Report raises issues with St. Louis senator's spending

Saturday, October 1, 2011 | 4:19 p.m. CDT; updated 8:21 p.m. CST, Wednesday, November 16, 2011

ST. LOUIS — New disclosure reports show that state Sen. Robin Wright-Jones spent thousands of dollars from her campaign fund to buy clothes and groceries and pay her son's political consulting firm.

The veteran St. Louis Democrat has been filing amended reports in recent weeks seeking to account for how she spent more than $95,000 in campaign funds.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had reported earlier that a campaign report in August 2010 showed she had almost $96,000 in the bank, but a report filed this spring showed $211 on hand and didn't spell out how the money was used.

In an email, Wright-Jones described the expenses as "allowable" and said there was "documentation to support each entry in each report." But the paper reported that some expenses appear problematic because state law prohibits converting campaign funds for personal use.

Revised reports, covering the last two years, show that Wright-Jones spent $3,000 on "campaign clothing," including nearly $1,800 at a boutique that sells formal gowns, $141 at the Sunglass Hut and $114 at the women's clothing store Chico's.

Wright-Jones' campaign also spent $900 on groceries, including $221 at Whole Foods on one day near Christmas 2009.

Her campaign reports also show $2,700 was paid to a political consulting firm currently registered to Wright-Jones' son, Damon.

One issue was how cash was spent. Her campaign listed $1,480 in cash expenditures for "campaign gas/food/parking/incidentals." State law prohibits using campaign cash for any single expense over $50; all seven of Wright-Jones' cash transactions exceed that threshold.

Wright-Jones, who won an open Missouri Senate seat in 2008, has had a history of record-keeping issues, including sporadic filing of the required campaign reports. As of earlier this year, her campaign owed the Missouri Ethics Commission more than $5,000 in late fees, and the fines must be paid before Wright-Jones can file for re-election next year.

The latest report shows Wright-Jones has $3,100 in her campaign account.

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