City and State Pennsylvania: State Rep. Sims' travel, speaking fees raise questions
Meredith McGehee, policy director at the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog, took issue with Sims’ gifts and campaign spending.“There’s a pattern here that raises questions,” she said. “The questions merit an investigation by the [state] ethics committee and a broader discussion about who can pay for travel, when they can pay for it and what they can pay for.”
McGehee said Sims’ explanations didn’t add up.
“These delayed payments or reimbursements certainly raise questions about the origin of the money that paid for these trips in the first place,” said McGehee. “You can’t simply make things right by paying for it all with campaign funds later.”
She questioned the assertion that using campaign funds to fly to Israel or Africa, even for charity, was acceptable at all.
“Campaign funds are not considered bribes because they’re supposed to be used for bona fide campaign purposes,” she said. “The funds are, by definition, other people’s money; otherwise, they would just be bribes. I wish someone else would underwrite my charitable activity.”
But McGehee nevertheless took issue with Sims’ justification of his speaking work, no matter how reduced in scope.
“It’s a system that is tilted toward people with resources,” she said. “It’s giving special access to public officials to people who can afford those payments. They become as much focused on what they have to do to get that income as their official duties.”
While Sims’ line-skirting might be par for the course for some elected officials in PA and pales in comparison to the ethical compromises of others – see also: Seth Williams – McGehee believes that is beside the point.
“The way you promote compliance is that when people do not comply, there are ramifications,” she said. “When you don’t do that, you’re promoting lowest common denominator behavior.”