Feb. 17, 2016 — Most legislators have misplaced a few campaign donations over the years. Sen. Judson Hill, at least figuratively, misplaced at least 68 of them.
Now, following inquiries by Atlanta Unfiltered, Hill’s campaign has disclosed that the Marietta Republican received more than $34,000 of previously unreported contributions since 2013.
Hill did not respond to our questions, though, regarding more than $20,000 that donors reported giving him earlier but that he has not reported receiving.
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.
Dec. 9, 2014 — A complaint against a political committee supporting Gov. Nathan Deal may be dismissed without investigation tomorrow by the state ethics commission. An attorney for Real PAC, founded by two longtime friends of Deal’s, contends it didn’t have to file financial disclosures for the $970,000 it raised and spent in Georgia, nor did it have to operate independently of the governor’s re-election committee.
A review of campaign filings and other public documents, however, suggests the issue is not so clear-cut.
Dec. 4, 2014 — The state ethics commission is preparing to dismiss complaints next week against two high-profile political organizations on the left and the right: Better Georgia Inc. and Real PAC.
Oct. 8, 2013 — Georgia lawmakers touted their 2013 ethics bill as historic, noting that they’d restored rule-making authority to the Campaign Finance Commission. Now, though, House Speaker David Ralston’s lawyer, Doug Chalmers, contends the commission can’t enforce a key disclosure rule on campaign spending. That interpretation, if it prevails, could muzzle the watchdog charged with policing campaign finance and disclosure in Georgia. Politicians could obscure details of countless dollars in campaign spending simply by using a personal credit card and getting reimbursed with campaign funds.
Jan. 29, 2013 — House Speaker David Ralston today called for banning most lobbyist gifts to lawmakers and, for the first time, requiring legislators to immediately disclose hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions collected just before they convene each year. The speaker also introduced a bill to restore rule-making authority to the state ethics commission.
Paul Battles’ personal financial disclosures have omitted his role as trustee for two trusts established by his wife’s late aunt and uncle. One of them — Collins Charitable Remainder Unitrust — sold 6.5 acres in downtown Cartersville to the state Department of Transportation in 2011. Battles also did not disclose that transaction or the $2.2 million purchase price, which benefited local charities. “I didn’t think I had to do one for the trusts since I get no financial benefit from that,” he said. Battles’ family business owns 6.2 adjoining acres, zoned for commercial use.
Battles retired from Crescent Bank of Jasper in 2007 but remained on its board through 2009, as examiners were beginning to sound warnings that the bank needed to tighten lending practices and oversight by its board of directors. State regulators closed the bank in 2010 at a loss to federal insurers of $280 million. The FDIC, in a 2011 postmortem, blamed Crescent’s collapse on an aggressive growth strategy, a heavy concentration of speculative construction loans and the board’s and officers’ failure to effectively manage the associated risks.
FDIC’s 2011 postmortem said the bank violated FDIC appraisal standards, failed to vet prospective borrowers or to establish loan agreements to protect the bank’s investment, and renewed non-performing loans without proper safeguards. A 2009 cease and desist order cited eight pages of apparent law and policy violations that contained in a bank examiner’s report that has not been released publicly. The bank had already responded by toughening its risk management practices, but those corrections came too late. The FDIC’s inspector general later faulted the agency for not intervening sooner and more proactively.
Battles said the FDIC told bank officials they had done everything they could to keep Crescent open. “They said that we had gone above and beyond the call of duty trying to save the bank,” he said in an interview. “By the time we were trying to adjust, the dominoes had started falling. … We were fighting a foe that was bigger than all of us.”
An Atlanta city councilman who tangled with the city’s ethics officer last year wants to place that job under the council’s control. Lamar Willis‘ proposal calls for the Board of Ethics to give the council three names to consider, rather than just one, to fill a vacancy pending since September. Ethics advocates fear the plan would politicize the appointment process and jeopardize the board’s independence. Former ethics officer Ginny Looney won settlements against Willis and five other council members since 2008
. Willis said his proposal has nothing to do with his $3,500 ethics fine nor his complaint that the board’s case against him was “piling on” and not even “remotely necessary.”
Eight years after the fact, former Fulton County Sheriff Jacqueline Barrett is off the hook for accepting $40,000 in illegal campaign contributions that played a part in her removal from office. The Georgia Campaign Finance Commission, acknowledging procedural errors, dismissed a complaint over the donations, which were associated with a shaky $7.2 million investment made with money under her control.
Two lobbyists are finalists for the top job at the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission, the panel said today. The nominees for executive secretary are: Holly LaBerge, director of government relations for the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council, and Jerry Presley, a career public servant who lobbied for the Council for Quality Growth in 2008.
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.
The chairman of the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission, who says his appointment may have been illegal, is stepping down.
Patrick Millsaps, who initiated the personnel moves that cost the commission its top two investigators, will continue to serve until a replacement is named.