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Fulton judge clears way for Oxendine ethics hearing
The State Ethics Commission has every right to issue subpoenas as it investigates ethics allegations against gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine, a judge ruled today.
The decision clears the way for investigators to get a better idea of any communication between 10 Alabama political action committees and the source of $120,000 in apparently illegal political contributions.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams, in today’s order, denied requests by State Mutual Insurance and its wholly owned affiliate, Admiral Life, to block the commission from obtaining financial and other records as part of the probe.
At issue: $120,000 that moved in 2008 from the Rome-based insurance companies to the Alabama PACs and then to Oxendine’s campaign account. As Georgia’s insurance commissioner, Oxendine may not accept campaign contributions of any amount from companies that he regulates.
Most or all of the relevant financial records are now in the commission’s investigative file. But the commission particularly wants Admiral Life to produce “letters, e-mails, text messages, voice mail messages … ‘tweets,’ facsimiles, memoranda, summaries, report, hand-written notes” to the Alabama bank regarding the transaction.
In motions filed last month, lawyers for State Mutual Insurance and Admiral Life Insurance argued the commission could not issue subpoenas until it found “reasonable cause” to believe there was a violation of the Georgia Ethics in Government Act. Commission investigators contend the records would help determine if there is probably cause, but the insurance companies have refused to turn them over.
The commission postponed a probable cause hearing in the case until the question was resolved, pushing a public airing of the charges past next Tuesday’s Republican primary for governor.
The matter could be heard before the GOP runoff, if there is one. But Stacey Kalberman, the commission’s executive secretary, said the agency would like to obtain the rest of the records it needs before scheduling the hearing.