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Washington avoided a government shutdown last month, but ethics enforcers in Georgia soon will face the prospect of shutting down their key function — enforcing ethics laws. In fact, members of the State Campaign Finance Commission are already planning their legal defense in case someone sues them for failing to do their job.
House Speaker David Ralston and other lawmakers learn today whether lobbyists’ spending on gifts for officials’ spouses and families must be disclosed publicly, when the State Campaign Finance Commission considers an advisory opinion on that point. An attorney close to the speaker requested the opinion Feb. 11, just a few days after a complaint was filed over a $17,280 trip to Europe for Ralston, his chief of staff and their families. A lobbyist promoting high-speed rail paid for the jaunt.
Last month, the Senate Republican Caucus reported spending $22,000-plus to support Gwinnettian Garry Guan’s race for the state Senate. That would be a problem. Georgia law treats those expenditures as campaign contributions — capped at $2,400 per race. The remaining 20 grand would be illegal. Now, Republicans say that disclosure was a mistake, that the spending benefited other candidates as well. But that explanation only underscores other weaknesses in campaign finance practices.
House Speaker David Ralston, staff and family enjoyed a $17,000 working holiday last Thanksgiving. So much for the idea of a $100 gift cap. Or for transparency. Lobbyist Chris Brady, representing Commonwealth Research Associates LLC, picked up the tab for hotels and airfare. A few weeks later, Brady took Ralston and staff to a $403 dinner. Other than that, official disclosures tell us nothing.
Lawrenceville attorney Tammy Lynn Adkins got 735,000 votes Nov. 2 for a seat on the Georgia Supreme Court without spending a nickel. But she still hasn’t explained what she did with nearly $40,000 from her previous political campaign. Adkins will have to explain it to the State Ethics Commission, in response to an ethics complaint filed a couple weeks ago.
Gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal has refunded $130,000 in campaign contributions that allegedly exceeded the legal limit. A campaign disclosure filed shortly before midnight Monday shows Deal returned many of the contributions cited in an Oct. 19 complaint to the State Ethics Commission. The refunds included more than $80,000 from three businessmen in Lawrenceville, Helena and Moultrie.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour‘s political committee collected $231,000 last quarter, far outpacing the $148,000 it had raised in the previous nine months. Barbour reported the donations not in Jackson, but in Atlanta, where state law allows unlimited corporate contributions to political action committees. Mississippi caps corporate donations to PACs at $1,000. The sky’s the limit in Georgia, where Barbour’s committee is registered. There, in a nutshell, is why political action committees love Georgia. Read on …
Former lobbyist Rusty Kidd, voters were told last year, once paid for strippers to entertain legislators on a jaunt to Daufuskie Island, S.C.: “He used young women as a tool to get what he wanted and make money.” The House and Senate Democratic caucuses since last year have spent at least $110,000 on attacks like [...]
More than 90 state lawmakers — and one newcomer — collected $530,000 in campaign contributions this spring even though they will coast to election in November without a fight,an analysis of campaign records shows. More than half of that cash flowed to just 10 of them.
#10: Renewing your medical license …
A tip on making ends meet in a tough economy: Find ways to get someone else to pay your personal expenses. That’s how U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey does it. In November, his campaign fund paid $400 to the State of Georgia Medical Board for “renewal fees.” UPDATE: The congressman conceded Thursday that his campaign had made an “administrative error” and said he had reimbursed his campaign. Click here and WXIA-TV’s Jon Shirek will tell you all about it.
Georgia legislators cannot accept campaign contributions while they are in session. Except when they can. Four lawmakers running for Congress collected more than $343,000 in campaign funds between them while the General Assembly was in session this year, federal campaign filings show. Rep. Clay Cox, seeking the seat being vacated by Congressman John Linder, led the pack with $114,712.
Thanks to House Speaker David Ralston, departing Georgia lawmakers have $1.3 million in campaign cash to distribute as they see fit this year — to political parties, PACs and other candidates. House Bill 920, if it had passed, would have required that those lawmakers pass the money on to charity, or return it to the original donors. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill last week to allow citizens to donate money to the state treasury. Wonder how many of them will follow through on that?
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This page covers financial disclosures by public officials -- including personal finances, campaign accounts and business transactions with public agencies.