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    Sen. Bill Jackson: 4 late disclosures, $5.4M in real estate

    Sen. Bill Jackson: 4 late disclosures, $5.4M in real estate

    Jan. 19, 2016 — After serving 24 years in the Georgia Legislature, Bill Jackson should have financial disclosures down pat.

    Or so you’d think. Twice since 2007, Jackson has filed his annual disclosure of personal finances two to four months late. One, due five weeks before a special election, wasn’t submitted until three weeks after he’d won and taken office. Jackson didn’t file a personal disclosure at all in 2014 or 2015.

    “You got me buffaloed there,” he said recently when reminded of the oversight.

    Sen. Burt Jones: Were $103K in campaign loans legal?

    Sen. Burt Jones: Were $103K in campaign loans legal?

    Jan. 13, 2016 — Burt Jones’ 2012 Senate campaign enjoyed two distinct advantages: His good name, as special teams captain of the 2002 SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs, and that of his father, a prominent businessman who’d served eight years in the Georgia House.

    The $103,500 borrowed from his father’s business also made a difference. That help, though, may not have been entirely legal.

    Loophole D: Dormant campaign accounts fade away with no accountability

    Dec. 11, 2015 — Former Sen. Chip Rogers, who hasn’t reported on his six-figure campaign account since 2013, sits atop a list of dozens of politicians who appear to have done the same thing.

    Atlanta Unfiltered, using Georgia’s searchable campaign finance database, found 48 former state office-holders and candidates whose most recent disclosures showed their campaign accounts still held amounts ranging from $500 to as much as $108,000.

    They include a felon, a tax delinquent, a former House speaker, a former state school superintendent, a federal prosecutor, a DOT board member, a former DOT commissioner and several state officials pulling down more than $100,000 a year. Between them, the non-filers left nearly $1.1 million in campaign funds unaccounted for.

    Is ex-Sen. Rogers cashing in his campaign chips? Or has he already?

    Dec. 2, 2015 — Former Sen. Chip Rogers has laid the groundwork to write himself checks for more than $84,000 from two dormant campaign accounts.

    Rogers has failed to file four required disclosures of his campaign finances since 2013, but he’s spent plenty of time revising old ones, recording tens of thousands of dollars of previously undisclosed debt for out-of-pocket expenses.

    His revised disclosures raise a question that Georgia law does not address: Can a candidate retroactively claim to have made campaign loans that were never reported while in office?

    Loophole C: Credit card omissions just fine, Deal case shows

    Nov. 19, 2015 — Three years ago, Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign admitted that an American Express payment didn’t add up because it included a top aide’s personal expenses. The aide reimbursed the $1,185, a campaign lawyer said.

    But what about the $69,000 in unexplained spending in 158 other credit card payments by Deal’s campaigns? Did they include personal expenses? No one’s saying.

    Since 1998, a review of Deal’s disclosures show, virtually every credit card bill paid by his state and federal campaigns has omitted the details of some purchases.

    Loophole B: 14 lawmakers’ undisclosed business with state

    Nov. 6, 2015 — Georgia’s disclosure laws for legislators who do business with the state, as we reported Wednesday, are a mess. It’s unclear what transactions should be reported and which of two disclosure forms should be used. Digging through data on state vendors, I came up with payments to 14 legislators’ businesses that weren’t reported on one form or the other, sometimes both. The lawyers can sort out whether the law required disclosure. I was more interested in the transparency than the legality of these types of transactions.

    Dawson County debates $500K expense for developer’s road

    Dawson County debates $500K expense for developer's road

    Nov. 5, 2015 — Dawson County officials will consider tonight whether to write a $500,000 check to partially cover a developer’s costs for road improvements — a proposal that detractors describe as an unwarranted giveaway of taxpayer dollars.

    (UPDATE: The commission took no action on the road project Thursday evening after a motion to approve it failed to get a second. More to come.)

    Public officials generally justify such expenditures as investments that generate jobs and tax revenue for their communities. Critics, meanwhile, question such outlays as examples of crony capitalism that cast government in the role of deciding which private enterprises will benefit from public funds.

    In Dawson County, though, officials are couching the expense, in part, as a legal obligation incurred once the county signed off in July on the site plan for Dawson Marketplace, a 425,000-square-foot planned retail center.

    Loophole B: Business disclosure rules baffling, often ignored

    Loophole B: Business disclosure rules baffling, often ignored

    Nov. 4, 2015 — Since Rep. James Beverly took office in 2011, his Macon optometry practice has collected more than $132,000 in taxpayer dollars for eye exams and treatment.

    A consulting firm whose owners include Sen. John Albers earned $284,000 to help with reorganizing a state agency.

    And several state institutions forked over $419,000 over two years to Rep. Jimmy Pruett’s middle Georgia air-conditioning business.

    None of those transactions turn up on the three lawmakers’ personal financial disclosures. The reason: Georgia’s disclosure laws are confusing, subject to varying interpretations and routinely ignored.

    Loophole A: ALEC scholarships top $350K, go undisclosed

    Loophole A: ALEC scholarships top $350K, go undisclosed

    Sept. 24, 2015 — Deep-pocketed special interests have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on junkets for Georgia legislators — including airfare and rooms in four- and five-star hotels — without reporting a penny.

    Most of those special interests employ lobbyists in Georgia, who would have had to publicly disclose that spending if they’d been the ones picking up the tab. But the payments instead have been channeled through the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), an inside-the-Beltway advocacy group with no registered lobbyists in Georgia, so the sources and beneficiaries of the payments remain, officially, a secret.

    Atlanta Unfiltered, though, has obtained documents showing Georgia legislators collected just over $350,000 for ALEC travel expenses from 2004 to 2012.

    Donors to ALEC’s Georgia Scholarship Fund, 2004-2012

    Donors to ALEC’s Georgia Scholarship Fund, 2004-2012 All but six of the 72 donors listed below are lobbyists or corporations registered by lobbyists in Georgia. $31,000 Altria $28,500 Georgia Electric Membership Corp. $22,000 Novartis Corp. $18,500 Georgia Hospital Association $17,000 Coca-Cola Co. $16,000 Georgia Chamber of Commerce $15,000 Crown Cork & Seal Co. $15,000 United […]

    ALEC scholarship recipients, 2004-2012

    The following legislators received about $350,000 in travel reimbursements from the American Legislative Exchange Council that have not been disclosed under Georgia’s lobbyist disclosure law, documents obtained by Atlanta Unfiltered show. Most donors to the reimbursement fund are corporations with registered lobbyists in Georgia.

     

    • $21,686 Ex-Rep. Calvin Hill
    • $19,328 Sen. Judson Hill
    • $17,363 Rep. Tom Rice

     

    Staffing, mental health care cited at teen suicide’s prison

    Staffing, mental health care cited at teen suicide's prison

    Aug. 26, 2015 — Severe understaffing and failures in training and mental health procedures appeared to be factors in the Easter Sunday suicide of a 14-year-old at an Atlanta area youth detention center. A state Department of Juvenile Justice probe, while drawing no direct connection, found dozens of violations of DJJ policies in a 78-page report on the death of Jimariya Davidson. The findings illustrate what some observers see as a frequently found gap between carefully considered policies and everyday practices in youth prisons across the country.