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13 September 2010

Ethics Watchdog: Democrats Are Making a Mockery of Campaign Finance Laws

Election 2010, according to Georgia's Democratic Party, is all about ethics.

In numerous campaign press releases and advertisements, the state Democratic Party argues that allegations of ethics violations are a major reason why Republicans should be disqualified from holding office in this state.

It's good that the questionable activities by the Democratic Party of Georgia are being scrutinized. One can only hope that the end result of this scrutiny will be a stronger ethics law that applies strict contribution and spending limits to everyone; candidates, PACs and political parties.


However, a new report in the Atlanta Journal Constitution raises questions of the Democrats' own ethics; and has at least one watchdog group accusing the Dems of making a mockery of Georgia's campaign finance laws.

In an article published September 12th, retired AJC investigations editor Jim Walls examines the Democratic Party of Georgia's involvement in the 2009 Atlanta mayoral campaign and two contested primaries in the July 20, 2010 election.



. . .in a tight nonpartisan race, partisan campaigning may have been the critical ingredient that vaulted [Atlanta Mayor Kasim]Reed past Mary Norwood. The Georgia Democratic Party spent at least $165,000, campaign records show, to attack Reed’s opponent and contribute to an unprecedented 8 percent jump in voters for the Dec. 1 runoff, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation.

Some critics also believe the party may have violated its bylaws, which prohibit endorsing one Democrat over another, by using similar tactics in two legislative primaries in July. Mailings appearing to originate with the party attacked Democratic candidate Graham Balch as a Republican and “Able” Mable Thomas as an opportunist and career politician.

Walls, Jim (2010-9-12). Partisan dollars backed Reed win. Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Retrieved on 2010-9-13.


Of the questionable campaign tactics by the state Democratic Party, Common Cause Georgia Executive Director Bill Bozarth told the AJC that Democrats were "thumbing their nose" at campaign finance laws.

Common Cause Georgia, an advocacy group for campaign finance reform, described the Democrats’ tactics as “a blatant end run” on contribution limits and an intrusion into the nonpartisan process. Proponents contend nonpartisan elections help to elevate the public discourse above polarizing rhetoric and encourage voters to look beyond party labels.

“Overly zealous party politics is killing us, and we need to be reducing that noise, not seeking opportunities to have more of it,” Common Cause director Bill Bozarth said.


Georgia Democrats, for their part, contend that they've done nothing wrong. In fact, they say the Republicans do it too.

My opinion on this is clear. I believe what the Democratic Party of Georgia did to Mary Norwood, Graham Balch and "Able" Mable Thomas is wrong.

The Party doesn't get involved in nonpartisan elections and the Party doesn't get involved in contested primaries. In this case though, Georgia's Democratic Party did both.

It's good that the questionable activities by the Democratic Party of Georgia are being scrutinized. One can only hope that the end result of this scrutiny will be a stronger ethics law that applies strict contribution and spending limits to everyone; candidates, PACs and political parties.