Campaign contributions to top candidates raise questions
ATLANTA (AP) — A newspaper’s analysis of campaign contributions to the two Republican candidates vying to become Georgia’s next governor details donations that critics say raise ethical questions for both state officials.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found donations of more than $325,000 to Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s campaign from people tied to licensees and companies regulated by his office.
The newspaper found contributions of more than $240,000 to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle’s campaign before the beginning of the 2018 legislative session from lobbyists, members of their family or their firms, as well as another $40,000 donated after the session ended.
Kemp and Cagle are locked in a contentious runoff for the Republican nomination for governor that will be decided July 24. The winner will face Democrat Stacey Abrams in November.
Kemp and his campaign are the subject of an ethics complaint filed by Atlanta-area attorney Simon Bloom, who the newspaper reported is a Cagle supporter, citing examples of contractors, investment advisers and an auctioneering firm that donated to his campaign.
Critics say that donations to Kemp by people with ties to businesses under the oversight of his licensing or securities divisions could undermine the credibility of one of the state’s top regulators. Two previous secretaries of state told the newspaper they had returned similar donations.
A legal loophole exists where regulated companies are not permitted to make such donations, but individuals at those companies are allowed to contribute.
Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney told the newspaper that Kemp has gone “above and beyond” and has refunded a number of donations by regulated companies.
“Given that Kemp is a man of integrity,” Mahoney said, “he decided to not take contributions from regulated businesses. Our legal and compliance team spend a lot of man hours to screen these checks. We’ve refunded hundreds of thousands of dollars because of Kemp’s character.”
One donor to Kemp’s gubernatorial campaign told the newspaper that he did not expect anything in return.
Cagle’s campaign meanwhile has received support among lobbyists in the state.
Cagle, who is known as a political tactician that can get things done in the state legislature, received donations from about 85 lobbyists or people with close ties to lobbyists before the 2018 session, according to the newspaper. His four Republican opponents in last month’s primary had about a dozen lobby supporters combined.
Cagle also received at least an additional 20 contributions from lobbyists, worth about $40,000, after the session.
Sara Henderson, the executive director of Common Cause Georgia, a government watchdog group, told the newspaper the donations show a pattern of Cagle putting “moneyed interests” above voters.
“Anybody is welcome to donate to my campaign. We don’t filter. But I have a very long record of standing up for what I believe in and for what is right for the citizens of our state,” Cagle told the newspaper.
“I hope that people contribute to me for the sole purpose that they buy into our vision and the fact that we have a proven, consistent conservative record. If they’re thinking anything different, then they’re going to be disappointed.”
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com