Our view of an accusation | Editorial
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
October 17, 2012 · Updated 10:47 AM
Several weeks ago we received letters to the editor that made some pretty harsh statements about Rep. Mark Hargrove.
They stated he was fined by an ethics boards for inappropriately using public resources for his reelection campaign.
Whoa. That sounds like a rather serious charge to me.
That begged the question: Why the heck hadn’t we heard anything about it?
As it turned out, the information came from a blog post on The Olympian’s website. Still uncertain as to what happened, I got a hold of the ethics board documents and gave Hargrove a call to discuss it.
The confusing nature of legal language (which is intentional, I feel) often makes me want to rip out my hair, so for your sanity I’ll condense it down to the bare minimum.
During the special legislative session in November 2011, Hargrove said he wanted to improve communication with his constituents, particularly on the state budget. He thought of making a video he’d post to his website and run on television.
He later learned, however, that it would be against the rules to do so, since representatives are not allowed to use public resources to produce videos that would be used outside their legislative districts.
Instead, Hargrove said he turned to his surplus campaign funds to produce the video, which was later posted to his website in December and also aired on Comcast.
Here’s where the problem arose.
In the video are Hargrove’s legislative email and phone number, which are considered public resources. Because he used his campaign funds on the video, it was considered a campaign advertisement and thus he could not include his legislative email or phone for voters to contact him. In the end, he was fined $357.
I don’t know about you, but when someone tells me a politician misused public resources on a campaign, I think of them spending $4 million of taxpayer dollars on gas to drive around in a SUV while offering free Justin Bieber tickets to 18-year-old girl (and guy, sadly) voters.
The reason I’m bringing up the matter is for two reasons.
One, we received letters to the editor about it and it’s our job as reporters to investigate claims made, especially if we publish the letters.
Two, most importantly, our readers deserve to know what their elected officials are up to. Petty or not, it’s our business to know.
But, at the same time, one has to ask how big of a deal this is.
Apparently Tony Yuchasz in the House Democratic Campaign Committee didn’t think it was a big deal for seven months, which is how long the video was on Hargrove’s YouTube channel before Yuchasz filed the complaint in July.
Then again, since this is an election year, perhaps I just answered my own question.
This isn’t a scandal on par with Watergate or Operation Fast and Furious. It’s a traffic ticket for not coming to a complete stop at a red light.
And before anyone rushes to their computer to fire off a letter or email, we would extend the same “grace” to Bud Sizemore, Hargrove’s opponent, should he get elected and make a similar faux pas.
But a little context and clarity can’t hurt.
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.