It’s confusing to be a elected official, so let me help you out. Georgia may be last in ethics laws , but we still technically have them.
Speaking broadly the test, whether for Georgia or Federal law, is whether an expenditure is “ordinary and necessary” in seeking public office. If it is ordinary and necessary, then a campaign can spend money on it, but third parties cannot for your benefit, unless it is disclosed and treated as an in-kind contribution and stays beneath the contribution ceiling (more on that in a minute).
If it is not “ordinary and necessary” than a campaign cannot spend its own money on it. Confused? Let’s walk through some real life examples:
John Edwards was alleged to have violated campaign finance laws by directing maxed-out donors (those that had already given the maximum allowable contribution) to instead send money to the mother of his child in order to prevent her from coming forward and ruining his 2008 presidential campaign.
The money was not sent to the campaign for its use, but the violations were based not on generally poor behavior, but the allegation that these payments benefited the campaign and therefore should have been disclosed and subject to max limits. The question really is not whether the campaign benefited, but whether the expenditures were “ordinary and necessary” for a political campaign. They certainly were both for Edwards in 2008.
So, I know what you are thinking. You can pay off your paramour as long as you disclose it and use campaign funds to do it! Now you are thinking like an Illinois Senator! Mark Kirk (D-Ill.) did just that, paying an entity that employed his mistress at least 150K in the 2010 campaign, according to a FEC complaint filed by his ex-wife (who was also paid by the campaign, natch). Just to give you an incentive to click through, the mistress has the award-winning mistress name of “Dodie McCracken”. The poorly-named Dodie aside, the test is whether she was paid for campaign work, or for more meretricious reasons, in determining a violation.
Closer to home and much less fun, State Representative Steve Davis recently found himself on the wrong side of the explanation in an AJC article detailing campaign payments made to Athletic Clubs. It seems the payments, though listed as “sponsorship”, were in fact merely the participation fees for his child to play volleyball. So, “ordinary and necessary”? Probably not, so not an acceptable use of funds (Davis has recently reimbursed his campaign, the next volleyball season is coming up after all). But points for the disclosure, without which the AJC wouldn’t have found it.
So what have we learned? Disclose the expenditure and then figure out a way to make it semi-legitimate, say by actually sponsoring the volleyball team, paying for its uniforms and travel, and maybe your child just gets to play? Everybody wins, you help the community, and actual team sponsorships, though way less “necessary” than paying off a mistress, are considered “ordinary” and a totally reasonable campaign expenditure!
(Oh, and as an update, strawman giving, 441f, is still illegal)