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.
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.”)
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.
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.”
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.
Jim Lientz, Gov. Sonny Perdue’s former chief operating officer, has apparently settled a 4-year-old ethics complaint alleging he had failed to fully disclose his personal financial interests. Details have not been released, but a consent order with Lientz is on the agenda for the State Ethics Commission’s meeting tomorrow. Consent orders typically involve payment of a fine.
A North Georgia bank is accusing congressional candidate Tom Graves of attempted fraud for trying to escape a $2.25 million debt. The complaint, filed last week by Bartow County Bank, alleges Graves transferred his home and adjoining properties worth $657,000 into a trust last year to protect it from the debt. For that, the bank would like punitive damages.
Gubernatorial candidate Eric Johnson neglected to report $289,000 in state payments to his architectural firm from 1999 to 2002, the Associated Press reports. But Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond can go him one better: He hasn’t disclosed anything whatsoever since 2007. (UPDATE: On May 27, Thurmond filed the disclosures that were due in 2008 or 2009. A spokesman described the omission as “a simple oversight” and then called me an idiot.)
State Sen. Jeff Chapman of Brunwick finally filed his 2008 personal financial disclosure last week, two months after it was due. It came just a couple days before he jumped in the governor’s race. Disclosures for Rep. Toney Collins and Sen. John Meadows have also turned up. That leaves 16 legislators, including 15 Democrats, who haven’t filed a disclosure yet this year. Five of them didn’t file one last year either.
State Sen. David Shafer was the only delinquent legislator in the last week to file his personal financial disclosure statement, which was due July 1. Good for him, but not so much for the 19 other General Assemblers who still haven’t filed theirs. Elected officials make these disclosures so you know how they earn a living, what businesses they’re interested in and where they own real estate — all good things to know about people who are handling your money. Maybe no one cares but us, but it is the law. We’re still waiting on three Republicans and 16 Democrats to give us the goods. The list …