March 30, 2015 — Members of the state ethics commission have distanced themselves from a proposal requiring that they deliberate privately on complaints against political candidates and lobbyists. At a public hearing last week, no commission members took ownership of the proposed language on closed sessions, and staff attorneys said they don’t even know how it got there.
By JIM WALLS State officials, based on an opinion of the attorney general, have dismissed a complaint challenging former chairman Patrick Millsaps’ service on the state Campaign Finance Commission. Millsaps – reappointed after completing his term by Gov. Nathan Deal last year– headed the commission last spring when it slashed its top administrator’s pay by […]
Dec. 14, 2011 — Remember the Georgia Legislature’s promise last year to impose tough new penalties for violators of campaign finance laws? Not gonna happen — at least not yet.
Starting this year, candidates could be fined $1,375 for filing a financial disclosure 45 days late. But legislators didn’t provide the money to pay for late notices, so the maximum fine for now is just $125.
Georgia Inspector General Deron R. Hicks says his staff found no evidence that his boss, Gov. Nathan Deal, pressed for the firing of the top two investigators at the ethics commission. The question is: How hard did he really look? Hicks’ inquiry did not address important disputed points, including whether the commission’s chairman, after being reappointed by Deal, had truly recused himself from an investigation of the governor’s campaign finances.
Attorney General Sam Olens – who’s taking on a larger role in investigations of public officials, political action committees and lobbyists — has raised more than a third of his campaign money from public officials, PACs, lobbyists and their clients. Donors include parties in high-profile inquiries into possible misuse of campaign funds or receipt of improper contributions.“There is always a potential for a conflict,” acknowledged Josh Belinfante, vice chairman of the campaign finance commission, “but I don’t think … that means a conflict exists.”
March 7, 2011 — Beginning today, lobbying takes on a whole new meaning in Georgia. In essence, anyone who’s seeking to influence legislation now must file papers as a lobbyist if they’re being paid while doing so. That includes corporate executives or school teachers visiting the Capitol, or witnesses at legislative hearings. Patrick Millsaps, chairman of the State Campaign Finance Commission, warned: “I think we are coming dangerously close to putting up barriers to prevent people from petitioning their government.”
Attorney General Thurbert Baker has been asked to opine on whether political campaigns may make unlimited financial contributions to other campaigns. A decision by the State Ethics Commission last week raised the possibility that unopposed candidates with fat campaign accounts could give unlimited amounts to candidates in close races, creating a legal path to circumvent contribution limits.
A whistleblower who accused state ethics lawyers of misconduct was herself fired over allegations of fraud and dishonesty. Jennifer L. Ward, budget and HR administrator for the State Ethics Commission, was dismissed in November for allegedly failing to drop an ex-employee from the payroll and stating that she fabricated salary figures to help her old boss get a pay raise. Ward denies wrongdoing and claims her new boss canned her for complaining to others about his private law practice.
House Speaker David Ralston today named Brunswick attorney Hillary S. Stringfellow to fill a 5-month-old vacancy on the State Ethics Commission, just in time for a hearing on charges against Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine. Attorneys’ challenge to the impartiality of two members could have left the ethics panel one member short of a quorum to hear the Oxendine matter.
Two Rome-based insurance companies have gone to court to challenge investigators’ demand for documents related to $120,000 in potentially improper contributions to Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine’s bid for governor. State Mutual Insurance Co. and Admiral Life Insurance Co. of America contend the State Ethics Commission overreached its authority when it subpoenaed the records. They also […]
Robb Pitts and the State Ethics Commission are headed to court to settle an 8-year-old dispute over excessive and unreported campaign loans. The commission Monday rejected a proposed consent order that would have closed the matter with Pitts paying no fine and no restitution. Commission members were told Pitts could still win in court and wind up with no penalty or finding of responsibility. Kent Alexander, a former federal prosecutor, said he’d rather lose in court “than have the commission say an elected official who is an experienced campaigner violates the rules” and gets away with it.
The State Ethics Commission voted today to reopen applications for its top administrative job and to interview three finalists at its Dec. 16 meeting. The commission interviewed three candidates last week but decided to solicit more applicants for the post. “We uniformly thought they were of very high quality,” commission member William Jordan said, “but there were none right now that we were ready to extend an offer to.”