Politician Needn't Count Comics As Investment

A leading Tennessee legislator is off the hook for failing to report a large, potentially-valuable collection in his personal holdings.
"My common sense tells me that isn't something that should be reported," Bruce Androphy, executive director of the Tennessee Ethics Commission, told the Knoxville News Sentinel's TOM HUMPHREY. He added that the collection "doesn't strike me as something the public would need to know about."

"I have no idea of the value," said the focus of the controversy, Republican Jason Mumpower, insisting that he'd never thought of his collection as an investment.

Even his loyal opposition, State Democratic Chairman Gray Sasser -- who as recently as October 22 accused Mumpower of campaign finance dishonesty -- called the inquiry "comical."

The whole situation was instigated by an anonymous whistleblower who informed a reporter by email that Mumpower hadn't listed his significant comic book collection on the annual diclosures of financial interests -- a requirement for public officials.

Mumpower (right), a shoo-in as the next Tennessee House Speaker, admitted that he's amassed approximately 17,000 comics over 23 years of fandom. He even keeps a list of the titles on his computer. But he professes to be a reader only; he reads one comic every night before bed.

While state law does require the disclosure of investments worth $10K or more, Androphy said that an investment generally is defined (by him, at least) as something to sell later for profit, and that the law's purpose is to tag any financial interest that could conflict with an official's public duties.

The director admitted that his comments were "off the cuff" and that he likely would look into the matter further before reaching a final decision.

Most of the vocal readers on KnoxNews.com blasted the article and the potential investigation as frivolous and a waste of time as well as money. One commentor, however, chose to take the matter (at least semi-) seriously.

"This will probably go down as one of the more asinine alleged violations of the rules," agreed ALEXANDER GAMBLE, "but the rules are there to 'sustain the public's confidence in government' and increase the 'integrity and transparency' of our government so all allegations should be investigated."

He didn't understand why Mumpower failed to report the collection since one of that size "could easily exceed the $10,000 limit" and since the legislator considered his comics of sufficient "value" to log them into his computer.

"I hope the TEC will clarify the disclosure requirements," said Gamble, "so we don't have such nonsense in the future."

Anyone else who considers the article and/or inquiry to be "nonsense" can reach reporter Tom Humphrey at 615-242-7782.
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PAnthony
11/18/2008
Knoxville News Sentinel

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