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Speaker’s campaign spending: food, charity, consulting


glenn richardsonGlenn Richardson (right) has been eating well. He’s writing big checks so special-needs kids can ride horses. And he’s paying a former aide’s political consulting firm that’s tangled up in a state ethics investigation.

The House speaker’s latest campaign finance report, filed Monday, shows he raised $88,150 and spent a little more than $110,000 in the first six months of 2009.

Donors include many special-interest groups that give regularly to the leadership of the General Assembly, regardless of which party is in charge. The most generous were United Distributors Inc. of Smyrna, perhaps the largest beer, wine and spirits distributor in Georgia, and retired Mercer University president Kirby Godsey. Each gave Richardson’s campaign $4,600.

The speaker’s spending report shows he had some nice meals while attending legislative conferences. The campaign fund spent:

— $263 at Absinthe Brasserie and Bar, San Francisco

— $85 at Copper Cellar Restaurant, Knoxville, TN

— $597 at Gotham Steak, Miami Beach

— $38 at The Shrimp Factory, Savannah

— $470 at Wisteria, Atlanta

Records show the speaker stayed at one very nice hotel — the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel at Dana Point, Cal. — at a cost of $3,323. The bill was more modest — $248 — when he stayed at the Holiday Inn in Athens.

Richardson’s campaign also wrote $24,000 in checks this year to McKenna Farms Therapy Services in Dallas, Ga., a non-profit that provides horseback riding as physical therapy for special needs children.

And MMV Consulting Inc., a firm formed by Jarrell “Jay” Walker, the speaker’s former chief of staff, collected a total of $26,000 since Jan. 1 for “political consulting.”

Walker is the subject of a pending complaint with the State Ethics Commission, charging he should have registered as a lobbyist on behalf of a company that was pushing for passage of the so-called “private cities” bill in 2007. The bill passed, but voters in 2008 rejected a related constitutional amendment needed to put the bill into effect.

Walker also runs the MMV Alliance Fund, a separate political action committee that raises money for the speaker’s use — typically salaries and office expenses. For the first time since its formation, MMV’s June 30 campaign finance report reporting receiving no contributions. In the three previous years, MMV had raised $746,000.





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