Dec. 11, 2014 — Georgia is regarded as one of the most corrupt states across all branches of government, according to a new survey by Harvard University.
We didn’t rank number one, though. (Thank God for Arizona and Kentucky.)
Respondents said illegal corruption is moderately to very common in Georgia’s executive branch and moderately common in its Legislature, a report from Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics found.
Dec. 9, 2014 — A complaint against a political committee supporting Gov. Nathan Deal may be dismissed without investigation tomorrow by the state ethics commission. An attorney for Real PAC, founded by two longtime friends of Deal’s, contends it didn’t have to file financial disclosures for the $970,000 it raised and spent in Georgia, nor did it have to operate independently of the governor’s re-election committee.
A review of campaign filings and other public documents, however, suggests the issue is not so clear-cut.
Dec. 4, 2014 — The state ethics commission is preparing to dismiss complaints next week against two high-profile political organizations on the left and the right: Better Georgia Inc. and Real PAC.
Jesse Stone is a candidate for both the Senate and a Burke County judgeship — a quandary that’s raised questions as to how open he was with constituents when he qualified for re-election. In early March, Stone qualified for re-election to the Senate and denied reports that he was seeking appointment to a State Court vacancy. Later, just hours after qualifying for the Senate closed, Stone announced he’d decided to seek the judgeship after all. He remained ambivalent about whether he’d accept the judicial post until recently stating, after it became a campaign issue, that he’d withdraw his name from consideration if re-elected to the Legislature. (UPDATE: Stone withdrew his name from consideration for the Burke County State Court judgeship a week after winning re-election.)
Diane Evans owes $500 in late filing fees as of October 2014, according to the state ethics commission’s website. The commission does not routinely notify candidates that they owe late fees.
At first, Ellis Black’s 2014 personal financial disclosure omitted 491 acres of farmland, including his home, that he transferred to a limited partnership two years earlier. He amended the disclosure in October to include the property after we asked about it. He did not, however, include partial ownership of six single-family homes that he transferred from his own name in 2012. A 1998 attorney general’s opinion holds that a candidate must disclose corporate real estate holdings if he has “a legally enforceable right to use the land for his own personal enjoyment or profit.” Black said he saw no need to disclose the homes because they’re not producing income.
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Oct. 22, 2014 — Ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal were officially resolved in 2012, when he paid $3,350 in administrative fees for filing defective campaign and personal finance disclosures. But a review of the state ethics commission’s files shows the investigation leading to that settlement was never really completed. Staffers abandoned inquiries into tens of thousands of dollars spent on air travel and credit card charges, and questioned no one but lawyers for the campaign accused of wrongdoing. Rather than ensuring transparency in a state with a legacy of graft and corruption, the ethics commission settled for the easy answers, and sometimes none at all. Read the full story.
Oct. 18, 2014 — Sen. Fran Millar reimbursed the state last week for more than $2,100 taken from his legislative expense account that wound up in his campaign fund. Millar wrote the check a few days after Atlanta Unfiltered asked him about several unusual 2012 donations to his campaign — four checks, all disclosed as coming from the Georgia General Assembly.
July 16, 2014 — Alisha Morgan has made no secret of her support for charter schools or her affiliation with the pro-charter Black Alliance for Educational Options, noting it in several online biographies. But when filed her personal financial disclosures with the state ethics commission in 2012, she neglected to mention that the alliance had been paying her.
Morgan served on the alliance’s board in 2010 and 2011 before taking a salaried position there to recruit and train other activists for charter schools and school choice. A campaign spokesman said Morgan would review her past disclosures, which did not list either position at the alliance, and amend them “if necessary.”
July 16, 2014 — Wilson’s Democratic opponent for state school superintendent omitted information from personal financial disclosures, but Wilson didn’t file a disclosure at all in 2012. Her 2014 disclosure, due in March, was filed July 13 after Atlanta Unfiltered contacted her campaign to ask where it was. A staffer indicated Wilson had tried to file the 2014 report twice previously but did not respond to telephone messages seeking more information.
As of July 2014, Wilson owed the state ethics commission $250 in late filing fees. Wilson’s campaign manager said she paid $325 in late fees on Wilson’s behalf July 18 when ethics staffers told her that was all that she owed. (The remaining unpaid fees can be found under a different spelling of Wilson’s name.) The commission, for logistical and cost reasons, does not notify candidates when they owe late filing fees.
Buck’s biggest donor so far is International Teacher Training Institute Global (ITTI Global), an organization with offices in Duluth that organized a 2013 cultural exchange with South Korea for Georgia teachers. ITTI also donated $20,000 to Buck’s boss, state School Superintendent John Barge, for his 2014 race for governor.