By EMILY R. WEST
Despite the fact that expelled legislator Jeremy Durham will not appear on the ballot this November, the former candidate still has nearly $114,500 in his campaign account.
According to third quarter finance disclosures, Durham only made $4,136 this quarter. All of that money came from his own political action committee – the Durham PAC. The former House District 65 legislator lost his seat in September when legislators voted 70-2 to remove him after an Attorney General’s report revealed detailed inappropriate behavior while he was in office. He is just the second Tennessee lawmaker to find himself expelled since the Civil War.
Throughout the summer and into the fall, the embattled Republican has alos faced scrutiny from the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance regarding his use of campaign funds. As of now, Durham is still under a state audit, dating back to June.
The audit and investigation of Durham’s campaign finance account date from 2014 through the current filings for his 2016 campaign. Based on the material provided by the Attorney General’s office, the state’s Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance Executive Director Drew Rawlins said the registry of election finance board voted unanimously to launch the audit.
The audit emerged with what Durham labeled at the time as a “disgruntled employee.” At the time, the former employee alleged Durham used funds from his campaign account to pay for the expenses of his title company. In accordance to state law, it’s illegal to use campaign funding for personal purposes.
“We are doing the audit and hopefully by the end of the year we will be done with the audit,” Rawlins said.
According to Rawlins, Durham has a few options under Tennessee Annotated Code 2-10-114 in terms of handling the money left in his account.
“Anytime a candidate loses, there are things set out in state law they can do with the money,” in the campaign account, Rawlins said. “They can give it to a charity. You can give it to the Republican party. Or they can give it to a scholarship fund. They can give out to other candidates. Former candidates can also refund contributors, but no one really ever does that. Those are things he can do.”
In the past quarter, Durham spent $6,339.38 – the bulk of it spent after he publicly suspended his campaign in mid July. Of that money, the majority went to campaign workers with the final payment as late as Sept. 26.
Though at least $956.20 of those funds went to University of Tennessee Special Events. He labeled the purchase as tickets for constituents. He bought the tickets days after Republican nominee Sam Whitson beat him in the August primary. In addition, he also gave out money to Sen. Brian Kelsey’s (R-Germantown) campaign for Congress in the form of $999.