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Ex-speaker’s PAC spending remains under wraps
By JIM WALLS
Sept. 4, 2012 — Glenn Richardson walked away from the Georgia Legislature with $220,000 in campaign funds to spend with little oversight. More than 2 1/2 years later, as he plans a run for the state Senate, he still hasn’t officially disclosed what he’s done with it.
The former speaker of the House assures me, though, that he hasn’t taken a penny for himself.
“I have received no checks from that,” Richardson said in a recent telephone interview.
Richardson closed out his campaign account when he resigned in December 2009, transferring $219,915 to the MMV Alliance Fund, a political action committee that he controls. He had to pay a $500 fine because MMV had not been granted a federal tax exemption (and therefore was not yet considered a charity) when he moved the money.
The IRS says tax-exempt political organizations must file regular reports if they receive donations or spend money related to their charitable purpose. Richard requested and received an exemption under an IRS rule that allows such organizations to file disclosures with the state instead. The exception applies if:
“The organization is required under a state law to report to a state agency (and the organization does so) the information that otherwise would be required to be reported on Form 8872.” (emphasis added)
But MMV hasn’t filed disclosures with the state, either, since January 2010. That’s because Georgia law doesn’t require PACs to do so unless they spend at least $25,000 on political donations in a calendar year.
Richardson agreed that language in the IRS regulation suggests that MMV should be filing disclosures at either the state or federal level. Nevertheless, he says his lawyer tells him he’s in compliance with tax laws.
“I read the same thing you do, but that’s why I don’t lawyer [for] myself,” he said. (It’s never a good idea, he added, for lawyers to represent themselves.)
Richardson said he expects MMV will file a short from with the IRS soon to make sure it keeps its tax exemption. Last year, the IRS revoked tax-exempt status for 275,000 non-profits that hadn’t filed with the agency in at least three years.
He said he doesn’t anticipate that MMV will have to disclose income, since it’s received no donations. “If I have to report expenditures, I will,” he added.
The former speaker estimated that $100,000 to $110,000 remains in the MMV account. He said he’s donated some to charitable causes that he’d rather not identify and to some political campaigns as well.
Candidates for state office have reported receiving $24,300 in donations from MMV since 2010, according to a search of state records. Recipients include Labor Commissioner Mark Butler ($5,000), ex-Rep. Michael Harden ($4,000) and Rep. Paulette Rakestraw Braddock ($3,900).
Richardson announced last week that he’ll seek the Senate seat to be vacated by Bill Hamrick, who was just appointed to a Superior Court judgeship. He said he was particularly concerned when he heard rumors recently that he planned to use the MMV money to finance his Senate campaign, despite a $2,500 limit on such donations.
“I’m not stupid. That would be illegal,” he said. “I’m not going to get indicted for doing something like that.”