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Lawmaker’s campaign questioned about Brooks Brothers suits

State Rep. Justin Burr, a Republican bail bondsman from Albemarle in the midst of his second term at the state legislature, used his campaign account,  to pay for $857 worth of Brooks Brothers suits, according to a report over the weekend from his hometown paper.

It certainly won’t get the same level of attention that John Edward’s $400 haircut did in 2007 (which turns out may have indirectly lead to the criminal indictment [1] now hanging over Edward’s head at the Raleigh federal courthouse), but Burr’s high-end suits do seem an unusual use of campaign funds.

Burr told the The Stan [2]ly News and Press [2], in a story published Friday that he’s in the midst of revising some of his campaign finance reports after several discrepancies were pointed out to the N.C. Board of Elections by Greg Flynn, a Raleigh architect and frequent blogger on state policy issues. (You can read the letters Flynn wrote to the SBOE by scrolling down on his blog —  http://gregflynn.org/ [3])

[4]Burr’s also used his campaign to pay for furniture for his legislative office, the $457.50 monthly rent for an apartment he shares with state Rep. David Guice, and to pay for half the washer and dryer [5] the lawmakers apparently bought for the Raleigh apartment, according to Burr’s campaign finance report [6] for the first six months of 2011. (Guice didn’t charge the other half of the washer/dryer to his campaign, but did have his campaign pay for a lot of dry cleaning and an iPad [7]).

“There’s nothing to it,” Burr told the Stanly paper. “I would rather me purchase these things instead of the taxpayers.”

We have a call into Burr’s office to see if he has any further comment.

But taxpayers do pay for some of lawmakers expenses while they’re in Raleigh for the session, in addition to the $13,951-a-year salary they get (which hasn’t gone up since the mid-1990s).

They get a $104 per diem reimbursement to cover lodging and meals during the three sessions held during 2011.

In Burr’s case, he’s received $16,952 for sustenance and $1, 614 for travel costs in 2011 on top of his annual legislative salary, according to the N.C. General Assembly’s Legislative Services Offices.

Bob Hall, director of the government watchdog group Democracy NC, thinks putting the cost of a suit is a more than legitimate expense for a legislator to tap into his or her campaign funds, considering that all members have to be wearing suits when on the floors of the House and Senate.

“You do have to think, but for serving in a public office, would you need all this stuff?,” Hall said. “Given the lousy pay the public gives legislators, the public doesn’t get to gripe about using campaign money for paying for the cost of being in office.”

So, NC Policy Watch readers, what do you think?

Is there anything amiss about campaign money paying for things like suits, rent and furniture? Or should there be stricter rules about what the campaign coffers get used for?