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Taylor, a political consultant, has stayed busy running other candidate’s campaigns, but he’s cut a few corners in running his own. Five times since 2008, Taylor failed to disclose his personal or campaign finances, neglecting to report receipt of at least $11,225 in campaign contributions as a consequence. “There’s really no excuse for not having filed my disclosures that are missing,” Taylor said. “I just haven’t gotten it done.” Taylor also fell behind on his state income taxes, incurring liens totaling $3,161 for 2008 and 2009.
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.
March 7, 2011 — Beginning today, lobbying takes on a whole new meaning in Georgia. In essence, anyone who’s seeking to influence legislation now must file papers as a lobbyist if they’re being paid while doing so. That includes corporate executives or school teachers visiting the Capitol, or witnesses at legislative hearings. Patrick Millsaps, chairman of the State Campaign Finance Commission, warned: “I think we are coming dangerously close to putting up barriers to prevent people from petitioning their government.”
Party caucuses in the Georgia Legislature are not exempt from limits on campaign spending, the State Campaign Finance Commission decided this week. The panel’s advisory opinion could curtail spending by the Democratic caucuses in the Georgia House and Senate, which paid more than $60,000 for mailings on behalf of Sen. Vincent Fort and Rep. Rashad Taylor against challengers in the party’s July 2010 primary.
Business executives pushing a bill in the Legislature would still have to register as lobbyists even if they’re not expressly paid to do so, under a proposed opinion from the State Campaign Finance Commission. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce had asked the commission for an exemption — a position that would allow business persons to buy meals, tickets or other gifts for public officials without disclosing them.
An advocacy group that spent $152,000 to help dump Georgia Congressman Jim Marshall wants to keep the identity of its donors secret. But it can’t, at least when it tries to influence state and local campaigns, under a draft opinion under review by the State Ethics Commission. The Center for Individual Freedom, led by CEO Jeffrey L. Mazzella, asked in August whether it could avoid disclosing donors for its political ads.
The State Ethics Commission ruled today that political campaigns may not give unlimited amounts of donations to other campaigns, reversing a position it took just two weeks ago. On Aug. 17, the commission dismissed a complaint over a $10,000 contribution to Warner Robins mayoral candidate Chuck Chalk late last year, holding that state law might exempt political candidates from contribution limits. But the commission said today that other language in the statute caps those types of donations.
Attorney General Thurbert Baker has been asked to opine on whether political campaigns may make unlimited financial contributions to other campaigns. A decision by the State Ethics Commission last week raised the possibility that unopposed candidates with fat campaign accounts could give unlimited amounts to candidates in close races, creating a legal path to circumvent contribution limits.
A judge today dealt a setback to Mary Norwood‘s quest to be elected chair of the Fulton County Commission. The judge’s ruling means Norwood must collect 3,000 signatures more than before to be assured a place on the general election ballot in November.
Atlanta’s chief operating officer, Peter Aman, must disqualify himself from discussing city business involving Delta Air Lines or any other client of his consulting firm, the city’s Board of Ethics said tonight. But, the board said, he’s fine if he wants to talk to Delta about budget issues or other matters that affect all tenants at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.
Robert Proctor was a state ethics commissioner so briefly that he never got to attend a meeting. Even though he’s gone, commissioners were told today, he should not be forgotten. Proctor resigned for “health reasons” last week after insisting he had never been properly notified of an old ethics fine and therefore did not intend to pay it. In doing so, Proctor is “essentially giving this commission and the citizens of this state the rigid digit,” said Frank Moore, an attorney who has sparred with him in court.
Political action committees in Georgia operate with little oversight. They don’t have to report spending that’s not campaign-related. Nothing in campaign law addresses how PACs spend their money, the State Ethics Commission observed in 2008. “We did some advisory opinions because we were hoping people would get outraged enough and push for legislation,” said Rick Thompson, the agency’s former executive secretary. It hasn’t worked so far. Georgia lawmakers are sifting through a slew of ethics bills, but none address PAC spending.