Oct. 28, 2012 — Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson has raised more than $32,000 for his campaign for the state Senate. Disclosures filed this morning show his top donors include former Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter, former Mercer University president Kirby Godsey and the Hospital Corporation of America. Several former House colleagues also chipped in. (UPDATE: Ex-Rep. Bill Hembree, one of Richardson’s opponents, raised nearly four times as much — $126,875 — plus a $10,000 personal loan.)
The State Ethics Commission in coming months will talk to the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House about their alleged ethics violations. At roughly the same time, the agency’s leadership will ask these very same officials for more money to fulfill its mission and to restore powers that have been stripped away in recent years. This would make sense in only two places: the Georgia Capitol and Alice’s Wonderland. You can decide where the hatter is madder.
State Rep. David Ralston’s campaign raised $137,750 in less than a month after Republicans chose him to be speaker of the House, disclosure reports show. He had less than half the fund-raising time as his predecessor, Glenn Richardson, before his first legislative session as speaker, but Ralston nearly reached Richardson’s total of $149,920. The most generous donors to Ralston: hospitals and the health care industry.
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.
Glenn Richardson‘s political action committee registered as tax-exempt Tuesday, but it’s not clear whether that will defuse an investigation into his transfer of $219,915 in leftover campaign cash to the committee. The State Ethics Commission is looking into the payment of that money from Richardson’s campaign account to the MMV Alliance Fund on New Year’s Eve. The question is: Would a tax-exempt filing in February allow MMV to accept a couple hundred thousand dollars in campaign money five weeks earlier?
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s transfer of nearly $220,000 to the MMV Alliance Fund, a political committee under his control, is now the focus of a state investigation. The State Ethics Commission opened the inquiry Jan. 27 because MMV does not appear to be among the groups allowed to accept excess campaign funds.
House Republicans today chose Rep. David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) to replace Glenn Richardson as speaker. And Richardson, who will step down at the end of the month, made an emotional farewell, taking the blame for unspecified failures during his five-year tenure: “Wherever we may have failed, I take full responsibility for those failures. All of ’em. … When you leave here today, you leave all those behind. You leave them on my shoulders as I walk out of here. They’re mine.”
Rep. Mark Burkhalter, not House Speaker Glenn Richardson, appears to be the Georgia Legislature’s top campaign fund-raiser for 2009. The Johns Creek Republican, who serves as speaker pro tem, collected $94,250 in campaign funds for the first six months of 2009. Richardson reported raising $88,150 in the same period.