Members of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission sitting in a meeting room
Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission meeting in December 2019. Credit: Maggie Lee
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission hears from Executive Director David Emadi (third from right) at its meeting Wednesday. Credit: Maggie Lee

By Maggie Lee

The state office that oversees campaign finance may soon complain to the state attorney general about fines owed by current or former Atlanta politicians and candidates.

A total 63 Atlanta officials or former candidates owe money that is outstanding, Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission Executive Secretary David Emadi told the commission on Wednesday.

“At this point, those 63 officials owe … somewhere in the range of $29,500 in money due to the commission,” he said at a meeting of the commission.

“We continue to work with them, but we are reaching the point where we will be referring this … to the attorney general’s office for a special assistant AG to file enforcement actions in Fulton County, and ensure that those monies owed are collected,” Emadi said.

Most of the monies owed are for running late with campaign finance disclosures, Emadi said. Those are public documents that list a candidate’s donors and spending. That paperwork is required so that members of the public can see who is funding peoples’ campaigns — and look out for any conflicts of interest. Fines for running late can be as little as $125 for a single infraction.

The commission is reviewing campaign finance compliance in several cities and counties, a list picked with an eye to political and geographic diversity, he said.

The list includes the cities of College Park, Euharlee, Griffin, Douglasville, as well as Cobb, Effingham, Carroll, Macon-Bibb, Chatham and Gwinnett counties.

The local reviews are part of what Emadi said were a priority to get commisison standards back up to par. A former chief assistant district attorney in Douglas County, Emadi took the top job at the ethics commission this year, after his predecessor was accused of watching pornography at work and delaying cases.

Separately, the commission has apparently already subpoenaed the bank records of both of Atlanta’s top two 2017 mayoral candidates: Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and second-place finisher Mary Norwood, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB-TV. According to those reports, both campaigns are accused of having accepted donations over the permissible limits: Bottoms of about $382,000 in impermissible donations and Norwood of some $169,000 in impermissible donations. Both women said they will provide all requested documents.

Maggie Lee is a freelance reporter who's been covering Georgia and metro Atlanta government and politics since 2008.

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