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State to investigate Beavers’ campaign funds

Xavier Smith • May 15, 2018 at 4:46 PM

The Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance will audit Wilson County mayoral candidate Mae Beavers’ campaign funds after a complaint was filed against the former state senator and one-time gubernatorial hopeful.

Wilson County Election Commission member Ann Calabria, former president of the Mt. Juliet Republican Women, filed the complaint last month.

“I believe Mae Beavers violated campaign finance laws by transferring $122,000 from her gubernatorial account to a newly created PAC, Patriot PAC, and then accepting money from Patriot PAC, $7,800, into her county mayor account,” Calabria said in her sworn complaint.

The questions surround Beavers’ latest financial disclosures, which show a movement of funds between several accounts associated with the former gubernatorial and current Wilson County mayoral candidate. The funds could indicate an attempt to circumvent rules relative to campaign funding, which, if found true, would be illegal.

Drew Rawlins, Tennessee Bureau of Ethics and Campaign Finance executive director, said the group would investigate the movement of funds, and the length of the investigation would be determined by how fast the bureau could recover needed information. Rawlins said he would hope to have the investigation completed in about a month.

Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet, withdrew from this year’s gubernatorial race earlier this year after she resigned from the state Senate in August to focus on her campaign for governor. She announced her intentions to run for the Wilson County mayor’s seat in March and will face incumbent Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto in the Aug. 2 election.

She donated $122,000 from her gubernatorial campaign to the Patriot PAC on March 30. The donation came one day after the creation of the PAC, which is chaired by Beavers’ husband, Jerry, and John Brown.

Beavers’ donation was also the only donation the PAC received.

Two of the three expenditures reported by the Patriot PAC were related to Beavers, including a $7,800 donation to “Mae Beavers for Mayor.”

The shifting of funds could indicate an attempt to direct funds she received as a gubernatorial candidate to support her mayoral race through the PAC as a conduit, which would be illegal.

According to the Tennessee Registry of Election Finance rules, there are several factors the office takes into consideration when determining if a conduit was used to circumvent campaign contribution laws, including the number of sources and donors, the length of time the PAC was active, the timing of the relationship between contributions received, the expenditures made and more.

State law allows state candidates to transfer any excess campaign funds to any future state or local campaign that the candidate establishes, which means Beavers could use campaign funds received during her gubernatorial campaign after the August primary and Wilson County General Election. She would not be allowed to use the funds prior.

“I believe the facts above show Mae Beavers violated [state law] by creating an illegal conduit from her gubernatorial campaign to her county mayor campaign,” Calabria said in her complaint. “Not only is this conduit illegal in and of itself, it is an attempt to further skirt campaign laws by attempting to access funds not eligible for direct transfer.”

Calls by The Democrat to Beavers for comment were not immediately returned.

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