May 9, 2014 — Nearly $28,000 in political donations appear to be missing from Sen. David Lucas’ campaign account. While the longtime Macon lawmaker says it isn’t so, his latest disclosure shows a negative balance in his Senate campaign account.
Lucas said his campaign had money that wasn’t reflected in his most recent disclosure, but he wasn’t sure how much. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t been trying to keep with up with that. All I do is write checks.”
The problem stems from his campaign’s failure to fill out disclosures properly.
Sept. 4, 2012 — Glenn Richardson walked away from the Georgia Legislature with $220,000 in campaign funds to spend with little oversight. More than 2 1/2 years later, as he plans a run for the state Senate, he still hasn’t officially disclosed what he’s done with it. The former speaker of the House assures me, though, that he hasn’t taken a penny for himself. “I have received no checks from that,” said Richardson.
Sen. Don Balfour, conceding he could not have been in two places at once, has returned nearly $800 to Georgia taxpayers. As Atlanta Unfiltered reported in February, Balfour claimed that much in expenses for working on state business in Atlanta on days when lobbyists said they had treated him for meals or entertainment at out-of-town conferences.
Rep. Steve Davis has agreed to pay a $300 fine for failing to include two businesses on his state-mandated financial disclosure.
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State legislators say they welcome transparency regarding their personal finances — corporate and real estate holdings, government contracts and the like.But who decides what constitutes transparency? Who checks whether they’re telling us all that we’re entitled to know? They do. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, transparency is too important to be left to the politicians.
The state’s top two ethics investigators were preparing in June to serve subpoenas on Gov. Nathan Deal, his chief of staff and other associates in connection with Deal’s 2010 campaign when one investigator’s salary was cut and the other’s job was eliminated. Drafts of subpoenas prepared, but never served, by the staff of the state ethics commission raise questions about $322,000 the campaign paid to companies that Deal owns or has an interest in, or to businesses controlled by his associates.
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.”
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.
Jim Lientz, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s former chief operating officer, has apparently settled a 4-year-old ethics complaint alleging he had failed to fully disclose his personal financial interests. Details have not been released, but a consent order with Lientz is on the agenda for the State Ethics Commission’s meeting tomorrow. Consent orders typically involve payment of a fine.
The candidate who promises as attorney general to “aggressively raise the bar on ethics reform” is systematically skimping on reports of his own campaign expenditures. Sam Olens, former chairman of the Cobb County Commission, received more than $55,000 in unitemized reimbursements from campaign funds since January 2009, his disclosures show. But Olens’ reports do not reveal the end recipients of the spending, as required by the State Ethics Commission.
Sen. Ralph Hudgens says he loaned his campaign the money to pay for two weeks of TV ads but neglected to file the necessary last-minute disclosures. The Madison County Republican, a candidate for state insurance commissioner, says he could file complaints against several opponents if he chose, but “I want to honor Ronald Reagan’s 11th commandment of ‘Speak no ill of your Republican brothers.'”