Calhoun County’s branch of the Democratic Party received a subpoena for its financial records last week, local party Chairwoman Sheila Gilbert said Monday.
The subpoena was withdrawn later in the week, Gilbert said. Still, it’s another sign of what appears to be an ongoing investigation by the state attorney general’s office into campaign finance issues.
“It sounds like they’re casting a wide net,” Gilbert said.
The Montgomery Advertiser last week reported that at least two state lawmakers had received subpoenas related to a campaign finance investigation likely related to the use of credit cards in campaign accounts. The Advertiser identified only one of those lawmakers, Sen. Billy Beasley, D-Clayton.
In a separate story last week, Rep. Patricia Todd, D-Birmingham, said she would not seek re-election in 2018. She cited a subpoena in a campaign finance investigation, for records of credit card payments, as one reason for leaving the House. Attempts to reach Todd for comment Monday were not successful.
Campaign spending on personal items caused trouble for two other former lawmakers in the past year. Former House members Oliver Robinson, D-Birmingham, and Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, both pleaded guilty to ethics charges last year that included spending campaign money on personal items.
It’s unclear how wide-ranging the investigation might be, but Todd last week told al.com that her subpoena covered a campaign expenditure for a payment on a campaign credit card — an expenditure that wasn’t itemized in campaign finance reports to show what was purchased with the credit card.
Entries like that are not so uncommon in campaign finance paperwork. In campaign finance records, Consolidated News Service found at least a dozen candidates or political groups that had some form of credit card spending that wasn’t itemized. The Calhoun County Democratic Executive Committee was the only local political party among them.
Joy Patterson, a spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, said the office had no comment on the subpoenas. Prosecutors rarely comment on ongoing investigations.
Three members of Calhoun County’s legislative delegation said they had not received subpoenas.
“The less I know about it, the happier I am,” Rep. Randy Wood, R-Saks, said of the subpoenas. He said he pays for expenses with checks, and keeps a record of those expenses.
“Most of the time, I itemize,” said Rep. Barbara Boyd, D-Anniston. Boyd said she had not been subpoenaed. Rep. Steve Hurst, R-Munford, also said he hadn’t been subpoenaed.
Campaign finance records have no records for any of the three spending campaign money to pay down credit cards. A member of the Etowah County delegation, Sen. Phil Williams, R-Rainbow City, has spent more than $23,000 paying off campaign credit cards with campaign money, though campaign records indicated that Williams sent state officials itemized accounts of most if not all of those expenditures. In a text message Monday, Williams indicated he hadn’t been subpoenaed.
“Even if I had we couldn’t discuss it directly,” he wrote. “But all my records are up to date and complete.”
Calhoun County’s Republican Party hasn’t been subpoenaed, Chairman James Bennett said Monday. The county party didn’t have a credit card until this year, Bennett said, and got one only because it needed one to set up a website.