State legislators say they welcome transparency regarding their personal finances — corporate and real estate holdings, government contracts and the like.But who decides what constitutes transparency? Who checks whether they’re telling us all that we’re entitled to know? They do. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, transparency is too important to be left to the politicians.
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Here's the plan... The Internet brims over with opinion. Facts? Not so much. We want to restore the balance. We dig up & share public records on ethics and transparency in public institutions. Tips, documents & feedback are welcome. We also offer tutorials (we know, it's geeky) so you, too, can dig up public records.
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Dec 1, 2016 — Randal Mangham now says he misspoke when he recently disputed a question about more than $16,000 in ethics penalties and unpaid property taxes.
But those sums, courthouse and tax records show, are just a smidgen of the debts he’s run up since his election 16 years ago to the Georgia Legislature.
Mangham, a DeKalb County Commission candidate in a Dec. 6 runoff, is still working to pay off more than $800,000 in personal and business liabilities, records show.
Nov. 18, 2016 –Abra kadabra! With a few keystrokes, former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has made tens of thousands of campaign dollars — at least figuratively — disappear.
Rogers, whose campaign finances are under state investigation, reported after leaving the Senate in 2012 that his re-election fund held about $234,000 in unspent donations. But now he says, without explanation, that only $138,000 remained in the account.
The state ethics commission, in a complaint obtained by Atlanta Unfiltered, believes Rogers’ account has improperly reimbursed him for more than $27,000.
Nov. 6, 2016 — Dale Rutledge, running an ethics-based campaign against a House incumbent, lodged a complaint against himself in 2012. It cost him $975.
The complaint said he had donated and the campaign had spent about $7,200 before filing the necessary paperwork. Looking further, investigators found he also failed to report three $1,000 contributions in the weeks before the July 2012 primary.
In 2015, Rutledge signed a consent order with the state ethics commission and paid a $975 fine to resolve the case.
Nov. 6, 2016 — Jane Rutledge has self-funded her 2016 campaign, receiving no other political donations. The personal financial disclosure that she filed this year did not include her home as well as 15 acres of farmland. She told us the omission was an oversight and she would correct it.
Nov. 5, 2016 — Unions have donated $4,700 to Tamara Johnson-Shealey’s two races for the state Senate. Sixty percent of her campaign funds, though, have come from donors of $100 or less.
Johnson-Shealey left her home and business off the personal financial disclosure she filed in March 2016. She said the omission was an oversight and amended the disclosure on Nov. 4 after Atlanta Unfiltered called her attention to it.
Nov. 5, 2016 — Fran Millar’s campaign spent more than $2,100 in 2012 on social media, including Tweets and Facebook posts about Republican politics and the failures of Obamacare. Then he got taxpayers to foot the bill.
Millar’s Senate expense account paid him back for the social media expenses, even though bills paid with campaign funds aren’t eligible for reimbursement. Millar later returned the money, after Atlanta Unfiltered inquired about it, but insisted the spending was a legitimate use of his Senate account.
Dec. 8, 2016 — The Georgia Supreme Court today approved a reprimand for House Speaker David Ralston for advancing money to a client in violation of State Bar rules.
The court also reinstated the law license of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis, whose 2015 conviction on corruption charges was overturned last week.
Dec. 8, 2016 — We’re gonna try something new today — live-blogging today’s meeting of the state ethics commission. Because we know how interested y’all are.
Already today, the Atlanta City Council’s Michael Julian Bond has been fined $45,000 for more than 300 campaign finance reporting violations.
House Speaker David Ralston (who’s been fined $1,600), Atlanta mayoral candidate Vincent Fort and Fulton County Commissioner Marvin Arrington Jr. — as well as many other worthies — also have business with the commission. Check in here for updates.
May 23, 2016 — A few years back, House Speaker David Ralston backed a move toward greater transparency in Georgia politics. His ethics bill, which took effect in 2014, requires quicker disclosure of lawmakers’ fund-raising before each year’s legislative session.
So it was a bit of a surprise to discover that Ralston failed to report nearly a quarter-million dollars in campaign contributions collected before legislators showed up for work under the Gold Dome in 2016.
UPDATE: The report of those contributions, along with more recent filings, appear to contain $13,000 in donations that exceed the legal limit.
Sept. 27, 2013 — Sen. Don Balfour was indicted today, based largely on Atlanta Unfiltered’s February 2012 report on sketchy entries in his expense account, for claiming per diem and mileage that he wasn’t entitled to.