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.
May 9, 2014 — Nearly $28,000 in political donations appear to be missing from Sen. David Lucas’ campaign account. While the longtime Macon lawmaker says it isn’t so, his latest disclosure shows a negative balance in his Senate campaign account.
Lucas said his campaign had money that wasn’t reflected in his most recent disclosure, but he wasn’t sure how much. “I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t been trying to keep with up with that. All I do is write checks.”
The problem stems from his campaign’s failure to fill out disclosures properly.
Nov. 26, 2012 — Legally, Georgians can’t spend campaign money raised for one political office to run for a different one. There’s a wide-open loophole, though, and veteran legislator Bill Hembree of Douglas County is only the latest to use it.
When Hembree left the Georgia House recently, he refunded $60,400 from his House campaign account to donors. Within a week, those same supporters gave all but $1,000 of the money back to Hembree to run for a just-opened Senate seat. Here’s the clever part: Rather than simply returning the most recent contributions, Hembree reached back as far as 11 years to choose the donors who got refunds.
Sept. 4, 2012 — Glenn Richardson walked away from the Georgia Legislature with $220,000 in campaign funds to spend with little oversight. More than 2 1/2 years later, as he plans a run for the state Senate, he still hasn’t officially disclosed what he’s done with it. The former speaker of the House assures me, though, that he hasn’t taken a penny for himself. “I have received no checks from that,” said Richardson.
Sen. Don Balfour in 2011 spent more than $29,000 given to him by political supporters to rent a downtown Atlanta condo that he could use year-round. For eight-plus months of the year, though, records indicate he drove home to Snellville, rather than stay in the condo, on each of the 103 days that he worked on public business. Most of those days were charged to a committee — Rules — that never met.
House Speaker David Ralston and other lawmakers learn today whether lobbyists’ spending on gifts for officials’ spouses and families must be disclosed publicly, when the State Campaign Finance Commission considers an advisory opinion on that point. An attorney close to the speaker requested the opinion Feb. 11, just a few days after a complaint was filed over a $17,280 trip to Europe for Ralston, his chief of staff and their families. A lobbyist promoting high-speed rail paid for the jaunt.
Everyone should make resolutions for the New Year, if only to have new goals. In that spirit, we offer 10 suggestions for Georgia legislators to strengthen government ethics in 2011. Among them: Let’s make ex-Speaker Glenn Richardson the last legislator to transfer all his leftover campaign cash to a committee where he can spend it any way he wishes.
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson must pay a $500 fine, but his political fund may keep $219,915 that was transferred improperly from his campaign account last year, the State Ethics Commission ruled today. The panel also dismissed a separate case, ruling that state law may place no limits on campaign contributions from one candidate to another.
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson has signed a consent order over his apparently unauthorized transfer of nearly $220,000 in campaign funds to a political committee under his control. The State Ethics Commission will decide whether to sign off on the consent agreement Tuesday. It is unclear whether the order would require Richardson or the MMV Alliance Fund to pay a fine.
Most of us would get in a whole heap of trouble for spending tens of thousands of dollars that don’t belong to us. But for politicians, the world is often kinder, gentler and more forgiving. Case in point: Former state Rep. Pam Stanley, who paid for an apartment, cable TV service and a car rental and withdrew $38,000 in cash from her campaign account from 1999 to 2002. Stanley agreed to $65,100 in fines and restitution, but she hasn’t paid a nickel. A judge last week ordered Stanley to pay up.
The candidate who promises as attorney general to “aggressively raise the bar on ethics reform” is systematically skimping on reports of his own campaign expenditures. Sam Olens, former chairman of the Cobb County Commission, received more than $55,000 in unitemized reimbursements from campaign funds since January 2009, his disclosures show. But Olens’ reports do not reveal the end recipients of the spending, as required by the State Ethics Commission.
The State Ethics Commission has every right to issue subpoenas as it investigates ethics allegations against gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine, a judge ruled today. The decision clears the way for investigators to get a better idea of any communication between 10 Alabama political action committees and the source of $120,000 in apparently illegal political contributions.