Jackson, Miss. (Clarion Ledger) – At first glance, state Sen. Chris McDaniel appeared to lead incumbent Delbert Hosemann in January-April fundraising for the hotly contested Republican primary for Mississippi lieutenant governor.
According to a single summary page, McDaniel raised more than $677,000 in the first four months of this year, compared to the nearly $193,000 raised by Hosemann, whose filing included both a summary page and a 31-page list of contributions and disbursements. State law requires candidates to disclose any donations or expenditures over $200.
Hosemann, who did not hold fundraising events during the legislative session, which ended April 1, maintains a lead in cash on hand, with about $3.34 million compared to McDaniel’s reported total of roughly $336,000. Incumbents often come into races with leads in cash on hand compared to their challengers.
“We are grateful for the support we have received,” Hosemann said in a statement. “Mississippi voters want solutions, not just talk, and we have a significant record of running government like a business. The next three months will be devoted to spreading the message about our record and priorities over the next four years.”
The accuracy of information McDaniel claimed on the summary page has been called into question by Hosemann in a later statement.
“At this point, there appear to be multiple campaign finance violations stemming from multiple committees. Standing for election integrity includes following campaign finance laws which require basic reporting of contributions, expenditures, and cash on hand,” Hosemann said in a statement. “We are asking for enforcement of these laws. If Chris McDaniel can’t get this simple paperwork done, he won’t be able to manage a $7 billion budget.”
It is possible that, if McDaniel is factoring in contributions he has previously reported into this period’s total, the true amount raised could be about $87,000, not the roughly $667,000 claimed on the summary page. Without the full itemized list, it is impossible to know the true total.
In response to questions about the missing list of contributions, the McDaniel campaign provided 124 pages of screenshots from what appears to be its internal contribution tabulation software, which were apparently sent to the secretary of state. The contributions listed in those screenshots do not include dates and add up to a slightly different total than what was listed on the form posted by the secretary of state. The single summary page listed the contributions for this period at $677,775.77, while the screenshots list it at $677,975.77. The screenshots also list $0 in contributions and disbursements for “Pre-January 1, 2023,” lending some credence to the idea that previously reported funds may be included in that January-April period total.
According to Elizabeth Holbert Jonson, spokesperson for Secretary of State Michael Watson, the single page summary was the full filing the office received from the Committee to Elect Chris McDaniel on Wednesday. However, Holbert Jonson said the office received a call early Thursday afternoon from the McDaniel campaign claiming that they had indeed submitted the full report, with itemized contributions, and that they believed the summary was posted alone in error.
The secretary of state’s website was experiencing technical difficulties Thursday, including with its campaign finance search application, so Holbert Jonson said the office was unable to confirm or deny the claims made by the McDaniel campaign, and investigations are ongoing.
“As every failed Mississippi Democrat in recent history, it’s of no surprise that Delbert ‘the Democrat’ Hosemann’s campaign coffers are bankrolled by corrupt special interest dollars,” Tardif said. “Senator McDaniel is humbled by the overwhelming financial support his campaign has received by hundreds of everyday Mississippians. Coupling this support with the grassroots momentum the campaign is seeing, Sen. Chris McDaniel is in a strong position to win this August.”
McDaniel has chosen to raise money through a candidate committee, a change from previous races where he raised money as an individual. Doing so comes with requirements that a committee file a statement of organization with the secretary of state within 48 hours of receiving or spending more than $200.
Without an itemized list of contributions or disbursements, it is impossible to know when the committee reached that $200 threshold, but a spokesperson for Watson said their office has never received a statement of organization from McDaniel’s committee.
As Hosemann referenced in his statement, this is not the first time McDaniel’s campaign finance compliance has been called into question. Last month, after reporting by Mississippi Today and the filing of an official complaint by Hosemann, McDaniel returned $460,000 in legally questionable donations to his “Hold the Line” Political Action Committee, which itself then returned that money to a Virginia-based dark money nonprofit. “Hold the Line” then shut down its operations.