Prosecutor Says Evidence That Freshman Legislator Broke Election Law
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A freshman legislator who may have violated Missouri election law when he promised part of his salary to fund scholarships faces a misdemeanor charge that carries a maximum one-year prison term.
Rep. Martin ″Bubs″ Hohulin is being charged with a misdemeanor count of violating an election law.
The office of Phelps County Prosecutor John Beger said today that the paperwork on the charge was mailed Thursday night. It will be filed next week when it is received by Vernon County Associate Circuit Court.
Missouri law prohibits candidates from promising a part of their salary to any public or private interests. The maximum penalty is a year in prison and a $2,500 fine, Beger said.
A month after he upset an incumbent in the Nov. 6 general election, Hohulin said he was trying to show state lawmakers are overpaid when he pledged to donate $2,800 of his $22,863 annual salary for college scholarships to eight high school students in his western Missouri district.
The 26-year-old hog farmer from Lamar referred questions to his attorney, Dwight Douglas, who said he planned to challenge the election law as a violation of Hohulin’s First Amendment right of free speech.
Hohulin will carry on with his legislative duties. ″Mr. Hohulin was duly elected to serve the people and that’s what he’s going to do,″ Douglas said.
House Speaker Bob Griffin said Hohulin could lose his seat if he is convicted of the charge. He said the House is the sole judge of its members’ qualifications, ″and we would decide whether he may be seated as a member.″
Beger, assigned by the state attorney general’s office to consider the case, said the evidence included a Hohulin campaign brochure that bears the scholarship promise and the candidate’s signature.
Hohulin has said of his legal plight, ″If I did something wrong, I’m sorry, but I don’t know all the laws. I’m a farmer, not a lawyer.″
He upset veteran Rep. Jerry Burch, D-Walker, in the Nov. 6 general election. Hohulin was sworn into office on Wednesday along with other House members.