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Rep. Jay Neal
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Leaders in the public sector have plenty of public resources to promote their political views, accomplishments and experience. Often the public record holds much more: personal and campaign finance disclosures, expense reports, and business, tax and court filings. Here’s what they show:
James Wilson Neal Jr. (R-Chickamauga)
House District 2 (Walker, Whitfield & Catoosa counties)
In 2011, Rep. Jay Neal paid $900 in fines and late fees for filing his 2006 personal financial disclosure three years late and leaving a fiduciary position off his 2007 disclosure. As part of the consent order that closed the investigation by the state ethics commission, Neal acknowledged that he also failed to file copies of five campaign disclosures from 2006 with local election officials, as the law then required.
Neal’s single most generous campaign donor over the years has been former Rossville used car dealer Carey V. Brown, whose Internet-based payday-lending businesses have been sanctioned by regulators in California, New Hampshire, Oregon and Pennsylvania for charging excessive — and illegal — interest rates. An investigation by the Federal Trade Commission is also pending. The website for one of Brown’s companies discloses an annual interest rate of 573 percent.
Years before entering politics, Neal said, he got to know Brown through their involvement in a pro-life women’s counseling center in LaFayette. “Our relationship was not a business relationship in any way,” he said. While their conversations almost always centered on faith, they occasionally drifted to the topic of payday lending, which is illegal in Georgia. “One of the things he used to talk about was how we pretty much put him out of business in Georgia,” Neal said. In 2007, Neal voted for an unsuccessful bill to legalize and regulate payday lending in the state. Brown last donated to Neal’s campaign in 2008.
Brown has made headlines several times recently. In 2011, the Chattanooga Times-Free Press reported that authorities believed Brown was operating an unlicensed payday-loan business in Tennessee through offshore shell corporations. A few months later, Brown announced plans to donate $1 billion to faith-based charities in and around Chattanooga. And, in a January 2013 complaint filed with the Federal Elections Commission, a Washington advocacy group accused Brown of surreptitiously donating $1 million to an anti-Obama Super PAC though one of his employees.
In 2010, Neal sponsored HB 1182, a bill that would have exempted so-called point-to-multipoint emergency warning systems from liability if they failed to deliver emergency information. The proposed immunity, which Neal compared to legal protection already extended to telephone companies, died in committee. Neal said he introduced the bill following discussions with campaign donor Marshall Bandy, a Ringgold attorney who holds patents on a particular type of point-to-multipoint communications system.
- Ran for the House in 2002, appearing to win a 197-vote victory over incumbent Mike Snow. A Superior Court judge nullified the election results because of boundary irregularities that allowed voters in an adjoining legislative district to cast ballots.
- Lost two subsequent special-election rematches to Snow in 2003 by even thinner margins.
- Won a third rematch with Snow in the 2004 general election, 54 to 46 percent.
- Re-elected in 2006, 2008 and 2010 without opposition.
- Re-elected in 2012, winning the GOP primary 57 to 43 percent over Republican challenger Steve Tarvin.
- Appropriations (2007 – present)
- Economic Development & Tourism (2005 – 2012)
- Insurance (2009 – present)
- Juvenile Justice, formerly Children & Youth (2005 – 2008, 2013 – )
- Natural Resources & Environment (2005 – 2006)
- Public Safety and Homeland Security (2005 – present)
- State Properties (chair, 2011 – present)
- Director of the LaFayette campus of Penfield Christian Homes Inc., a licensed residential drug treatment program that is a ministry of the Georgia Baptist Convention.
- Previously a real estate agent, licensed in Georgia since 2004. Neal’s license became inactive in 2010 and lapsed in August 2012 when he failed to pay renewal fees.
- Former pastor, Gordon Lake Wesleyan Church in LaFayette, 1989-2009.
Business ownership interests
- Vice president, Anchor Realty & Associates Inc., Trion, Ga. (The Georgia Secretary of State’s Office dissolved the company in 2012 for failing to file its 2011 and 2012 registrations.)
Other fiduciary positions
- None disclosed.
Real estate holdings
- Personal residence in Catoosa County valued at $177,000.
- None disclosed.
Payments from state agencies
- None disclosed.
Donors have given more than $381,000 to Neal’s campaign committee since 2002. The breakdown by election cycle:
- 2002: $29,806
- 2003 special elections: $72,186
- 2004: $54,677
- 2005-06: $27,731
- 2007-08: $17,000
- 2009-10: $51,682
- 2011-12: $126,250
- 2013: $2,100
- Reported cash on hand (July 2013): $441
- $90,250 House Speaker David Ralston & other Republican legislators
- $13,000 Credit Payment Services Inc., Credit Protection Depot & executive Carey V. Brown
- $7,000 Emerson Russell & family, Rossville, Ga., CEO Emerson Russell Maintenance Co. & and other businesses
- $5,900 Georgia Association of Realtors
- $5,250 BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia
- $4,500 Kenneth Bruce, lawyer, Summerville, Ga.
- $4,500 W.L. Wilson & Sons Funeral Homes, Chickamauga
- $4,200 Georgia Dental Association
- $4,000 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
- $4,000 Ringgold Telephone Co. & executives
- $4,000 State Farm Insurance Co.
- $3,750 Robert Stiles, president & owner, Flegal Insurance Inc., Chickimauga
- $3,500 The GEO Group Inc., private-prison operator, Boca Raton, Fla.
- $3,500 Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia
- $3,250 MAG Mutual Insurance Co.
- $3,000 Georgia Association of Realtors
- $3,000 Medical Association of Georgia
- $2,662 Bill Chapin, CEO, See Rock City Inc.
- Neal’s campaign has reimbursed him and his wife, Gretchen, for $7,630 in expenses since 2003 without disclosing the end recipient, as required by Georgia’s campaign finance rules. More than half of those expenses were mileage reimbursements, Neal said, for which he properly disclosed himself as the end recipient. Most of the remaining expenses occurred in 2007 or earlier, a period for which records were lost when Neal’s computer crashed.
Candidates may make political donations with campaign funds, allowing prolific fund-raisers to share their contributions with other legislators or candidates. Some advocacy groups believe such transfers should be limited to an aggregate of $10,000 per election cycle. Neal’s committee made these contributions:
- 2003-04: $270
- 2005-06: $1,000
- 2007-08: $1,000
- 2009-10: $15,000
- 2011-12: $2,750
Since 2006, lobbyists have reported paying more than $8,200 for meals and other gifts for Neal. The big spenders: The Pew Charitable Trusts ($1,926), Georgia World Congress Center Authority ($1,251), Georgia Power Co. ($1,047). BFF lobbyist: Sonja Hallum of the Pew Charitable Trusts ($1,926).
- 2006: $1,293
- 2007: $387
- 2008: $706
- 2009: $893
- 2010: $178
- 2011: $1,796
- 2012: $1,036
- 2013: $1,934 through March 31
Committee days & travel expenses
When the Legislature is out of session, members may collect $173 per diem, plus mileage, for committee meetings or other official business. (Per diem was $127 prior to 2007.) Lawmakers living within 50 miles of the Capitol are taxed on these payments, which were originally intended to cover out-of-town members’ food and lodging.
- 2005: $5,908 (31 days)
- 2006: $5,075 (24 days)
- 2007: $13,977 (47 days)
- 2008: $12,955 (42 days)
- 2009: $13,319 (42 days)
- 2010: $9,761 (33 days)
- 2011: $7,761 (25 days)
- 2012: $8,308 (26 days)
- 2013: $2,750 (9 days through April 25)
Posted May 2, 2013; updated July 6, 2013