March 28, 2013 — Sen. Jeff Mullis wants to level the playing field regarding campaign fund-raising for legislative races (because incumbents are at such a disadvantage). A worthy goal, but I’d do it a little differently. Five ideas to improve Georgia’s campaign finance laws:
1) Bar incumbent legislators from accepting political contributions if they don’t draw opposition at qualifying time.
Investigators: Fulton election documents were altered Opinion: GA’s back-door voucher program riddled with deception Metal detectors were inoperable during Price Middle shooting DeKalb political donations under scrutiny Ethics reform could cost citizen advocates Plant Scherer pollution claims prompt wave of lawsuits Money in waste funds is tug-of-war between counties, state Ex-Speaker Terry Coleman arrested with […]
March 14, 2011 — Georgia’s ethics reformers have a bill to push, but they’ll be pushing uphill if they want to restrict politicians giving large sums to each other, a practice sometimes described as “empire-building.” A case in point? Three top Senate Republicans, as they maneuvered to strip Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle last year of some of his power, donated $45,000 to 12 Senate freshmen. Caucus Chair Bill Cowsert said the contributions were part of his obligation as a party leader, not an effort to sway votes.
In 2003, Fulton County Sheriff Jackie Barrett accepted three $10,000 campaign contributions – far exceeding the legal limit — from donors in Florida. Each had received loans from a $2 million investment of public funds by Barrett. A broker who steered the investment, and the chief deputy who took $10,000 from him, both went to federal prison. But Barrett still awaits the outcome of a 6-year-old ethics investigation. In 2008, dozens of disputed ethics cases like Barrett’s were backed up. Today, officials say, the backlog is almost cleared up.
Former House Speaker Terry Coleman and 10 current and former lawmakers closed ethics complaints today with the payment of a fine and a promise not to do it again. Coleman agreed to a $2,900 fine for making more than $38,000 in mortgage payments on a condominium that his business was purchasing. The panel also fined Congressman David Scott for failing to report the status of $83,000 left over in his state Senate campaign accounts since 2002.
Former state Rep. Roger Byrd pleaded guilty Aug. 18 to two counts of theft by taking and was ordered to pay $210,000 in restitution. Byrd got 20 years on probation, but no prison time if he repays the money within 30 months. (If not, he would go to prison for 4 1/2 to 5 years.) Prosecutors said Byrd took $100,000 from the Jeff Davis County Development Authority and another $100,000 from a relocated manufacturer that folded after less than a year, leaving the authority mre than $2 million in debt.
Former Georgia House speaker Terry Coleman has tentatively settled — for $2,900 — an ethics charge that he used campaign money to buy a condo. Coleman’s campaign made $38,120 in payments on the unit, a practice ruled improper by the State Ethics Commission in 2004. Coleman later reimbursed the campaign, but an ethics complaint on the matter has been pending since 2002. “My lawyer called and said they had come up with some sort of settlement,” he said Friday. “I wrote the check.”
Former House Speaker Terry Coleman left elective office three years ago, but he says he still can’t close out his campaign fund until he can unload property given as restitution for embezzlement by a former employee. Former staffer Candice Lynn Sheffield pleaded guilty to theft in 2007 and agreed to pay $173,257 in restitution. She gave his campaign an 11-acre tract in Henry County to settle the debt, but Coleman had to pay back taxes on the land in May or risk foreclosure. Coleman disclosed the tax payments last week.
Former Georgia House Speaker Terry Coleman used $3,758 in left-over campaign funds to pay a property tax bill in Henry County. Coleman’s latest campaign disclosure, filed Friday evening, shows he made the payment May 14. State law forbids using campaign money for personal benefit. Taxes are generally regarded as a personal expense.