Editorial: Wrong impression on Starnes' spending

Aug. 31, 2013 @ 01:24 AM

The NC Insider, a political news publication in Raleigh, reported this week that in the first four months of this year, the campaign of Rep. Edgar Starnes, R-Caldwell, the House majority leader, spent nearly $7,000 on furniture and decorations for his office.

Among the purchases was $999 for an office fireplace, $3,900 for tables and furniture, $520 for lamps and shades, and nearly $650 on picture frames and other accessories, including a $44.95 bronze bust of the late U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms from the Jesse Helms Center in Union County.

Starnes told the publication that as a party leader, he felt his office needed to convey a certain feel: “I wanted it to be more like a home atmosphere than just a sterile, office atmosphere. I just wanted to make it look pretty.”

At first we thought it was a bit extravagant -- but then we backed up to part of the first sentence of the story: "the campaign ... spent nearly $7,000."

In other words, this is not taxpayers' money, it's money from the folks who donated to Starnes' campaign, and state campaign finance laws give candidates broad discretion on spending campaign funds as long as they don’t go toward personal expenses. As far as we're concerned, that makes it a matter between Starnes and his donors. If they're OK with it, what do we care?

NC Insider may not have meant to imply there was anything wrong, but making this the lead item in a roundup of short items made it seem like a bigger deal than it appears to be.