Rep. Tommy Benton: Spent $15K, didn’t ID recipients
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Thomas Housch Benton Sr. (R-Jefferson)
District 31 (Jackson County)
Tommy Benton’s campaign reimbursed him $2,909 from 2005 to 2008 for expenses without specifying the end recipient of the money, as required by campaign finance rules. Since 2009, he’s also charged $12,952 of campaign-related expenses to credit cards without specifying the end recipient.
An early backer of Rep. David Ralston, Benton supported the Blue Ridge Republican’s unsuccessful 2008 effort to unseat Glenn Richardson as speaker of the House. After Richardson later resigned, the GOP Caucus chose a new speaker in Ralston, who named Benton to chair the House Human Resources and Aging Committee. The panel hasn’t had much to do during his tenure, considering just 17 bills over six years.
Many of Benton’s campaign donors — including road builders, trucking and billboard interests (more than $32,000) and educators ($13,000-plus) — reflect his longstanding assignments to the Education and Transportation committees.
In September 2011, political consultant Mark Rountree ranked the 31st as the fifth-most-Republican House district in Georgia. That imbalance has allowed Benton to coast at election time, winning re-election by a landslide — no, an avalanche — in 2006 and 2014. Other years, he faced no opposition.
- Elected to the House in 2004, unseating first-term incumbent Chris Elrod by 76 votes in the GOP primary.
- Re-elected in 2006 by a margin of more than 3 to 1.
- Re-elected four times since then without opposition.Won his 2016 Republican primary, 73-27%.
- Appropriations (2015 – present)
- Education (2005 – present)
- Human Relations & Aging (chair, 2011 – present)
- Retirement (2005 – present)
- Rules (2009 – present)
- Transportation (2005 – present)
- Benton has also served on the Capital Arts Standards Commission, the Career & Technical Education Advisory Commission and the Interstate Rail Passengers Commission.
- Natural Resources & Environment (2007 – 2008)
- Retired history teacher, Jackson County schools
- Cattle farmer.
Business ownership interests
- None disclosed.
Other fiduciary positions
- Trustee of the Trust of Thomas F. Benton
- Adobe Systems Inc.
- Intel Corp.
- Johnson & Johnson
- Mainstay Investments
- SunTrust Banks Inc.
Real estate holdings
- Personal residence in Jefferson valued at $138,000.
- Time-share condo in Helen, one week a year.
- Benton’s wife, Karen, owns a two-bedroom condo in Athens valued at $34,000.
Payments from state agencies
- None disclosed.
Benton has raised more than $343,000 in political donations. The breakdown by election cycle:
- 2004: $13,070
- 2005-06: $43,934
- 2007-08: $31,271
- 2009-10: $30,450
- 2011-12: $56,069
- 2013-14: $57,963
- 2015-16: $110,526
- Reported cash on hand (Jan. 2017): $57,812
- $40,850 Rep. John Meadows & other Republican legislators
- $10,300 Georgia Association of Realtors
- $8,620 Georgia Installment Lenders Association & past president Jim Walters
- $7,700 Georgia Health Care Association, nursing homes
- $7,550 Georgia Association of Educators
- $7,000 Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals
- $6,150 Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia
- $5,975 Georgia Hospital Association
- $5,500 Georgia Dental Association
- $5,500 Triple H Transport Inc. & CFO Todd Hiland, trucking company
- $4,750 JM Family Enterprises Inc., automobile distributor
- $4,650 Georgia Automobile Dealers Association
- $4,000 Altria Client Services / Philip Morris USA
- $3,850 Georgia Apartment Association
- $3,750 Georgia Highway Contractors Association
- $3,750 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
Candidates may give campaign funds to other candidates, a practice that some say provides a legal means to circumvent contribution limits. A 2003 bill to ban such transfers passed in the Senate but died in the House. Benton’s committee made these political donations:
- 2005-06: $800
- 2009-10: $10,800
- 2011-12: $17,400
- 2013-14: $16,200
- 2015-16: $20,550
Other campaign spending
- Benton’s campaign reimbursed him $2,909 from 2005 to 2008 for expenses without specifying the end recipient of the money, as required by campaign finance rules. Since 2009, he’s also charged $12,952 of campaign-related expenses to credit cards without specifying the end recipient.
Friends and family
- Benton was one of 25 Republicans who supported Rep. David Ralston’s unsuccessful challenge to House Speaker Glenn Richardson in December 2008. Ralston won the job a year later after Richardson resigned.
Lobbyists have reported paying for meals and other gifts for Benton valued at more than $15,000 since 2006, including more than $3,600 for tickets to football, basketball and other sporting events. The total includes more than $4,000 that the Georgia Installment Lenders Association erroneously reported as campaign contributions rather than lobbyist expenses. The big spenders:
- $4,093 Georgia Installment Lenders Association
- $2,169 University System of Georgia
- $1,690 Georgia Power Co.
- $1,062 Georgia Association of Manufacturers
- $468 Thomas & Associates Inc.
Per diem & travel
When out of session, legislators may collect $173 per day plus mileage for official business. (Per diem was $127 until 2007.) Those living within 50 miles of the Capitol are taxed on these payments, originally intended to cover out-of-town members’ food and lodging.
- 2005: $2,595 (16 days)
- 2006: $3,965 (16 days)
- 2007: $6,691 (25 days)
- 2008: $6,734 (25 days)
- 2009: $3,715 (16 days)
- 2010: $2,915 (14 days)
- 2011: $2,231 (10 days)
- 2012: $2,414 (11 days)
- 2013: $6,251 (28 days)
- 2014: $5,200 (24 days)
- 2015: $5,869 (25 days)
Updated Jan. 23, 2017