State Rep. Justin Burr is answering tough questions about whether he's using his campaign account for personal expenses.
As first reported by his hometown paper, the Stanly News and Press, Burr spent $857.42 on March 27 at Brooks Brothers in Raleigh. His campaign finance report lists the purchase as "suits/jackets required for session."
Burr, a Republican, also tapped his campaign account for hundreds of dollars worth of office supplies and rent for a Raleigh apartment he splits with another lawmaker.
The questionable expenses are part of a complaint filed against Burr by Raleigh activist Greg Flynn, the newspaper reported. Burr is working to amend some of his reports, but he dismissed the complaint.
"I have talked with the state (Board of Elections) office. I guess it was me trying to put too much information in the reports," Burr told the paper. "There’s nothing to (the complaint). I would rather me purchase these things instead of the taxpayers."
In an interview with the News & Observer, Gary Bartlett, the executive director of the board of elections, said Burr is not the only legislator to use campaign money to buy suits -- and it's not necessarily against the rules. "We give them the benefit of the doubt as long as they don't seem to abuse it," Bartlett said.
Bartlett said it sounded like Burr's expenses didn't rise to the level of former Democratic Rep. Ty Harrell, who resigned in 2009 amid questions about expensive meals and pricey children's clothing.
Bartlett explained that the rule about personal expenses is determined by the question of whether the lawmaker or candidate would buy the item if they were not holding office. Flynn, in his complaint, suggested it was absurd that Burr wouldn't buy suits on his own, the newspaper reported.
A quick perusal of other lawmakers expenses suggests it's not uncommon to outfit an office using campaign expenses. Rep. Tom Murry used his account to buy a mini-fridge for his office. So did Rep. David Guice, who also used his campaign account for dry cleaning, office furniture, auto maintenance and an iPad.