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AG asked: Does law limit candidates’ donations to other campaigns?
Attorney General Thurbert Baker has been asked to opine on whether political campaigns may make unlimited financial contributions to other campaigns, as suggested by an ethics decision last week.
The State Ethics Commission on Aug. 17 dismissed a complaint against Warner Robins mayoral candidate Chuck Chalk for accepting a $10,000 check (the so-called “Chuck Chalk check”) from the campaign of the late mayor Donald Walker. Donations in municipal elections are capped at $2,400, but commission members held that the limit may not apply to contributions from other political candidates.
The decision applied only to that complaint, but it raised the possibility that unopposed candidates with fat campaign accounts could give unlimited amounts to candidates in close races, creating a legal path to circumvent contribution limits.
The commission took the unusual step Tuesday of issuing a news release to clarify that it was still studying the question and had made no final decision. The commission is scheduled to meet Sept. 1 to consider an advisory opinion on the matter.
Rep. Wendell Willard, sponsor of an ethics bill that got nowhere in the 2010 legislative session, asked Baker on Monday to issue an expedited opinion on the question: “Are candidate campaign accounts subject to the same limitations on contributions to other campaign accounts as any other contributor?”
We pointed out that Baker could rule there are no limits on such donations.
“Let it be that way if it does,” Willard said. “Then we know what needs to be corrected.”
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