For a decade, infighting, vitriol and litigation has been business as usual at Georgia’s state ethics commission. Three executive directors have resigned or been fired since 2006. Two other employees collected $405,000 in damages for allegedly wrongful termination. Lawmakers stripped the agency of 40 percent of its funding, its power to make new rules, even its name. Much of this has come to pass, critics say, because the commission answers to the very politicians it’s supposed to regulate and investigate. Legislative leaders set its budget, control its powers and, along with the governor, decide who its five members will be. It’s time, former ethics chief Teddy Lee says, for a truly independent commission. “It’s got to be set up in a way that it can’t be manipulated,” says Lee, “by people who have no desire to be overseen or second-guessed.”
DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton failed to disclose more than $101,000 in contributions to her campaigns in 2006 and 2008. For that, she agreed Friday to pay a $2,500 fine. Then-state Rep. Stan Watson, a fellow commissioner, also agreed to a $1,500 fine Friday for raising campaign money while the state Legislature was in session.
Attorney General Sam Olens – who’s taking on a larger role in investigations of public officials, political action committees and lobbyists — has raised more than a third of his campaign money from public officials, PACs, lobbyists and their clients. Donors include parties in high-profile inquiries into possible misuse of campaign funds or receipt of improper contributions.“There is always a potential for a conflict,” acknowledged Josh Belinfante, vice chairman of the campaign finance commission, “but I don’t think … that means a conflict exists.”
Complying with new campaign finance requirements next year could cost state overseers $420,000 to $1 million that they do not have, Senate budget writers learned today. Without more funding needed to notify violators, the state can’t properly enforce the law, one official said: “People will catch on fairly quickly that they do not have to pay late fees and do not have to comply with the act.”
Jan. 18, 2011 — Under Georgia law, candidates must give back campaign donations for an election they don’t ultimately qualify for. It just doesn’t say when. That provision — some might call it a loophole — may leave John Oxendine with a half-million-dollar legal defense fund to fight pending ethics charges. But Oxendine’s access to that money relies on a somewhat tenuous interpretation of Georgia’s campaign finance law.
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 […]
Members of the State Ethics Commission are on the brink of gutting a key provision of Georgia’s campaign finance law. Their decision would allow politicians to funnel unlimited amounts of cash to other campaigns despite a law designed to limit contributions. And since most political money flows to the party in power, Republicans would be […]
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson must pay a $500 fine, but his political fund may keep $219,915 that was transferred improperly from his campaign account last year, the State Ethics Commission ruled today. The panel also dismissed a separate case, ruling that state law may place no limits on campaign contributions from one candidate to another.
The other shoe dropped Tuesday at the State Ethics Commission, as the agency’s lone remaining full-time attorney resigned. Tom Plank, a lawyer there since 2007 and the agency’s top administrator earlier this year, quit to take another job. Colleagues said Plank dropped off his resignation letter and left without saying what that job would be.