Hughes trips on law he once backed

By TIM KALICH GREENWOOD COMMONWEALTH,

Jay Hughes, the Democratic Mississippi lawmaker running for lieutenant governor this year, got tripped up last week on a campaign finance reform he supported.

Worse, he initially gave a couple of lame excuses for not following the law.

Candidates for political office in Mississippi were required to file an itemized report by Thursday with the Secretary of State’s Office showing how much they raised and spent during 2018.

Tucked away in Hughes’ report was information showing that his campaign had paid more than $100,000 to a credit card company, but there was no record detailing on what the money was spent — a clear violation of a 2017 reform that was designed to end a common practice employed by politicians to hide how they were using campaign funds.

When Hughes was asked Friday by a Jackson reporter about the violation, the candidate initially said that his accountant didn’t see a way to upload the hundreds of pages of credit card statements through the electronic portal set up for submitting campaign finance reports to the secretary of state. (The website, though, explains that if a campaign is going to submit the reports electronically, the campaign either needs to enter the expenditures one at a time, or fill out a computer program’s spreadsheet.) Later, Hughes clarified to say that his accountant was not aware of the itemization requirement since, according to Hughes, the secretary of state’s website doesn’t spell out the requirement in its guidance to candidates. (Not true. The requirement is explained on page 35 of the 54-page campaign finance guide available on the website.)

 Besides, it’s Hughes, not his accountant, who is ultimately responsible for the accuracy of these reports. Hughes should have remembered what the law requires, as he not only advocated in 2017 for ending the credit-card dodge but criticized the legislation that passed as not being strong enough.

Hughes’ likely opponent in the general election for lieutenant governor, current Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, should be able to get some mileage out of this goof by the Democrat’s campaign.

When politicians advocate for a law, the least they should be expected to do is to follow it after it’s enacted.

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