Elections board tables Horgan ‘complaints’

Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:25pm
By: John Munford

While some voters headed to the polls this week in the special election to fill the Post 1 seat on the Fayette County Commission, a political firestorm has erupted involving alleged complaints against one of the candidates.

Robert Horgan said Thursday morning that no formal ethics complaint had been filed with the state ethics commission or with the Fayette County Board of Elections. At a special called meeting of the elections board Tuesday night, the board discussed verbal complaints that had been mentioned to board members by several people, said board chair Marilyn Watts.

The question at hand centers around newspaper ads Horgan purchased with his own money before filing paperwork to formally announce his candidacy.

Horgan, a political newcomer, said he was under the impression that he didn’t have to file any financial paperwork until the qualifying period began. He said he purchased the ads as a private citizen.

Horgan said he was suspicious of the timing of the complaints, considering that they involved newspaper advertisements that were published back in December.

“How come this wasn’t brought up in January or February?” Horgan asked, indicating that the move was withheld until the last second in hopes of swaying voters against Horgan.

The board didn’t even have copies of the ads that he ran back in December at Tuesday’s meeting, Horgan said.

Horgan added that Watts and board vice-chair Richard Hobbs declined to provide the names of the persons who aired complaints to them.

Horgan cited Watts’s and Hobbs’s support of one of his opponents, Emory Wilkerson, saying he didn’t feel he could “get a fair shake” from those two members of the three-member elections board.

The matter was tabled until the next regular election board meeting March 28, Watts said.

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mapleleaf's picture
Submitted by mapleleaf on Sun, 03/19/2006 - 9:38am.

Yes, Horgan is pretty naïve. That burst of enthusiasm that caused him to buy ads announcing his candidacy without first checking into what the law required of him is testimony to that.

Most candidates are, in fact, pretty naïve. The one thing going for them is that one of these naïve people is bound to be elected anyway, so they still have a chance.

What is interesting is to analyze why people vote the way they do.

A lot of people don’t so much vote “for” somebody as against somebody else. That’s why smart candidates avoid committing themselves unnecessarily on issues that don’t matter, unless they can find a hot-button issue with underlying emotional appeal that they think will sway votes their way. Voters obsessed with the topics of abortion, the Confederate flag, or illegal immigrants are easy to snag that way.

Voters unconsciously look for a common bond with the candidate. Same race, same religion, same background, same ethnicity, same club membership, same party. Candidates respond by showing their picture with their family in front of a church while boasting of having been born in Fayette County (which has had no hospital in which anybody could be have been expected to be born in when the candidates were born). How relevant any of that is when one is called upon to come up with a budget for the county is unclear.

Anyway, our commissioner candidates have each shelled out over $600 (3% of their expected annual salary as commissioner) just to qualify, and come Tuesday night at least three will find out they have thrown money away. If two remain, for a runoff, they will be invited to throw more good money after bad in a system where the few people who are not naïve sometimes end up criminal defendants in federal court.

What a system!

Submitted by R. Butler on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 8:48pm.

I also have to question if Mr. Hobbs may have inadvertently misstepped on the issue of potentially pre-judging the complaint. On the civics side, I greatly appreciate the time and effort Mr. Hobbs made to post up the relevant law in question. I applauded his responsiveness. However, I am concerned that he followed that posting by providing his “personal and unofficial views” as to what his interpretation of this law means. Arguably, given his role as the Vice Chairman on the County Board of Electors, I am not sure that his personal and official views can be so easily separated, particularly as this matter is now before the board. At best, it can create a perception of potential bias in any future actions the board may take related to this complaint.

In this respect, I would suggest that Mr. Hobbs consider recusing himself from any further official board actions related to this particular issue.

Richard Hobbs's picture
Submitted by Richard Hobbs on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 11:39pm.

Mr. Butler,

No matter what you or I do, we will always have biases. The question is do we bring to the table, pre-concieved ideas that can not be overcome by either our ethics and the evidence.

Having said that, there is nothing for me or any other Board of Elections member to decide that might be affected by our "biases". This matter is something that will not be
"adjudicated" by this board. This matter merely was brought to the boards attention, and it was to be discussed whether the board should give notice to the State Board of Ethics, who has the sole jurisdiction in this matter.

If funding your own campaign prior to filing your "intent" is legal, then the Board of Ethics will obviously reject the issue.
If paying hundreds or possibly more than a thousand dollars to "announce" your intention to run for an office, is not a "campaign" then the Board of Ethics will obviously reject it.

The facts are not in dispute. The facts are not in dispute.

The question is whether this was a violation of the finance and campaign laws. Which I've attempted to provide to this listing.

The law, by its very nature, is not very easy to follow, but it seems that all of the candidates seemed to have followed it save one.

As I've stated, the BOE has candidates who have already filed their notice of intent months before they can even qualify. Why? Because they want to start buying campaign material and they want to start accepting donations.

This was an oversight, nothing more and nothing less. But its a oversight, that could have and should have been easily avoided.
Only one candidate seemed to have found it difficult.

So either the four candidates who followed these statutes are incompetent for following a rule that the BOE should not monitor, or, perhaps these candidates who choose to run for office, have to at a minimum, read the code first. (Or hire someone with experience and intelligence, who knows how to advise them on these many rules and regulations.)

Thank you for your concern though in posting your opinion. No matter what might have occurred, this Board had a duty to deal with this issue. If the matter had come up after the election, then four candidates would have said this was nothing but politics.
Instead, one candidate is angry, and all that was necessary was merely to have read the law and to have made some minimal amount of effort at then following it.

Again, I'd like someone to post the Code section which tells the BOE which laws we should ignore and which laws we should enforce. I've not found that law yet in my law library.

Submitted by robert m on Thu, 03/16/2006 - 4:59pm.

This is typical election crap, petty at that! Would Richard Hobbs please cite the code section involved in this supposed ethics violation?

Richard Hobbs's picture
Submitted by Richard Hobbs on Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:21pm.

"21-5-30. Contributions made to candidate or campaign committee

(g) Neither a candidate who is not a public officer nor his or her campaign committee may lawfully accept a campaign contribution

until the candidate has filed with the commission or appropriate local filing officer a declaration of intention to accept campaign

contributions which shall include the name and address of the candidate and the names and addresses of his or her campaign committee officers, if any."

Any candidate who is spending money on a campaign, even though from his own funds, is spending campaign monies. Either he is loaning his campaign those monies, or he is donating that money to his campaign.

If the Candidate had merely advertized his name with Company logo above it, and spelled his name three times the size of his company, and displayed his face on the advertisements, for example at entertainment events,. . . then this would probably not be a campaign ad. (Although some may wonder, including perhaps the shareholders, what the ad is really all about.) But to announce one's candidacy by introducing your character and qualities to the public at large, is a campaign expenditure that must be reported. Ergo, a declaration of intention is required. (Then again, this is for the State Ethic's Board to determine upon the filing of a formal complaint.)

Thats my personal and unofficial take on the law. If you find this to be in error, I would be happy to discuss it with you.

However, the law is clear on this. To deny this as merely politics as usual is easy to say and do, but to ignore it, can also be construed as politics as usual.

Our campaign and finance laws are designed for a purpose. Ignorance and Sincerity are reasons for why the laws might have been violated, but they are not excusable reasons. There are many twists and turns in the Campaign and Finance Laws that can and do become confusing, but this matter seems apparent on its face. If this is too difficult to comprehend, I dare say that this is but a small taste of the laws that a county commission member will have to become quickly indoctrinated into. Sincere ignorance from an elected official is still inexusable.

Submitted by robert m on Thu, 03/16/2006 - 8:54pm.

Pretty weak argument, Richard. Is there any evidence that Horgan accepted any campaign contributions prior to completing paperwork to establish himself as a candidate?

The fact that he spent personal money to announce that he intended to be a candidate does not in any way constitute a violation of 21-5-30.

A loan to a campaign fund is certainly not a contribution to a campaign fund, and that's where you legal logic has gone astray. Candidates frequently lend money to their own campaigns and after receiving contributions, repay those loans to themselves. Happens all the time.

Like I pointed out, Richard, it's petty, and in this case, completely off base.

Richard, you know as well as I that no court would find Horgan guilty of violating 21-5-30. You owe Horgan an apology.

Ms Watts gets a pass inasmuch as she was relying on poor advice from an attorney.

Richard Hobbs's picture
Submitted by Richard Hobbs on Thu, 03/16/2006 - 10:24pm.

I appreciate your interests in this matter, however, I think we will have to agree to disagree. I am very mindful that the law is not always that easy to understand. Thats why those that help in a campaign, or chair a campaign must be knowledgeable about the law, because it can be confusing.

I believe this statute clarifies what my earlier post may have omitted.

21-5-33. Disposition of contributions.
(a) Contributions to a candidate, a campaign committee, or a public officer holding elective office and any proceeds from investing such contributions shall be utilized only to defray ordinary and necessary expenses, which may include any loan of money from a candidate or public officer holding elective office to the campaign committee of such candidate or such public officer, incurred in connection with such candidate's campaign for elective office or such public officer's fulfillment or retention of such office.

(C) When a contribution consists of a loan, advance, or other extension of credit, the report shall also contain the name of the lending institution or party making the advance or extension of credit and the names, mailing addresses, occupations, and places of employment of all persons having any liability for repayment of the loan, advance, or extension of credit; and, if any such persons shall have a fiduciary relationship to the lending institution or party making the advance or extension of credit, the report shall specify such relationship;

The law not only permits candidates the right to loan money to the campaign, it allows the candidate and his family to be excused from being limited by how much they spend.

(g) The contribution limitations established by this Code section shall not apply to a loan or other contribution made to a campaign committee or candidate by the candidate or a member of the family of the candidate.

Again, this campaign finance law may be tedious, it may seem boring, and it may not be fully appreciated as to why it was created, but, and that is an important but, it is the law.

As to whether a Court will find anyone guilty, I agree that is a good question. I sort of thought O.J. was guilty myself, but then again, maybe he wasn't since a jury found him not guilty.

However, this matter will likely be reviewed by a board of ethics commission who will make their own determinations of whether these statutes were broken. Guilt suggests an evil intent, and these matters I suspect are routinely administered as techinical violations that may warrant either no action by the board or perhaps a fine.

Actually, the BOE sent an official notice to the authorities regarding a Democratic candidates obvious violation of the law in the last house race in Fayette. The candidate claimed ignorance, even though she was on the Board of Elections in Clayton County. The Democrats screamed and yelled that this was a petty and irrelevant matter too. But we still pursued it.

If you could point out to me which rules and statutes are those that we should or should not pay heed to, then I'd be very much appreciative. Because I would certainly like to stay on base.

Submitted by robert m on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 6:43am.

Richard, you're still not reading the law, friend. The code section you are now citing, and you can scroll up and read it for yourself, specifically excludes candidates and their family members from provisions of the very code section you are using. You'll find that at (g), the sixth paragraph from the top of you post.

I am surprised Richard that as a member of the elections board you would allow yourself to get dragged into this kind of shenanigan, ie, trying to trump up charges to discredit a candidate, and you have to know that the charges are bogus.

When are you going to apologize to Robert Horgan, Richard?

Richard Hobbs's picture
Submitted by Richard Hobbs on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 9:32am.

Suffice it to say, that you are now at the point, to where all of the kings horses and all of the kings men can never, ever put your illogical analysis together again.

You make these allegations without specifically copying and pasting the very law you say supports your contention that these charges were bogus. Thats just not right. You are apparently an intelligent enough person to be able to read. Then read.

I posted the law, I could post the entire code. But it would not serve your intentions which is to belittle this as much as possible. So instead of citing the law, you cast vague and unsubstantiated charges.

The code section I cited and that you allege I mis-read does in fact exempt families from the "MONETARY" limitations on how "MUCH" they can "LOAN" the campaign, but they are still deemed to be "CONTRIBUTIONS" that must be reported.

Are you suggesting that Rich Candidates use and spend their money without any oversight or review? Apparently you want no accounting at all if the money spent is from one's own accounts.

Fortunately, the law doesn't see it that way. In fact, the law specifically states why the law was created.

21-5-2. Declaration of policy.
"It is declared to be the policy of this state, in furtherance of its responsibility to protect the integrity of the democratic process and to ensure fair elections for . . . all county and municipal elected officials, to institute and establish a requirement of public disclosure of campaign contributions and expenditures relative to the seeking of such offices,. . . "

So twist and contort the law to fit your opinion, and continue to suggest that I am acting "off base" or that my opinion is "bogus" but do so by actually citing the law as opposed to what you say it says. Give us the exact quotes of the law. Let the reader determine if what you say is true.

My challenge then to you, Mr. Robert M. is to put up for public discourse, the factual reasons and laws which support your claims. Its easy to cast angry accusations without proof, its another to actually speak the truth and to back it up with the law.

Put up the law that allows candidates to spend any and all of their own money without being required to disclose it or to file a declaration of intent. . . .

I'll be waiting for you "factual" citation to the Georgia Code, which can be found "online" on numerous websites.

The silence is deafening....

Submitted by robert m on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 11:30am.

Richard, I believe the code section you last cited, 21-5-3, at (a) speaks about campaign contributions being use to do several things, including repayment of any loan from a candidate or such public officer,...............

You're saying above that candidates are not authorized to make loans to their campaigns???? Then why the wording in paragraph (a)?

Richard Hobbs's picture
Submitted by Richard Hobbs on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 12:16pm.

No Robert, I did not say nor suggest that loans are not contemplated in the code. Quite the contrary, the law anticipates that candidates will often loan themselves money "up front" to start a campaign and then hope to re-pay the money from contributions.

They can borrow the money or advance the money from their own accounts. There is nothing wrong with that, but, and this is the difficult thing apparently for you to understand, an advance payment by the candidate for the campaign is to be reported in the disclosures.

It is suggested that what was alledgedly done, was not a true campaign, which is just plain silly. Announcing that you are running for an office and introducing yourself as a candidate by paying hundreds if not thousands of dollars in a newspaper is campaigning. It matters not who funded the ad, per se, but that the ad be disclosed, and that it only be done AFTER a proper document has been filed stating the candidate's "intent" to run.

Once this document is filed, then the candidate can campaign to his hearts content. He can spend his own money and contributions given to him, but he must maintain records and then report them pursuant to the time table as established by the law.

Come look at the disclosures in the BOE's office. You will see many candidates for the July Primary are already given notice of their intent to run. This is long before they have qualified for that race. So now they can begin spending and accepting contributions too.

Again, this was a technical violation. But a violation it seems obvious that it was.

JWM's picture
Submitted by JWM on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 2:20pm.

Why didn't you and Marilyn let someone else present the complaint do prepare the press releases? Would that not have been more dignified?

Submitted by yada yada yada on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 6:07pm.

What press releases did they prepare. They have to send a notice to the paper at least 24 hours before a meeting per the Sunshine Law.

Submitted by robert m on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 1:39pm.

Oops, Richard, my bad!! I misunderstood the meaning of your paragraph re loans to campaigns by candidates and their families. You did indeed NOT say that they couldn't loan money to their campaigns. I am gulty of misreading myself.

However, as I read these code sections, I believe the law makes clear distinctions between contributions and loans. It certainly requires the creation of paperwork before accepting campaign contributions, but I see nothing forbidding lending money to a campaign before the paperwork is done.

You seem to be equating loans by a candidate to contributions by a candidate. I am not able to find anything in any code section on which to make that stretch. I understand that attorneys piece law together in order to develop an opinion. Could you be doing that here?

Submitted by yada yada yada on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 5:54pm.

LISTEN. Hobbs knows the rules and laws. He has extensive experience and has been to many classes, seminars, etc. If you don't believe him check with the sec of states office and quit trying to correct him. Shut up your pie hole until you know what you are talking about. Never agrue with an expert if you are an ignorant amateur. You are not in Hobbs league. The state will come down on Horgan. We don't need elected officials who are so dumb.

H. Hamster's picture
Submitted by H. Hamster on Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:42pm.

Your immediate knowledge of the law tells me all I need to know.

Your support of Wilkerson, who is a very nice man is admirable.

What is not admirable is the complaint you filed against Horgan.

As others have pointed out, this is political B.S.

Your timing and tactics may or may not be supported by candidate Wilkerson, but they are very low and petty.

I will be voting for Horgan.

Submitted by yada yada yada on Mon, 03/20/2006 - 12:03am.

You are the one that is B. S. You stated previously that you were for Emory. I think you are a phony. Now because of something Emory had nothing to do with, you change your mind. After reading all the blogs and the law you are still full of B. S. How about Horgan's timing and tactics? He is the one who was wrong and you blame the Board of Elections. Hopeless B. S. Phony Phony Phony

Submitted by CherokeeKid on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 12:36am.

Oh my gosh, the insightful political analyst Hamster has taken time from running continuously on his/her spinning wheel to inform us of his/her latest pithy observation. He/She is voting for........Horgan. Wow, never saw that coming Really, you fooled no one with this poor excuse of a ruse to make it seem like you were truly undecided in this race. The mock outrage about the supposedly low tactics used against Goober, I mean Horgan, rings hollow, fuzzy wuzzy. You have shown your complete ignorance about election law and a couple other issues elsewhere on this blog, so its only fitting that you would waste your vote on the most unqualified, ignorant, ill-equipped, mean spirited candidate in the whole field.

By the way, be sure and go bright and early Wednesday morning to cast your vote for Goober.

CarpeDieminPTC's picture
Submitted by CarpeDieminPTC on Thu, 03/16/2006 - 7:52pm.

Dear Hammy,

Okay we get it. You are for Horgan. So even though he supposedly only voted 7 out of the last 17 times, including NOT VOTING in the last special election, then you are going to show him the courtesy of doing that which he failed to even do.

Sounds a bit ironic.

In todays, letter from Horgan, he says the biggest challenge in this election is to get out the vote.
Yep, I bet he and Malcomb know how hard that is to do.

Hopefully, Horgan and Malcomb find the time to vote for themselves, since now they finally have a reason to show up at the polls.

abeautifulday4us's picture
Submitted by abeautifulday4us on Thu, 03/16/2006 - 5:35pm.

I think that the Elections Board people have committed their own Ethics violation. They are ones that are the judges of violations. Why are filing complaints, making press releases and giving their opinions in the paper ? That would be like somebody on a Planning Commission writing a Letter to the Editor about a zoning matter coming. Aren't they like prejudging the thing?

Actually it is a charade a abuse. The Citizen says it won't print letters to the editor the last week before the election so that smears can't happen. Why then are they giving all this press to this nonsense ? The Citizen is right to point out that that lawyer is on the board. Sure you got free speech rights but not on the subject where you have power and decisions. Sounds like Joe Stalin.

Submitted by yada yada yada on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 6:01pm.

That board should investigate any complaints called in to them.. If nothing was done wrong by the candidate they would not persue it. It would be an abuse if they did not check into it. They will not pass judgement, but will pass it along to the state. They did not issue press releases, but just notices of the meeting. You sound just like Sam Chapman.

Submitted by CherokeeKid on Fri, 03/17/2006 - 1:45pm.

Yeah, sure, Hobbs and Watts are like Soviets, crushing the hopes and dreams of the people of Eastern Europe so they can spread Communism throughout the world. PLEASE get a grip on reality here, this is a special election in Fayette County, Georgia, not anywhere near Russia. Making comparsions to Stalin and the like is extreme overkill, not to mention very insulting. I got a suggestion for you, next time you try and make a historical analogy, make sure its, um, I don't know, maybe RELEVANT to the case at hand. You may think it makes you sound all intelligent, but believe me, it doesn't. It's total hyperbole.

I guess this is the "in thing" now in the world of slash and burn politics, to impugn your opponent by equating them with butchers like Stalin, Hitler, Bin Laden, etc. It's very sad that some must go to those depths. I guess its just laziness on their part. Its so much easier to just drop ugly epithets on someone than it is to have a candid discussion and agree to disagree about a political issue.

Having said that, I'm not even going to point out how Aryan Sam Chapman looks and how I can picture him goose stepping around the county building.Eye-wink

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