Balfour’s fund-raising plummets with GBI probe pending
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By JIM WALLS
July 8, 2013 — Sen. Don Balfour has learned — the hard way — what a difference a year can make.
Balfour today reported collecting just $2,000 in political donations for the first six months of 2013, following his demotion to chairing the Senate Reapportionment Committee.
During the same period in 2011, his last non-election year, the Snellville Republican’s campaign raised $137,000. That was when Balfour still chaired Rules, which decides which bills move to the full Senate and which ones wither on the vine. Donations poured in from lobbyists and special interests hoping for favorable treatment when their bills hit Rules.
Also worth noting: Balfour’s latest disclosure shows no spending on lodging in Atlanta. Previously, the campaign had spent $25,000 to $30,000 a year to rent a condo year-round in Atlanta yet still billed taxpayers for round-trip mileage from his Snellville home for each of the days he purportedly spent at the Capitol on official business.
Some observers believed Balfour had become the most powerful man in the Senate.
Balfour’s stock plummeted in 2012 after Atlanta Unfiltered reported that he had charged taxpayers the year before for more than $21,000 of per diem — most of it without explanation. That sum included several days when lobbyists reported paying for Balfour’s meals and entertainment at out-of-state conferences.
Georgia lawmakers’ per diem is $173 to cover meals and lodging. Most can claim payment for a limited number of days if they’re doing the public’s business outside the legislative session. Chairs of key committees can claim unlimited per diem but, under Senate rules, must submit “a brief statement of the nature of the legislative duties carried out” for each day.
Balfour never did so for the 86 days he claimed in 2011 after the legislative session adjourned.
Our report led to a $5,000 fine by the Senate Ethics Committee, a criminal inquiry by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and Balfour’s reassignment from Rules to chairman of the Reapportionment Committee. Reapportionment never meets unless it’s time to redraw legislative districts, a process that occurs every 10 years.
Attorney General Sam Olens, who received the GBI’s findings in January, has yet to say whether he will seek civil or criminal charges. Balfour reported paying $35,000 to a criminal defense law firm in December.
Despite the drop in donations, Balfour still has $673,000 in his campaign account.
Following are Balfour’s contribution totals for January through June of his 10 years as Rules chairman:
- 2012: $137,835
- 2011: $137,796
- 2010: $109,150
- 2009: $84,961
- 2008: $119,910
- 2007: $196,175
- 2006: $110,625
- 2005: $160,435
- 2004: $29,800
- 2003: $49,300