Hudgens’ campaign returns $106K improperly shifted from Senate race
Ralph Hudgens‘ bid for Georgia insurance commissioner has returned $106,600 in contributions that were transferred improperly last year from his state Senate campaign fund.
The State Ethics Commission has been investigating the transaction since January. Hudgens said today he has signed a compliance order that assesses no financial penalty.
“No fines, no anything,” he said.
State law prohibits a candidate from transferring contributions directly between campaign accounts for different offices. Hudgens said a commission staffer had told him the transfer would be legal and that the order says “something to the effect that I was relying on wrong information.”
State law allows a candidate to refund money given to one campaign and ask the donors to contribute to his or her candidacy for another office. Checks were mailed out to the Senate donors about a month ago, Hudgens said, and roughly half of them have endorsed the checks and sent them back to his campaign for insurance commissioner.
“I feel very confident, eventually, that we will get it all back,” he said. Hudgens, a 14-year state legislator representing the Athens area, had said previously that he did not plan to return the money.
The ethics commission was scheduled to consider approval of the consent order last week at a meeting that was canceled because of an unrelated matter.
Today, Hudgens filed amended campaign reports that show he received $106,600 less in contributions for the last half of 2009 than he reported in January. He said he expects next week to disclose campaign donations and spending for the second quarter of 2010.
Hudgens is one of nine Republicans running for insurance commissioner. A Democrat and a Libertarian have also qualified for the post on the November ballot.
UPDATE: Maria Sheffield, another Republican running for insurance commissioner, today attacked Hudgens for his handling of the improper transfer.
Kathryn Ballou, Sheffield’s campaign manager, said in a prepared statement:
Ralph Hudgens improperly shifts $106 THOUSAND campaign dollars from one account to another to create a false impression of financial support and his punishment is to sign a sheet of paper ‘agreeing’ not to violate campaign finance laws in the future.
In other words, Ralph Hudgens wants a career, political insider mulligan – a do-over. This makes a mockery of the rule of law and the concept of honest government.
Ballou said Hudgens’ return of the money to his Senate campaign money was not enough:
How about you let go of this scandal-plagued, special-interest money and start focusing on the issues in the campaign? … Ralph Hudgens needs to expand his statement to include an apology and a promise to forgo trying to apply pressure on those donors to give him that money back.