One of the oldest tricks in the book is playing out in the pages of the Baton Rouge Advocate, as (arguably) the worst member of the Baton Rouge Metro Council found herself under a media microscope for some fairly obviously unethical conduct with respect to misusing her campaign funds for personal expenses…and when the Advocate noticed and published the evidence, Chauna Banks flopped the race card.
As though that isn’t as tired and boring as it is irrelevant.
So here are the goods as the Advocate’s Rebekah Allen found them…
Baton Rouge Metro Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel spent more than $350 of her campaign finance contributions last year on clothing, beauty supplies and getting her hair and nails done.
The first-term council woman who represents North Baton Rouge and the Scotlandville/Baker area spent a total of $10,500 in campaign funds in 2014. She did not return a call or email for this post.
The 12 council members are not in an election year, so spending and fundraising was relatively unnoteworthy for the rest of the council members in 2014, based on their annual campaign finance reports turned in last month.
- Jan. 25: Rochelle Singleton for “hair grooming,” $41
- May 13: Pearl Nails for “nail salon,” $30
- May 15: Beauty Plus for “beauty supplies,” $31.20
- Sept. 29: Gina Fashion for “clothing,” $21.79
- Sept. 29: Pearl Nails for “nail salon,” $30
- Oct. 2: Trung Luong for “nail salon,” $29
- Oct. 11: Hair Connection for “hair salon,” $115
- Nov. 10: Dillard’s for “clothing,” $54.27
Banks-Daniel also spent $83.92 for “car care” at Benny’s Car Wash on May 21 with her campaign funds.
Campaign finance law says campaign funds can only be spent on political campaigns or the costs associated with holding public office. Expenses like sports tickets, renting cars, babysitters and meals are often considered appropriate expenditures.
But Banks-Daniel’s purchases could potentially be viewed as inappropriate, considering the Ethics Board has previously gone after other officials for spending campaign funds on their personal appearances.
She’s not by any means alone in using her campaign account as a slush fund. This is a fairly common, though highly unethical, practice among Louisiana’s worst politicians. Senate President John Alario had the FBI descend on his case after someone looked through his campaign finance report a few years ago, and former Rep. Joe Harrison’s legal problems were a bit worse than that. The campaign finance report for Alario’s Senate pal Danny Martiny, who is running for Jefferson Parish Council and will probably lose, is just as messy.
Why these people do this is hard to understand. You will get caught, because you’re forced to disclose every line item of those bank transactions. And those line items are a matter of public record. So getting your hair and nails done out of your campaign account, especially in a year you’re not running for anything, is going to come back on you.
The folks at the Advocate had a good old time when Chauna Banks decided to make things worse by offering a rebuttal, which read as follows…
“Rebekah Allen’s use of media stereotypes as a shorthand method of defining my character in ways that are easy for people to identify and categorize as a “self-serving politician”. What these stereotypes all have in common is that they reduce to a one-sided, superficial and exaggerated depiction of reality, variety, depth and complexity of a people. She consistently “inflame” stories dedicated to undermine the Black female council members. Though the media today is more sensitive to issues of culture and gender than it once was, Rebekah is dedicated to the creation and perpetuation of common misconceptions about groups of people. Her oversimplified and inaccurate portrayal of me and other woman on the council are intended to profoundly affected how we are perceived, how we relate to one another, and how we value ourselves.
Yes, that’s the race card.
It’s pretty craven and stupid given that there is nothing special about black people who misuse campaign dollars – politicians of every color can do that, and it looks like they do.
Wait, though, she wasn’t finished.
NOW THIS IS WHAT I LEARNED FROM THIS REPORTER:
2013-MAKE UP OR EXXAGERATE MY RESPONSES TO MAKE THE STORY JUICY OR KEEP THE MESS GOING.
2014-CREATE STORIES REGARDING ME USING MY EMAILS.
2015-PULL ETHICS REPORT, THOUGH SHE IS EMAILING ME FOR A RESPONSE…SHE HAS ALREADY WRITTEN A SCANDOLOUS ARTICLE. REBEKAH WILL NOT INCLUDE THAT I CONTRIBUTED ALMOST $1200 OF MY PERSONAL FUNDS IN MY CAMPAIGN FUND, WHICH MORE THAN COVERS ANY INCIDENTALS, SHE IS REFERRING TO 4 OR 5 PURCHASES TOTALING LESS THAN $300.00. I AM CONSTANTLY CALLED UPON TO MAKE DONATIONS, GIVE DOOR PRIZES, AND PROVIDE CLOTHING, FOOD, GROOMING, AND TRANSPORTATION TO THOSE THAT I SERVE.
I send out a press release at least once a month of positive things that me and my staff are doing in District 2, NOT ONE has been printed in The Advocate in 2 years.
Was Rebekah at our SCOTLANDVILLE COMMUNITY MEETING two nights ago, of course not. Rebekah is assigned to cover City-Parish government, as long as she is, I will CONTINUE to be off limits to her. She will have to continue to “intensify and make-up” stories concerning me.”
Get this? Chauna Banks catches unfair coverage from the Advocate because nobody shows up at her community meetings were zero news is made and yet she’s written up when she leaves a trail of breadcrumbs to her little slush fund.
This is what happens, as we know, when you elect people of lousy character and limited intellect. You get this rather than good public policy.
And you wonder why Baton Rouge is in the shape it’s in.