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Sunday May 29th, 2016 6:07AM

Senate leader allegedly billed taxpayers for campaign mail

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) The Republican leader of the Georgia Senate billed taxpayers for $8,100 in spending that was reported as campaign expenses, according to invoice records the lawmaker filed with the state.

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers of Woodstock received the reimbursements for mailings, printing and newspaper inserts that went out to his constituents.

State law prohibits using taxpayer money to pay for campaign costs. However, lawmakers can use state funding for newsletters and other printed materials intended to keep constituents informed about issues.

Some of the invoices Rogers filed with the state list Friends of Chip Rogers, the name of his campaign. But also Rogers signed statements with some invoices saying the money was spent in performance of his official Senate duties.

Rogers' campaign officials said they've begun an audit of his expenses. The senator's attorney, Doug Chalmers, said the reimbursements were perfectly legal.

"There is nothing improper, illegal or unethical in the way this was handled," Chalmers said. "There was no unlawful taking of taxpayer funds or double dipping."

Some of Rogers' reimbursements date to 2003, but most of the money was paid out earlier this year. The state reimbursed Rogers $6,700 between February and May for printing and mailing costs. His campaign disclosures also listed the same amount for printing and mailing.

Though state law includes fines and possible jail time for expenses illegally billed to taxpayers, Senate expense accounts are not audited.

"The problem is there has not been oversight in this expense process for a really long time," said William Perry, director of the watchdog group Common Cause Georgia. "That has probably contributed to a level of laziness and lack of attention to detail."
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