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Stephens ‘wanted to be honest,’ agrees to ethics fine

Stephens 'wanted to be honest,' agrees to ethics fine
May 27, 2016 --

May 27, 2016 — Rep. Ron Stephens has agreed to pay a modest fine for failing to list ownership of four businesses on his financial disclosures.

In January, Stephens amended his disclosures for 2012 through 2014 to add four companies to the businesses in which he owned an interest. The Garden City Republican said he knew the new filing might lead to a complaint “but I wanted to be honest. … I didn’t want to keep anything hidden.”

Augusta lawmaker, facing ethics charges, loses seat

Augusta lawmaker, facing ethics charges, loses seat
May 25, 2016 --

By JIM WALLS May 25, 2016 — Allegations of mishandling campaign money appear to have cost Rep. Earnest Smith his seat in the Georgia Legislature. In Tuesday’s Democratic primary, Smith lost his bid for a fifth term in the Georgia House of Representatives, 57% to 43%, to retired postal worker Sheila Clark Nelson. The state […]

Bada Bing! Speaker Ralston late to disclose $236K in donations

Bada Bing! Speaker Ralston late to disclose $236K in donations
May 23, 2016 --

May 23, 2016 — A few years back, House Speaker David Ralston backed a move toward greater transparency in Georgia politics. His ethics bill, which took effect in 2014, requires quicker disclosure of lawmakers’ fund-raising before each year’s legislative session.

So it was a bit of a surprise to discover that Ralston failed to report nearly a quarter-million dollars in campaign contributions collected before legislators showed up for work under the Gold Dome in 2016.

UPDATE: The report of those contributions, along with more recent filings, appear to contain $13,000 in donations that exceed the legal limit.

Rep. Brooks Coleman (HD 97)

Rep. Brooks Coleman (HD 97)
May 22, 2016 --

Brooks Coleman, chairman of the House Education Committee since 2005, has raised more than $36,000 in campaign donations from education interests. The amounts are about equally divided between public school advocates and those promoting charter schools and privatization.

Other Republican legislators have donated much more to Coleman’s campaigns over the years, with slightly more than $100,000 in contribution.

Rep. Tom Kirby (HD 114)

Rep. Tom Kirby (HD 114)
May 22, 2016 --

Tom Kirby is one of those legislators whose campaign gets most of its money from other legislators. They’ve given him nearly $90,000 since 2011, or almost 60 percent of all his reported donations.

Sen. Steve Gooch (SD 51): Road builders pave way with $93K

Sen. Steve Gooch (SD 51): Road builders pave way with $93K
May 22, 2016 --

Steve Gooch’s most generous bloc of campaign contributors reflect his service since 2011 on the Senate Transportation Committee, which he chaired in 2013 and 2014. Highway contractors have donated more than $93,000, while railroads, billboard companies and other transportation interests have kicked in $18,000 more.

Gooch’s campaign raised $147,000 in 2013-14 as Senate Transportation chair. After trading that job for Senate majority whip in late 2014, he’s on track to double that amount in 2015-16.

Rep. Greg Morris (HD 156): FDIC settlement timing sucked but not totally

Rep. Greg Morris (HD 156): FDIC settlement timing sucked but not totally
May 18, 2016 --

May 18, 2016 — House Banking chair Greg Morris has tentatively agreed to settle federal charges that he and other executives of a south Georgia bank allowed a flim-flam man to run it into the ground, court papers show.

News of the potential settlement comes in the midst of a tough re-election fight for Morris, whose opponent came within 71 votes of unseating him in 2014.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s 2015 complaint alleges that lax oversight by Morris and others allowed investor Aubrey Lee Price to swindle the defunct Montgomery Bank & Trust of $14.7 million. Papers filed Tuesday in federal court state Morris and other board members have “agreed to the form” of a written settlement with the FDIC. The deal could be sealed by June 3.

Rep. Ed Rynders (HD 152)

Rep. Ed Rynders (HD 152)
May 17, 2016 --

 

Ed Rynders has chaired two House committees, but what the donors really like is his leadership role on Health and Human Services. He’s been the panel’s vice chair or secretary since 2005.

Donors in the health-care sector have responded, giving his campaign more than $240,000 — more than 40 percent of all his financial support.

Chief among them: Phoebe Putney Health System and Hospital Corporation of America (more than $33,000 combined), which owned the competing hospital that Phoebe Putney bought in 2011; and Georgia chiropractors ($28,000-plus).

Rep. Sharon Cooper (HD 43): Can’t talk now about $812K from health-care lobby

Rep. Sharon Cooper (HD 43): Can't talk now about $812K from health-care lobby
May 17, 2016 --

May 17, 2016 — Sooner or later, just about every new health-care policy in Georgia must go through Sharon Cooper. That’s why health-care interests have showered Cooper with more than $812,000 in campaign donations over the years.

The money flows from drug companies and pharmacies, doctors and dentists, hospitals and nursing homes, insurers and managed-care organizations. Many of these donors will later appear before Cooper’s committee trying to push a bill, kill one or tweak it to their advantage.

Atlanta Unfiltered reached out to Cooper to ask whether the health-care donations that help keep her in office ever represent a conflict for her. Alas, she indicated campaign demands would keep her tied up until after this year’s Republican primary.

“I’ll talk to you after this is all over,” she said on her way to a meet-and-greet reception. “I’m BUSY.”

Panama Papers: Ex-Falcon Gotshalk bought offshore firm

May 12, 2016 --

May 12, 2016 — Former Atlanta Falcon Leonard Gotshalk is one of the Americans who’s been found to have bought an offshore company, the Center for Public Integrity reports. Gotshalk bought the company just three days after federal prosecutors unsealed an indictment charging him with financial crimes

Rep. Mike Glanton (HD 75): No quid pro quo intended in schools contact

Rep. Mike Glanton (HD 75): No quid pro quo intended in schools contact
May 4, 2016 --

House leaders found Mike Glanton did not violate ethics rules in 2015 when he appeared to be leveraging his public role as a legislator to generate some private business. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t come close.

Glanton denied any ill intent, and the House Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against him because Glanton’s employer didn’t wind up benefiting from his actions.

The case prompted Ethics chair Joe Wilkinson, though, to send out a three-page warning to House members: “Linking your legislative service with your private business endeavors will often create an appearance of impropriety or improper conduct whether one is intended by the member or not. … The best rule to follow is to not link your legislative position in any manner with your private business activities.”