Gov. Phil Bryant on Tuesday signed a campaign-finance reform measure into law, effective Jan. 1.
Geoff Pender/The Clarion-Ledger

Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law a campaign-finance reform measure that would restrict politicians using campaign money for personal expenses.

“I remember (The Clarion-Ledger) once asked me in an editorial board, would you convert money from a campaign to your personal use?” Bryant said. “I said, that’s against the law, because a lot of us thought that it certainly was … This is an example of where the media can move forward good legislation by educating even members of the Legislature and even the governor of what a good law can do. We signed it into law today. We’re proud of it.”

Bryant signed Senate Bill 2689 at a ceremony at his Capitol office, surrounded by lawmakers who pushed for its passage, including Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, House Speaker Philip Gunn, Sen. Sally Doty and Reps. Hank Zuber and Jason White.

The new law comes after an ongoing investigative report by The Clarion-Ledger, “Public Office/Private Gain,” which illustrated how the state’s lax campaign finance laws and nearly nonexistent enforcement had created a tax-free second income for many Mississippi politicians, mostly funded by special interests.

Mississippi politicians in recent years spent campaign donations on automobiles, apartments, clothes, children’s parties, groceries, taxes, car insurance, home improvements and trips to Alaska, California, Colorado and Florida, among other places. Some politicians have cashed in their accounts when they left office.

The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, prohibits personal use of campaign money, and defines personal use as any “other than expenditures relating to gaining, holding or performing…