Feb. 19, 2015 — Up to four years of penalties for filing late campaign disclosures could be excused under bills filed this week in the Georgia Legislature.
A 2010 law required candidates for city and county offices to file campaign finance reports online with the state rather than locally. Many candidates pushed back, and the mandate was later rescinded.
Now, citing faults and malfunctions of the state ethics commission’s online filing system, two legislators are sponsoring bills to waive the late fees — $125 and up — imposed on those local candidates.
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.
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.
Former Rep. David Lucas has kept much of his campaign spending off the radar over the years, moreso perhaps than any other Georgia legislator. Since 2010 his House campaign committee reported spending more than $78,000 — 46 percent of all disbursements — for unspecified purposes. Lucas has also kept some private business interests off the radar, including his wife’s consulting business and his role as an officer in the non-profit Bowden Men’s Golf Association, which has received payments from his campaign and from a political action committee that employs lobbyists at the Capitol. Lucas still hasn’t filed a disclosure for 2012.
Records show NewTown Macon Inc., a non-profit promoting development in downtown Macon, paid Lucas and his company $24,350 — an amount he has declined to disclose — to campaign for passage of a 1 percent local option sales tax in 2010. NewTown also played a role in a small land transaction that netted Lucas a $3,400 profit in 2008.
July 24, 2012 — For a guy who votes to pass laws, Rep. Rashad Taylor sure has a hard time obeying them. Under Georgia law, Taylor’s disclosure of personal finances was due June 9. Six weeks later, he hadn’t filed it. (UPDATE: He filed it July 25, a day after this article was posted.) He’s filed just two of seven disclosures of campaign finances due since June 2010. Neither reports any contributions, even though registered donors reported giving him $15,000-plus in that time. Nor do Taylor’s disclosures report any expenditures, so the public has no clue what he may have done with the money that he hasn’t reported collecting.
DeKalb County Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton failed to disclose more than $101,000 in contributions to her campaigns in 2006 and 2008. For that, she agreed Friday to pay a $2,500 fine. Then-state Rep. Stan Watson, a fellow commissioner, also agreed to a $1,500 fine Friday for raising campaign money while the state Legislature was in session.
State senators this week agreed to give the State Campaign Finance Commission a fraction of the sum needed to meet new requirements for enforcing ethics laws. The Senate recommended a $30,000 bump for the agency’s certified mail expenses, rather than the requested $130,000, and none of the $290,000 sought for processing and posting thousands of local candidates’ financial disclosures online.
Allegations that Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle overpaid a campaign aide with whom he was having an affair were dropped today by the State Campaign Finance Commission. Members said complainant Ray Boyd had no evidence to support his claim, which the chairman described as a “clear abuse” of the complaint process.
#10: Renewing your medical license …
A tip on making ends meet in a tough economy: Find ways to get someone else to pay your personal expenses. That’s how U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey does it. In November, his campaign fund paid $400 to the State of Georgia Medical Board for “renewal fees.” UPDATE: The congressman conceded Thursday that his campaign had made an “administrative error” and said he had reimbursed his campaign. Click here and WXIA-TV’s Jon Shirek will tell you all about it.
Former House Speaker Terry Coleman and 10 current and former lawmakers closed ethics complaints today with the payment of a fine and a promise not to do it again. Coleman agreed to a $2,900 fine for making more than $38,000 in mortgage payments on a condominium that his business was purchasing. The panel also fined Congressman David Scott for failing to report the status of $83,000 left over in his state Senate campaign accounts since 2002.
(UPDATE: Atlanta’s municipal clerk has posted PDF files of 2009 campaign disclosure reports for mayor and council candidates here.)
Four years ago, Atlanta city government did a nice job making campaign disclosure reports available online for candidates for mayor and City Council. In 2009, a tight budget apparently will keep the city from posting details on the millions of dollars raised by Atlanta candidates. So Common Cause of Georgia, the good-government advocacy group, is filling the gap with its Moneywatch site. You can search for yourself to see where the special interests, elected officials and aides to former Mayor Bill Campbell are lining up in 2009. (What? You thought I was going to do it for you? Maybe a little later.)