AUSTIN (KXAN) - A watchdog group has filed a complaint with the Texas Ethics Commission accusing a former state legislator of spending campaign funds on himself, possibly violating state ethics laws.
Texans for Public Justice alleges Mike Krusee , the Republican who held House District 52 in Williamson County from 1993 to 2009, spent nearly $95,000 in leftover campaign money on lavish hotel stays, pricey meals and drinks, and thousands of miles in travel.
"Since he left the legislature three years ago, he's been spending much of that account on what clearly must be personal use," said TPJ Director Craig McDonald.
Krusee's campaign finance report explains the expenses as payments for things like conferences, meetings and consultants. He has reportedly said that money was used for roles he took on as a result of once being lawmaker.
According to the Austin-American Statesman , he said: "I can spend it on things that were taken as an obligation...while I was a member and as a result of being a member. I paid for my duties as a board member, including going to conferences and stuff like that."
McDonald's group filed the complaint Tuesday, not accepting Krusee's answer about the $94,627 in question.
"That excuse is like saying, 'Well, I'm still a member of the high school football team' three years after you graduate," he said. "It just has no merit in law."
Among those expenses his group identified as "personal" are: $26,306 in travel costs, $11,419 for food and beverages, and $15,318 for hotels. Those stays included the Burnham Hotel in Chicago, the Eventi Hotel in New York City and the Hotel Teatro in Denver.
The report also shows several large purchases at various locations in Austin: $153.50 for a "meeting expense" at La Condesa restaurant on Nov. 17, 2011, and $962.49 for a "staff meeting expense" at Jeffrey's restaurant on Jan. 11, 2010.
Krusee has not returned calls and emails from KXAN. The ethics commission said any information on the case is confidential until it issues a report, which could take months.
The law allows leftover funds to go to: other candidates, charity, or back to donors.
"If you're not an office-holder, if you're not a candidate, you cannot use that money for your personal use," said McDonald.
If there is a violation found, Krusee could face a fine -- likely the amount of money spent illegally. McDonald said it is also possible more could come out of this case if the District Attorney gets involved.
Check out Josh's Political Blog for an in-depth post about another ethics complaint Krusee faced regarding campaign funds in 2008.
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