Rep. Trey Kelley, a freshman who knocked off a three-term Democratic incumbent in 2012, has drawn nearly one-third of his financial support from other Republican legislators. Other major donors include principals in a Cedartown-based construction firm and Buchanan businessman Ronnie Ridley, former head of the Georgia Amusement and Music Operators Association.
Rep. Jay Roberts says he played no role in managing his father’s Fitzgerald-based modular-home business. But the relationship was enough to scuttle a 2008 request for $1 million in state loans to help it expand.
Rep. Tom Weldon did not disclose payments of $2,432 from the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council in fiscal year 2010. Legislators may do business with state agencies under limited circumstances. The sum paid to Weldon falls below the amount, currently $10,000, that legislators must report on their annual Personal Financial Disclosures. Another law, though, requires that public officials disclose payments from state agencies on another online form if any single transaction exceeds $250.
A past president of the Georgia Pharmacy Association, Broadrick has drawn most of his financial support from other pharmacists. His personal financial disclosure for 2011 omitted partial ownership of a Dalton condominium and a fiduciary role in a pharmacist organization that he said has never been active.
Deffenbaugh was tardy with two financial disclosures in 2012, missing the deadline for his first campaign report by two weeks and for his first personal financial disclosure by five weeks. He subsequent paid $250 in late fees.
Rep. Ed Lindsey, with the help of some deep-pocketed friends, is one of those leading the charge for more publicly funded charter schools across Georgia. In 2012, Lindsey chaired Families for Better Public Schools, a political committee heavily funded by for-profit charter school interests to push for another avenue to launch such schools. He co-sponsored the House resolution placing a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot and, in 2013, authored a so-called “parent trigger” bill that would give families a way to virtually force conversion of a low-achieving school to a charter.
The committee’s single biggest funder, Walmart heiress Alice Walton, donated $600,000. (The Walton Family Foundation has given millions more since 2009 to other pro-charter groups here: $2.7 million to Georgia Charter Schools Association, $450,000 to the Georgia Family Education and Research Council and $135,000 to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.) The latter foundation works with the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute, chaired by Lindsey, to “train Georgia’s leaders to shape the public policy debate and to govern by adhering to conservative principles.” Its key policy areas include choice and accountability in education.
Terry England, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, had to close his Winder-based farm supply business in 2012 but still owes the quasi-governmental Georgia Development Authority the better part of $575,000 borrowed to consolidate its debts in 2009. The property was rezoned in February 2013 to allow a church to operate there under a lease-purchase arrangement that will cover payments on the loan.
Thanks to a homestead exemption and conservation use assessment, England has achieved the enviable goal of paying virtually no property taxes on the 11 acres in Barrow County where he resides. His 2012 tax bill was $1.25.
Wayne D. McLocklin, England’s long-time campaign treasurer, was named in 2012 to fill a new Superior Court judgeship in the Piedmont Judicial Circuit. England co-sponsored a bill to create the position, needed because the circuit had one of the heaviest caseloads per judge in the state.
Rep. Tom Rice’s campaign has reimbursed him for nearly $27,000 in campaign expenses since late 2005. His disclosures give virtually no clue how that money was spent. Most of the payments were described as reimbursements with no further description, and none identified the end recipients of the money. State campaign finance rules require disclosure of end recipients, the amounts paid and a description of the goods or services provided “with sufficient detail to identify it as a lawfully authorized use of campaign funds.”
State records show the state Department of Transportation wrote $691,500 in checks to Powell’s law firm in 2009, but he said they were never deposited in the firm’s account. Powell said his law partner, who has handled right-of-way acquisition for the DOT, endorsed the checks over to a new limited liability company created to continue that work rather than asking the state to reissue them. Powell said he had no affiliation with the new LLC.
Financial disclosures filed by Senate candidate Sean Jerguson during his six years as a state representative listed ownership interests in several businesses but omitted more than $1 million worth of real estate that they own. Those properties include the site of his Cherokee County shooting range, which it bought from another of his businesses with the help of a federally-guaranteed loan, and a Cedartown mobile home park that is perpetually late paying its property taxes. (Many lawmakers list business properties on their annual disclosures, but others contend the law does not require them to do so. A 1998 attorney general’s opinion held that a candidate must disclose corporately owned real estate “if he has a legally enforceable right to use the land for his own personal enjoyment or profit.”)
When Senate candidate Brandon Beach ran for the Legislature in 2010, he raised $13,600 to be spent on the general election once he’d secured the Republican nomination. He didn’t make it that far, though, losing a close primary runoff. State law requires candidates to refund contributions raised for an election in which they’re not on the ballot. Beach’s campaign kept those donations, spending some and rolling the rest over to a 2012 race. State law may have allowed some of that money to be reallocated after the fact to cover 2010 primary or runoff expenses, but at least $8,400 could not be redesignated since it came from donors who had reached contribution limits for those races.
Larry O’Neal would probably prefer to be remembered for anything other than a tax break seemingly engineered specifically for then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, a client of O’Neal’s law practice. Nevertheless, O’Neal is best known for authoring the 2005 bill that allowed his fellow Houston Countian to retroactively shelter capital gains by reinvesting the money in property in Florida. Perdue, who thus saved about $100,000 in taxes, said he signed the bill into law without realizing it would apply to him. IRS auditors later investigated and exonerated O’Neal, he said in a 2009 email to House Republicans. Neither Perdue nor O’Neal released IRS documents or correspondence that would back up that assertion. A 2007 ethics complaint about O’Neal’s conduct went nowhere.
O’Neal went into business with another Sonny from Houston County, former state Rep. Roy “Sonny” Watson Jr., in 2001 when they formed SONLAR LLC. In 2005, Sonlar bought a 61-unit assisted-living facility at auction for $2.5 million after the previous owner defaulted on revenue bonds issued by the Houston County Development Authority. SONLAR sold the property in August 2012 for $5.1 million.
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