Legislator pays cost of mailer that violated campaign finance law

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After apologizing and covering the expenses incurred during a recent campaign finance law violation, state Rep. Wilson Stone, D-Scottsville, hopes to put the issue behind him.

The Republican Party of Kentucky last month filed a complaint against Stone with the Kentucky Legislative Ethics Commission and the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

The GOP alleged Stone misused state resources during his re-election campaign by sending a survey to constituents that included the phrase “I appreciate your input, and I request your vote and support.”

Stone issued a statement Sept. 19 admitting fault, apologizing and saying the violation was unintentional.

“In my effort to end on a personal note, I mistakenly included language I should not have and will quickly take steps to rectify the situation,” Wilson said in the statement. “I apologize and want to add that nothing like this will happen again.”

On Thursday, Stone said he has paid $643.09 to the office of state Treasurer Allison Ball, which reimburses the cost of sending out the survey, which had previously been covered by taxpayer dollars.

“I hope that shows a good faith effort to rectify” the situation, he told the Daily News.

According to Brian Wilkerson, communications director for the House Democratic Caucus, the Legislative Research Commission determined that the cost of compiling the surveys and sending them to Stone’s constituents totaled the $643.09.

Stone said he hopes that, with the financial burden of the survey his office sent out effectively removed from taxpayers’ shoulders, the controversy can be put behind him.

“I hope it’s winding to a halt,” he said. “In my estimation, it was a fairly minor error, but an error nonetheless, so I’m trying to make it right.”

Kentucky Revised Statute 6.731 prohibits state legislators from intentionally using “public funds, time or personnel for partisan political campaign activity, unless the use is: (a) Authorized by law; or (b) Properly incidental to another activity required or authorized by law, such as elections to constitutional or party offices within the General Assembly.”

Additionally KRS 6.731 forbids legislators from using “official legislative stationery, or a facsimile thereof, to solicit a vote or a contribution for his or another person’s campaign for election or reelection to public office.”

Tres Watson, Republican Party of Kentucky communications director, said Stone should know better.

“The underlying issue is that he’s a member of leadership who should very well know the ethical rules that all state leaders need to go by,” he said.

Watson also said the incident may indicate that Stone has sent political messages at taxpayer expense before.

“In this instance, we were fortunate a constituent got this and brought it to our attention,” he said.

Stone denied having sent any similar political messages at taxpayer expense, adding that the only types of mail he’s sent at taxpayer expense before have been related to either memorials for the deceased or 50th wedding anniversaries.

“I think the chances of this having happened before are approaching zero,” he said.

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Written by Jackson French. Cross-posted with permission
from the Bowling Green Daily News via the Kentucky Press News Service.