More on the Governor’s Ethics Issues

Regardless of what the Democrats are saying, make no mistake: this is a huge win for Sonny Perdue.

First, some disclosure — in addition to being a campaign consultant, I am also a lawyer — and not just any lawyer, I practice election law in Georgia and have done work with the State Ethics Commission on a regular basis (not to mention the FEC). In addition, I’ve gone around the state extensively in the past two years teaching Continuing Legal Education classes on campaign ethics and election law, including a class or two with Teddy Lee, the Executive Director of the State Ethics Commission.

Now, a word about the State Ethics Commission. These are well meaning folks who, despite allegations of party favoritism, do a good job at what they do. They try to be fair and reasonable. Most of what they do stems from complaints between campaign opponents and, in many cases, complaints from the sore loser in an election — that is what happened in this case.

There are so many technical violations that can occur on a disclosure form, it is a wonder more people are not brought up. I read disclosure reports for the fun of it. I have rarely seen one without a technical violation. In fact, I have people forward me their disclosures before filing, on a regular and, mind you, unsolicited basis begging for my help. I’ve never charged someone to look at their disclosure, and now that I’ve said that, I probably ought to. And yes, I’ve had Democrats and Republicans ask me to give a quick glance at their disclosures. I’m happy to help, because I know what a pain in the neck it can be (not to mention costly) should someone (like a certain someone who will go nameless who lives in Rome) file a complaint as a do-gooder or pawn of the opposing party.

So, with that, let’s look at the complaints against the Governor.

The Dems filed complaints against Perdue with the FEC, Georgia Attorney General, and State Ethics Commission (hereinafter the “SEC”). The complaints claimed the Governor had thousands of violations and the complaints asked for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines and penalties. Here’s what happened:

  1. The Attorney General closed his investigation with no action.
  2. The FEC voted 6-0 to toss the complaint made to it.
  3. The SEC dismissed over one thousand allegations, keeping only 8.
  4. Of those 8 remaining allegations, the SEC imposed a $1,900.00 penalty based on 5 reportings violations and 3 excessive contributions out of thousands and thousands of contributions.

According to the Governor’s team, the accuracy of his disclosures, when you assume the 8 violations (and, let’s admit it, they were common and technical violations) with over 13,000 total contributions, the accuracy in his paperwork amounts to about a 99.9875% accuracy rate. That ain’t bad, folks. And I say that from professional experience.

I ran a campaign last year and discovered that my client’s opponent had received three contributions from a PAC — each contribution was the maximum possible amount and all were designated as primary contributions. Assuming there was a typo on the opponent’s report, one contribution could have been for the primary, one for the general, and one was truly excessive, $2,000.00 worth of excessive contributions. But, we did not file because it was just one and it would have been rather petty. Besides, we won.

What the Democrats did was play the role of sore loser. They could not win at the ballot box, so they tried to slam the Governor before the FEC, SEC, and Attorney General (who is a Democrat). They lost in all three venues.

Now it’s time for the Governor to get his and his staff’s butts in gear, or the Dems will have a chance to beat him at the ballot box next November. In the meantime, despite how Bobby Kahn and company want to spin this, it was a defeat and a pretty lame one at that.