Senator Sojourner: Tornado responsible for delay of finance reports

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, July 30, 2014

NATCHEZ — Sen. Melanie Sojourner said Mother Nature played a part in her failure to file required financial disclosure statements.

But the senator also said she may have been targeted to make the situation appear worse than it is.

Sojourner, R-Natchez, has been assessed a $500 fine for failing to file a campaign finance report that was due Jan. 31. The state Department of Finance and Administration has warned Sojourner that her state lawmaker’s salary will be withheld until she files it.

Sojourner said she was aware of several notices she had been given on the late reports, but that retrieving the needed documents was a difficult task.

Sojourner’s house was damaged in September 2013 by an EF-2 tornado that touched down in the Kingston area.

No one was inside Sojourner’s house when the tornado hit, but the senator said the damaged areas included her home office.

“I lost the overwhelming majority of my paperwork, bank statements, records, you name it,” Sojourner said. “I even filed for an extension on my taxes for the first time ever, because I just don’t have a lot of that information.”

Sojourner said she had relayed some of that information to the Secretary of State’s Office, and the secretary advised her to file a waiver explaining why she couldn’t file the appropriate documents.

“I just hadn’t expedited it because there was nothing that was ever said to me, ‘You have until X date to do it,’” Sojourner said. “I just kept telling myself I would do that when I sat down later in the summer to do my taxes.

“It wasn’t like I said, ‘I’m not going to do this,’ but I just didn’t have all the records to appropriately file it.”

Sojourner said she sent a waiver Monday to the Secretary of State’s Office and would begin attempting to collect the necessary documents to file the report.

Pamela Weaver, director of communications for Hosemann’s office, said state law requires legislators to file an annual campaign finance report every year.

The report, Weaver said, outlines all receipts and disbursements for items that total of more than $200 made in 2013.

Weaver said as of the end of the day Tuesday, Sojourner had not filed a report.

The Secretary of State’s Office says all other lawmakers have filed their 2013 annual campaign finance reports.

Sojourner said she felt as if she was being targeted because other legislators have told her they don’t file those reports or often submit partial ones.

“I’ve been talking to people who say, ‘I’ve been here for years and never filled out one of those,’” Sojourner said. “They’re doing whatever they can to target a few of us right now, but I can’t help what happened, and I’m going to go ahead and get it filed.”

Sojourner represents District 37, which includes parts of Adams, Amite, Franklin and Pike counties, and is chairwoman of the Senate Forestry Committee.

She has recently served as campaign manager for state Sen. Chris McDaniel in his bid for U.S. Senate. McDaniel, a Tea Party backed candidate, lost to Cochran in a Republican primary runoff election. McDaniel’s campaign accused mainline Republican Party officials of playing unfair and lobbying Democrats to cross party lines and support Cochran.