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Ethics panel cancels Oxendine hearing, waits on judge’s ruling


Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine’s much-awaited ethics hearing was postponed today. But it still may be held before the July 20 Republican primary.

Charges that two Rome insurance companies used intermediaries to direct excessive amounts of cash to Oxendine’s campaign for governor — and that Oxendine knowingly accepted it — were filed with the State Ethics Commission a year ago.

The companies gave $120,000 in 2008 to 10 Alabama-based political action committees, which deposited the checks and redirected the money to Oxendine on the same day. Legally, the businesses could give no more than $11,900 to a statewide political campaign at the time and, because they are regulated by the insurance commissioner, could give no campaign money whatsoever to someone holding or seeking that office.

The ethics investigation has been held up by those companies’ refusal to turn over financial records requested under a subpoena.

The Rome businesses — State Mutual Insurance Co. and a wholly owned affiliate, Admiral Life Insurance Co. of America — filed court papers May 28 to challenge the commission’s subpoenas as unauthorized and overly broad. They argued that state law does not prohibit the companies from donating money to political action committees, or PACs, and that the ethics investigation would “unduly chill” their participation in the political process.

Said the Ethics Commission in response:

Contributions to PACs by regulated entities is not the subject [of] the Commission’s investigation nor is it otherwise subject to prohibition … Instead, what is prohibited and the subject of investigation are contributions made to regulated entities through PACs to the extent they are made to circumvent the prohibitions against direct contribution to a regulatory executive officer. Prohibiting a regulated entity from using a PAC as a proxy to make donations to a regulatory executive officer does not unduly infringe on the free speech or other constitutional rights of the entities in the political process.

Late last month, the insurance companies asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Adams to issue a restraining order to prevent enforcement of the subpoenas. Adams issued an interim order last week asking both sides to agree on a date — on or before July 2 — when she could hear their arguments.

The commission planned to proceed Thursday with a hearing on the Oxendine case but canceled it this afternoon because of uncertainty over the implications of Adams’ order. The commission also questioned whether it could render a fair decision without access to the financial records that Admiral and State Mutual have refused to produce.

Adams could rule on the requested injunction at the court hearing or shortly thereafter. If she does, officials say, the commission could still reschedule its hearing before the July 20 primary.

Oxendine leads the Republican field for governor, but his lead has narrowed. No Republican candidate is expected to grab the nomination without a runoff.





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4 Responses to “Ethics panel cancels Oxendine hearing, waits on judge’s ruling”

  1. Former Legal Secretary Now Retired says:

    Let’s hope so but even if it isn’t I sure hope people aren’t big enough suckers to vote for him or Handel either.

  2. Deborah Owens says:

    If OX wins the Primary it will be the greatest gift ever given to Barnes, who will then be the next Gov of GA. OX might delay the ethics issues until after the primary and then BARNES will capitlaize on it and win the general election. DUMB OX. ANYONE WOULD BE A BETTER GOVERNOR THAN OX. His criminal predeliction, Money laundering as Insurance Commissioner, would become a new form of organized crime as governor.

  3. Former Legal Secretary Now Retired says:

    Yep and while he is out roaming the range, insurance companies are getting by with more and more and not being policed; they are taking advantage of claimants; outright withholding money legally due claimants; and the insurance commissioner’s office is doing nothing but stock piling complaints and worker’s compensation hearing officers are just continuing hearings because they can’t get the requested information from the insurance companies. Is there any insurance company out there that honestly does what they are supposed to do? Is money due claimants going into Ox’s campaign fund instead of to where it should be going?

  4. Deborah Owens says:

    Barnes will publicize it, and OX will lose. Get ready for a Republican RINO legislature and a Dem Gov.