Campaign Finance Laws: Carryover vs. Debt
When a candidate runs for office, they are working to win the trust of their constituents. Individuals may be inclined to donate to help the candidate succeed. Unfortunately, some candidates and elected officials take advantage of the donation process, breaking rules and public trust. Need an example? How about Senator Charles Beckham of District 12.
“After the date of an election at which the person is a candidate for nomination or election, the person shall not accept campaign contributions for that election except for the sole purpose of raising funds to retire campaign debt.”
Arkansas Code Annotated §7-6-203 (g)(5)
Before we get into dollar amounts, let’s talk about code, campaign finance ethics, and the Arkansas Constitution. All three indicate that after Election Day, a candidate shall not continue to fundraise unless that person has incurred debt; in this case, the candidate would be allowed to raise just enough to pay off any outstanding contracts. Simply put, after Election Day a candidate either has carryover funds or debt—not both.
Candidate Lies; Numbers Don’t
Now that we have an understanding of campaign law, let’s take a look at Beckham’s financial reports. On Election Day, Beckham reported having $11,802.45 on hand; however, he had a total of $29,169.57 in expenses to be paid after Election Day. So in total, he had a debt of $17,367.12. What does this mean? Beckham should not have any carryover funds. But as you can see in the image below, Beckham indicated $27,859.76 in carryover funds on his final report.
These violations could easily land the Senator with Class A Misdemeanor charges—a serious charge for a serious crime. At the very least, Beckham should be forced to return all funds raised after Election Day of 2020 that exceeded his net debt.
Who is this guy, anyway?
On top of being sleazy with campaign funds, Beckham use to masquerade as a klansman. Victoria Brown, a former classmate, told the Arkansas Times she “just remember[s] being petrified to the point of tears,” when she saw Beckham and others in white cloaks. Beckham originally lied and denied the claims, later issuing a formal apology for any “angst or grievances” he might have caused.
Now Beckham has real power in the State Senate. We have to hold him accountable. Not only is he misusing campaign funds, he’s also a liar: first about his racist past, and now to his donors and Arkansas.
Regardless of what the Ethics Commission rules, Arkansans will have an opportunity to hold Beckham accountable in 2022. Every seat in the Arkansas Legislature will be up for grabs. So, if you’re tired of your elected officials abusing their place of power, make some noise. Take the first step today and check your voter registration. And if Sen. Beckham is your Senator, hold him accountable on Election Day.