JONESBORO — Former state Sen. Paul Bookout, who resigned last year after being cited for multiple ethics violations involving campaign spending, has begun returning contributions made by individual contributors to his 2012 re-election campaign, his attorney said.
Attorney Bill Stanley said most of the individual contributions were returned late last month and that Bookout still is in the process of refunding contributions made by political action committees.
Bookout, a former state senator from Jonesboro, resigned Aug. 20 after the state Ethics Commission ruled that he spent more than $53,000 from his re-election bid on clothing, home theater equipment and dozens of other personal items. He was fined $8,000 and reprimanded by the panel.
"Paul chose to do this on his own. If you noticed the ethics report, the ethics commission did not order him to reimburse anyone. But Paul decided to do it on his own," Stanley said.
Special Prosecutor Jack McQuary has been appointed to determine whether Bookout, who previously served as the Senate's president pro tem, should face any criminal charges. The Jonesboro Sun reported Wednesday that the criminal investigation into Bookout's actions is pending. A spokeswoman for the FBI declined to comment on whether a federal investigation is underway.
Bookout previously has said that he would reimburse his campaign $49,000 and repay contributors over the commission's findings.
The Ethics Commission said Bookout's spending included $5,043 for women's clothing and accessories, $8,402 for home theater equipment and installation, and $1,305 for golf equipment at a country club. The panel also said that more than $18,000 from the campaign was transferred to Bookout's personal bank account.
Republican John Cooper and Democrat Steve Rockwell, who won their party's respective primaries, will meet in the Jan. 14 special election that has been scheduled to fill Bookout's vacant seat in the state Senate.