until Election Day she is using the oldest trick in the book by trying to smear my credibility. I am embarrassed a so-called Republican would stoop to this level of personal destruction.
I have spent 12 years in public service working on a daily basis with FBI and law enforcement to investigate and prosecute those who misuse public funds and proactively account for our tax dollars. My record speaks for itself. I will not stand by as my opponent throws an election-eve “Hail Mary” to try and tarnish the work of the State Auditor’s office over the last eight years. It is important that I set the record straight regarding the accusations toward my family and me.
There are three points of concern that the Clarion Ledger article addressed.
- Point #1 – Reimbursements filed on my campaign finance reports
- My campaign finance reports have always been filed in a timely manner and strictly following state law. I have thoroughly disclosed disbursements from my campaign account and to whom they were given. They are fully transparent and are in compliance with state law.
- Being a statewide elected official is more than a 9-to-5 job, and the state auditor’s budget does not allow for extensive travel. Throughout my political career, I have traveled extensively during weekends and evenings on behalf of Mississippi Republicans and national Republican candidates. As Auditor, I’m keenly aware that not all of those expenses should be borne by taxpayers. They’re political in nature. I have made countless campaign stops on behalf of state legislative campaigns, fellow statewide officials, local Republican officials and the Mississippi Republican Party. I proudly served as the state Chairman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, which required multiple trips in and out of state. Serving on boards for the Governmental Accounting Office as well as the National State Auditors Association, some travel was paid for out of the campaign fund and fully allowable under state law.
- Point #2 – Reimbursements to staff
- Over the years, I have had several staffers from the Auditor’s office who have worked on minor projects for my campaigns. They did this work during their own personal time. As reiterated by the Clarion Ledger, this is not prohibited, thus, I reimbursed them from my campaign account for their travel and/or expenses.
- Point #3 – Campaign purchase of a campaign car, mobile campaign office and home security
- Following the same path of many campaigns, my campaign purchased a campaign car in 2011—when my daughter was 15. It was an 8-year-old used car (2003) purchased to perform the regular functions of a campaign car. We personally paid the car insurance and taxes on the campaign car since its purchase to cover any personal use and it wasn’t until it reached well over 180,000 miles and was worth less than $1,500 according to Kelly Blue Book, that our daughter drove it on a consistent basis. The car is still used for campaign functions. Katie drove it to numerous campaign stops this month. She frequently campaigns side-by-side with me and even as a surrogate for events that Whitney and I cannot attend.
- When I first decided to run for statewide office, my four children were still very young. Whitney and I decided that it would be a wise investment for the campaign to purchase a small, Class B RV, so that our family could spend as much time together as we campaigned across the state. This ended up saving the campaign money on costly hotel rooms. It was important to me that voters not only personally meet me, but also meet my family as well. They are an important part of who I am and voters needed to see that. We have paid the insurance and taxes on the vehicle since it was purchased to cover any personal use.
- When I am performing my job as State Auditor, it sometimes causes me to make harsh enemies. It’s part of my job and I will never back away from that aspect of it. However, I refuse to have my family’s safety threatened. On a number of occasions our home garage was ransacked, which was very frightening to my wife and children. Unlike other statewide elected officials, I do not have a security detail, so I made the decision that I had to install a garage door at my home to protect my family. I filed it on my personal taxes, following the law. I am not going to stop pursuing high-profile cases because that is what I was elected to do. However, my family’s safety is my top priority, and that is why I took the action to secure our home from those who may wish to intimidate or cause me harm.
My opponent is using a former disgruntled campaign employee of mine as a pawn. Mary Hawkins Butler is entitled to her own opinions, but she is not entitled to her own set of facts. Them pinning their hopes to my campaign finance statement shows how utterly devoid of substance her vision for Mississippi is. My family and I will continue to campaign throughout the state over these final days of the primary election, and we look forward to talking with voters and those in the media about my successful record as State Auditor and my plans for the next four years.