Feb. 10, 2015 — A 2005 amendment to Georgia’s campaign finance law was meant to give smaller donors a break on filing public disclosures. A decade later, though, Senate Republicans applied the law to their own PAC, raising $276,000 over a 20-month period before disclosing even a penny of it.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that the law is so weak that $250,000-plus can be raised without being reported for so long,” said William Perry, executive director of the good-government advocacy group Common Cause Georgia. “This is a glaring example of how far we have to go in Georgia for fairer disclosure.”
Nov. 26, 2012 — Legally, Georgians can’t spend campaign money raised for one political office to run for a different one. There’s a wide-open loophole, though, and veteran legislator Bill Hembree of Douglas County is only the latest to use it.
When Hembree left the Georgia House recently, he refunded $60,400 from his House campaign account to donors. Within a week, those same supporters gave all but $1,000 of the money back to Hembree to run for a just-opened Senate seat. Here’s the clever part: Rather than simply returning the most recent contributions, Hembree reached back as far as 11 years to choose the donors who got refunds.
Nov. 16, 2012 — George Anderson won his fight today over liability for Gov. Nathan Deal’s legal fees. But he says he’s finished nonetheless after a quarter-century of haranguing politicians across Georgia for perceived ethical lapses. “I can’t handle the stress anymore,” he said. “It affects my body too much.”
Oct. 1, 2012 — Sen. Jack Murphy collected $5,000 in May from his legislative expense account for a constituent newsletter that his campaign paid for, state records show. Murphy, who signed a sworn statement that he had paid for the newsletter personally, said the mix-up was inadvertent and that he has repaid his campaign account in full. An ethics watchdog says questions about this and other recently disclosed Senate expense reimbursements underscore a need for more scrutiny. “Senate leadership should come up with a plan to make sure this doesn’t continue to happen,” said William Perry, executive director of Common Cause Georgia.
House Speaker David Ralston, for the first time in five years, has disclosed his wife’s ownership of an undeveloped 10-acre tract in Dawson County. The speaker, who last week added the property to his financial disclosures, said he’d simply forgotten. What he still hasn’t reported is the more than $1 million he’s borrowed, using collateral that’s valued at less than half that much.
Washington avoided a government shutdown last month, but ethics enforcers in Georgia soon will face the prospect of shutting down their key function — enforcing ethics laws. In fact, members of the State Campaign Finance Commission are already planning their legal defense in case someone sues them for failing to do their job.
Georgia lawmakers Monday gave voters less access to information on local candidates’ finances, reversing part of a 2010 reform bill that became law just two months ago. The legislators’ action could also cost the cash-strapped Campaign Finance Commission $130,000 — which it doesn’t have — to notify candidates of possible violations. If the commission can’t afford to send those notices, it can’t enforce the law.
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.