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Common Cause posts campaign disclosures missing from ATL Web site


UPDATE: Atlanta’s municipal clerk has posted PDF files of 2009 campaign disclosure reports for mayor and council candidates here. You will need Adobe Acrobat to read them. Earlier reports are available here in a searchable format.

Four years ago, Atlanta city government did a nice job making campaign disclosure reports available online for candidates for mayor and City Council.

That was then. Today, a tight budget apparently prevents the city from posting details on the millions of dollars raised by Atlanta candidates in 2009. In fact, the city last posted campaign disclosures from two of the top contenders for mayor, Council President Lisa Borders and member Mary Norwood, at the end of 2005.

Common Cause of Georgia, the good-government advocacy group, is filling the gap. Its Moneywatch site gives voters a chance to examine how candidates are raising their money and from whom.

The disclosures are far from perfect. Volunteers are still entering some contributions into Common Cause’s database manually. And, for now, the group doesn’t have the resources to post details of candidates’ spending, or anything at all for Atlanta Board of Education candidates.

Nevertheless, it’s all we’ve got right now. The Common Cause site tells us:

— Mary Norwood, with a smidge over $1 million in donations, leads the money race for mayor;

— Clair Muller, with $125,000, leads the fund-raising for council president over Caesar Mitchell, with $105,000;

— Newcomers Alex Wan ($51,000), Yolanda Adrean ($50,000), Amir Farohki ($97,000) and Weslee Knapp ($26,000) have the cash to make a splash in City Council races.

The data is also sortable by date, amount and employer, giving voters an opportunity to search on their own. A glance shows quite a few lawyers on the donor lists, as well as elected officials, lobbyists, government contractors and aides in … er … former administrations. (If you were happy during the Bill Campbell years, you can see for yourself where his peeps are lining up in 2009.)





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6 Responses to “Common Cause posts campaign disclosures missing from ATL Web site”

  1. Bill Bozarth says:

    In recent days, the City has provided some additional information online. It allows us to see pdf files of the 2009 reports of all declared candidates for City office. This is an improvement over where they were when this article was written. However, it does not provide information on any reports prior to 3/31/09, nor does it allow the viewer to see the full list of cointributors to a candidate over the full cycle, as shown on Money Watch. To see Common Cause Georgia’s Money Watch offgering, go to The City discosure information is at

  2. deborah owens says:

    All state and local candidates should have to file with their local elections office, and the disclosures should be posted on the city sites. Only candidates who support such openness should be supported or elected. If there is no mandate for openness politicians will always find ways to divert those funds that would pay for disclosure postings to other needs. Local activists without computers, cannot access the state ethics commission site for state candidates and electeds. STATE CANDIDATES SHOULD HAVE TO FILE LOCALLY! Local filings need to be turned in to local elections offices and all should be posted on the city sites. John Henry’s should be done in front of local officials. LOCAL ACCOUNTABILITY IS WHAT COUNTS< AS LOCALS WILL CORRECT ISSUES OF CREDIBILITY AND CONFLICTS. All politics is local. Any attempts by the legislature to undo such LOCAL filings should be viewed as participation in corruption.
    Deborah Owens

  3. deborah owens says:

    Why did Common Cause work against the local filings and support a measure that disallowed that?

  4. Bill Bozarth says:

    Ms. Owens refers to a change in state law that passed earlier this year (SB 168) which relieved state legislators of the requirement to file with their local county clerk’s office in addition to their required electronic filing with the state. She is correct, in that someone without access to a computer has lost an option to look at campaign records of legislators by going to the county courthouse. She has taken exception to support we gave to an earlier bill (that would have required all local governments in Georgia to have an ethics board to deal with citizens’ complaints about conflict of interest) because it also contained provisions removing the local filing requirement. We felt that the local ethics boards was such a major step forward that we supported that bill.

    Where Georgia’s reporting laws break down most often is not for state offices, but for local ones. Even the state’s largest city is not able to make records fully available on-line in a timely manner. Georgia law requires any local campaign receiving over $10,000 to have on-line reports available to the public. Only a few counties and very few cities offer any on-line access.

    Common Cause Georgia has a standing offer to any citizen group – that we will help you put your local campaign on our site, and make it open to everyone, just as we have done for Atlanta’s 2009 elections at

    Bill Bozarth
    Common Cause Georgia

  5. deborah owens says:

    Conflicts of interest are best found locally and best hidden on a state level.

    Common Cause has its hand out for donations for the stated purpose: “Our purpose is clear: make public officials and public institutions accountable and responsive to citizens. Common Cause Georgia has more than 3,000 members and supporters across the state.”

    One might wonder why would Common Cause GA state one purpose and appear to serve another? How many times did Common Cause GA speak in the General Assembly in support of the bill that would remove the need for local filings of candidate disclosures, 2,3, 4 or 5?

    One might wonder why such an organization would try to remove the need for local filings. It was a simple process for all candidates to perform. They simply filed a document in their elections office. What does state filing alone, without local filing create?

    1. Deprieves grass roots organizations of the ability to create local accountability with witnessed John Henry’s on candidates’ financial docs through their local elections office. The elections office witnessed candidate signatures at filing. Absence of a signature could be brought as an issue. Conflicts of interest could be brought with the signature. Local filings tied signature to conflicts. Even unactionable conflicts of interest could easily be brought to the public with signature and financials. In those instances, public opinion, not legal action, impact candidates.

    2. Prevents those without a computer from viewing candidate disclosures in their local elections office. This is a huge issue, “disenfranchising” a segment of our population and relegating the old style politics ineffective, through loss of this tool. Conflicts of interest are best found locally and best hidden on a state level.

    3. Prevents locals from intervening when there is serious impropriety in document filing or failure to file. As it was, one could go to the local elections office and ask if filings had been done. If the answer was “No” the elections office, and citizens, could pressure the candidate to file, and know IF and When they did file. With only state level filing, if the state does not timely post, the public cannot timely respond.

    With only state level filings the local accountability has been lost, and the possibility of untoward handling of filings, loss of E-records, and state inability to post the E-filings to the internet, creating less watch-dog reaction, etc. looms large over GA.

    Those who discount the above reasons to have local filings do not understand grass roots politics.

    Common Cause GA has stood strong as a corrupting influence in GA in this instance. Bill Bozarth has personally helped transform a very big part of all Georgians transparency in government to a murky sea of inaccessible records. He has made transparency opaque. They knew what they were doing, defended it and continued in it. They should be held accountable. Local groups, state and national groups should not view Common Cause GA as a vehicle to provide transparency. The Fox is in the henhouse.

    Common Cause’s combined man hours spent fighting the need for local filings was probably greater than all the time all of the candidates would take to file all of their disclosures in their entire careers.

  6. deborah owens says:

    Not only did Common Cause GA fight to prevent the need for local filings for candidates, but their Common Cause Columbus chapter, fought to undo their own elections office local filings postings. Columbus has a state of the arts website which DID list all local, state filings/disclosures, and their own Common Cause Columbus fought to stop it. I worked for years to have it posted on the Columbus website, and their “contingent” fought to eliminate it. Now, some of those same people who fought to eliminate local filings/disclosures on the Columbus Elections website, are running for state office without the need to file locally. Those candidates who are members of Common Cause Columbus, are also publicly supported by the bank that runs the city.