Things are getting testy in the war of words continuing between Senators Seth Harp and Ralph Hudgens. I’ll print Harp’s press release in its entirety after the jump, but I’d like to underscore two points:
1) Harp directly calls out the ethical issues of the current officeholder. John Oxendine ran for this office originally by berating the incumbent who took just a few thousand dollars in a legal donation. Now Ox Georgia’s Blagovich. Harp openly wonders what will happen if someone who is elected who is already ignoring State Ethics laws.
2) Why have these state ethics laws anyway? Ox was caught with his hands in the cookie jar about a year ago, and has sucessfully stalled any hearing on the matter until after the primary is over, at a minimum. Hudgens, likewise, seems to think it’s better to ignore the laws and take any minimal consequences later, using a decisive fundraising (and personal loan) advantage by skirting these laws to be the only candidate in this race with major Atlanta TV time.
Why bother to even have the flimsy ethics laws we have in this state if there is no enforcement mechanism when the violations are so flagrant?
Harp’s press release follows:
Ralph Hudgens: Unethical or Confused?
(Columbus) – Earlier this week Seth Harp (R-Midland) released a statement calling on Ralph Hudgens, one of his opponents in the Insurance Commissioner’s race, to provide proof to voters that Hudgens has done the right thing in regards to the illegally transferred campaign funds that clearly violated Georgia law. Last year, Hudgens improperly transferred over $100,000 from his State Senate account to his Insurance Commissioner’s campaign account.
Seven months have passed since the first Ethics Complaint was filed against Senator Hudgens pointing out his illegal transfer. For months, Senator Hudgens refused to accept responsibility and refused to transfer the money back. Saying “if I did that, it would almost be like me saying, ‘Hey, you caught me. I was doing something wrong.'”[i]
Now, with less than seven days before the Republican Primary, after multiple opponents have called him out and several negative stories have surfaced in the media, Senator Hudgens has decided to let the voters know he has finally seen the light. “Within one hour of the issue being brought to my attention it was resolved,” stated Hudgens.[ii] Over 4,000 hours have passed since Senator Hudgens had the first Ethics Complaint filed against him. A long time to not pay attention to Georgia’s Ethics laws.
Yesterday, Senator Hudgens earned his second Ethics Complaint of the campaign. This time, instead of playing fast and loose with $100,000 of his past contributors’ money, Senator Hudgens has now played fast and loose with $100,000 of his own money. After it was brought to the attention of the State Ethics Commission and various media outlets, Senator Hudgens admitted that he “got confused about the state law”[iii] and forgot to disclose $100,000 he loaned his campaign.[iv] These laws that Hudgens finds confusing are the same laws he voted on multiple times in the State Senate. Hudgens’ second Ethics Complaint clearly marks him as a favorite for “Most Unethical Candidate for Insurance Commissioner.”
The citizens of Georgia deserve a Commissioner of Insurance who won’t get “confused” about the laws they will be tasked to enforce or who might mismanage the Office’s $16 million budget. After 14 years in the State Legislature, Senator Hudgens should have a better grasp of Georgia’s laws and should know that ethics shouldn’t only come up when voters are paying attention. Georgia’s Office of Insurance and Fire Commissioner is already operating from under a dark cloud of corruption and now Senator Hudgens’ campaign is following suit. Georgia can’t afford more of the same. We deserve better, the voters demand better and Ralph Hudgens knows better.