SPRINGFIELD (CBS) – Lieutenant Governor Tim Murry is not running for Governor, but he is still trying to raise money and that money may go to his legal defense fund.
WBZ-TV has obtained a recent fundraising letter from his political campaign committee pleading for donations.
We brought the letter to Murray in Springfield Friday to ask him about it.
Murray says, “These letters were signed a week before I finalized by decision not to run.”
But the letter is dated January 21st, which is three days after he announced he will not be running for Governor in 2014.
If Murray isn’t running, then where is the money going? Murray’s answer:
“I have never said I am not going to be a candidate for office in the future. I will continue to be politically active over the next couple of years.”
And Murray is also facing a criminal investigation related to fundraising activities. .
We asked Murray if the money will go to his legal defense. He admitted it could. “I will continue to be active. If those are costs we end up having, these are things we’ll utilize it for,” he said. “In the meantime I continue to sponsor the little leagues and doing things.”
Does the Lieutenant Governor think a political figure should be able to use campaign funds for a legal defense? Murray says he follows all guidelines from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, and added, “It is not uncommon for this to happen from time to time, and if a case arises, it may be something. But as I said I am going to continue to stay politically active and supporting causes that are worthwhile and we have work to do.”
CALL FOR MORE OVERSIGHT OF CAMPAIGN COMMITTEE
Pam Wilmot, of Common Cause, says many people don’t realize that politicians often raise money after they decide not to run, and often spend money often long after they are no longer going to be holding public office.
Wilmot explains, “They can spend money on anything that furthers their political future, which is a lot of things, a car, flowers, presents for the staff, potentially a legal defense fund. There are a lot of things they can spend money on and it’s nice to have that extra income.”
According to Wilmot, “Special interests are often donating money in order to get political favors, in which case it doesn’t matter if the politician is running or not running.”
In Murray’s case, Wilmot says, “The term is running down, there is not that much more time, and if there is a legal defense, there is going to be a lot of money the Lieutenant Governor is going to need. So I would suspect some of the money would be going in that direction.”
Wilmot expects the funds will go in a number of places, “Probably some will be to defend the allegations that have been leveled against him in terms of political fundraising and a state employee’s role in that which is prohibited, and part of it will go to the normal operating expenses of an office, like having a car to drive around in. Potentially gifts for employees, conferences and things like that that are often paid for by campaign funds.”
Wilmot says, “Personally we’d rather see that political fundraising is tied to a political campaign and office holder expenses are paid by the Commonwealth so the role of special interests in politics is diminished. Because they don’t care if this is used for something like a car or flowers or gifts for the family. They want it to be well received.”
According to the Office of Campaign and Political Finance, a political committee can pay for some kinds of a political figure’s legal bills. OCPF spokesperson Jason Tait explains, “They wouldn’t be able to pay for a divorce, but campaign funds could be used to pay for an action related to someone’s position in government.” Tait says there is no limit to how much money can be spent on these legal bills.
You can see where the money is being spent on the Office of Campaign and Political Finance website.
Wilmot says the bottom line with political campaign funds, “As long as they further the candidate’s political future, they are fair game. We’d like to change that.”