Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, it would appear, is a giver. Her campaign committee since 2007 has donated $379,000 — nearly half of the funds it raised during that period — to other campaigns and political organizations. That’s more than any House member other than Speaker David Ralston and Majority Leader Larry O’Neal. Like most other campaign donors, though, she likes a sure thing, contributing almost exclusively to incumbents who would decide whether she would hold a leadership position in the House.
Georgia’s two largest title-pawn lenders represent the largest single special-interest sector among Jones’ political donors. Select Management Resources, TitleMax and their CEOs — who have lobbied to keep Georgia’s regulation of the industry among the weakest in the U.S. — have given more than $33,000 to her campaign.
Dec. 5, 2012 — Sen. Chip Rogers resigned Tuesday, a month after winning re-election, to take a job at Georgia Public Broadcasting. For those curious about what might have led to his decision — or those just looking for a fascinating read — we re-present our exclusive May 25 report about Rogers’ prior broadcasting experience:
Years before Chip Rogers became majority leader in the Georgia Senate, the Woodstock Republican was “Will ‘The Winner’” Rogers, advising callers for a fee how to bet against the pointspread on pro and college football. Once billed as one of the nation’s “premier handicappers,” Rogers says today he was nothing more than on-air “talent” reading a script for a client. Our nine-month investigation – a collaboration with The News Enterprise, a student reporting initiative of Emory College’s Journalism Program – reveals how Rogers got started in the industry and how he met the veteran handicapper who would take a $2.2 million eyesore off his hands two decades later.
Cheokas’ campaign fund-raising fell off after Democrats lost control of the Georgia House. But it picked back up again after he switched parties in December 2010, thanks in large part to his new Republican colleagues, who’ve given him more than $132,000 since then — more than half of all his donations in that period.
Pedro Marin paid a $500 fine in 2008 for missing four filing deadlines for campaign disclosures and leaving ownership of his business, Niram Enterprises Inc., off of his personal financial disclosure. Ironically, Niram had been dissolved by the state a week earlier for failing to pay its annual registration fees in 2007 and 2008. In 2004, Marin paid a $150 fine for leaving his position as executive director of the Mexican Center of Atlanta off his annual financial disclosure. The 2004 case was filed on behalf of an anti-immigration organization, labeled by some as a hate group, that alleged the Puerto Rico-born Marin was a foreign agent working for the Mexican government.
Other than his family and House Republicans hungry for a 120-member super-majority, financial supporters of Boedeker’s campaign are few and far between. Through Oct. 25, Boedeker had raised $37,750 from Republicans in the House, $4,500 from family members and $3,150 from PACs and lobbyists hoping to have a leg up if he’s elected. That left $13,335 in donations from all other sources.
Simone Bell did not file a personal financial disclosure in 2010 covering her financial interests for the prior year, according to the state ethics commission’s website. Commission records show she has paid $175 in late filing fees since winning a 2009 special election and, as of October 2012, owed $325 more in late fees.
Randy Nix won one of Creative Loafing’s 2011 Golden Sleaze Awards for his role in passing a 2011 law that allowed certain municipal landfills, after a 15-year-old ban, to resume accepting yard waste. Nix said his bill promoted renewable energy by requiring those landfills to capture the methane gas emissions from the decaying organic matter. Environmentalists, though, contended those benefits were overshadowed by the cost in additional landfill space. Waste-disposal interests that pushed the bill are among Nix’s top campaign contributors.
Kendrick paid her campaign consultant, Warren Mosby, $100 an hour from her legislative expense account as a “senior consultant” on redistricting in 2011 and in preparation for the 2012 legislative session. The $2,000 from Kendrick’s legislative account paid Mosby to compile statistics on her old and new districts and to organize town-hall meetings to inform constituents about the changes. The $100-an-hour rate, she said, was based on her trust in his abilities. Most legislators pay part-time aides much less, but the amounts are within a legislator’s discretion. “You literally get what you pay for,” she observed. Mosby’s brother is Rep. Howard Mosby, chairman of DeKalb County’s House delegation.
Kendrick’s campaign committee has also reimbursed her $4,610 for expenses without specifying the end recipient of the money or, in most cases, the purpose. State campaign finance rules specify that candidates must provide those details. Most of those expenses, Kendrick said, were for travel or for campaign obligations that had to be paid immediately.
As a freshman legislator, Carson collected meals, football tickets and other gifts valued at more than $2,200 from lobbyists at the state Capitol.
Not bad for a freshman: Lobbyists did all right by Teasley in 2011, his first legislative session, treating him to dinners and other meals to the tune of $2,073. They’ve spent about $2,900 on him since then.
Paul Battles’ personal financial disclosures have omitted his role as trustee for two trusts established by his wife’s late aunt and uncle. One of them — Collins Charitable Remainder Unitrust — sold 6.5 acres in downtown Cartersville to the state Department of Transportation in 2011. Battles also did not disclose that transaction or the $2.2 million purchase price, which benefited local charities. “I didn’t think I had to do one for the trusts since I get no financial benefit from that,” he said. Battles’ family business owns 6.2 adjoining acres, zoned for commercial use.
Battles retired from Crescent Bank of Jasper in 2007 but remained on its board through 2009, as examiners were beginning to sound warnings that the bank needed to tighten lending practices and oversight by its board of directors. State regulators closed the bank in 2010 at a loss to federal insurers of $280 million. The FDIC, in a 2011 postmortem, blamed Crescent’s collapse on an aggressive growth strategy, a heavy concentration of speculative construction loans and the board’s and officers’ failure to effectively manage the associated risks.
FDIC’s 2011 postmortem said the bank violated FDIC appraisal standards, failed to vet prospective borrowers or to establish loan agreements to protect the bank’s investment, and renewed non-performing loans without proper safeguards. A 2009 cease and desist order cited eight pages of apparent law and policy violations that contained in a bank examiner’s report that has not been released publicly. The bank had already responded by toughening its risk management practices, but those corrections came too late. The FDIC’s inspector general later faulted the agency for not intervening sooner and more proactively.
Battles said the FDIC told bank officials they had done everything they could to keep Crescent open. “They said that we had gone above and beyond the call of duty trying to save the bank,” he said in an interview. “By the time we were trying to adjust, the dominoes had started falling. … We were fighting a foe that was bigger than all of us.”
A veteran of 22 legislative sessions, McCall has served all of that time on the House Agriculture Committee, which he now chairs, and on Natural Resources, and all two of those years on the House Transportation Committee. Those memberships have attracted campaign donations from tobacco company Philip Morris, veterinarians, Kraft Foods, the billboard industry and highway contractors.
McCall was one of three House conferees in 2012 who endorsed a last-minute proposal to allow the state ethics commission to seal closed investigative files involving legislators and other politicians. The commission could have barred public access to a file if it found only a technical violation of the law, or none at all, thus denying public oversight of the propriety of those findings. The amendment, attached to an unrelated bill about hunting and fishing licenses, cleared the Senate with barely an hour left in the 2012 legislative session but was defeated 143-25 in the House.
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