Georgia’s Oxendine to donate $128,000 to end ethics saga

FILE -- Republican John Oxendine talks to reporters in Atlanta, July 20, 2010, during his unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for governor of Georgia.  Oxendine agreed Thursday, May 12, 2022 to settle a state ethics case that Oxendine allegedly misused remaining campaign money by donating $128,000 to the state of Georgia.  (AP Photo/John Amis)

FILE — Republican John Oxendine talks to reporters in Atlanta, July 20, 2010, during his unsuccessful bid for the GOP nomination for governor of Georgia. Oxendine agreed Thursday, May 12, 2022 to settle a state ethics case that Oxendine allegedly misused remaining campaign money by donating $128,000 to the state of Georgia. (AP Photo/John Amis)

PA

Georgia’s 2010 race for governor ended Thursday, sort of. State ethics officials have agreed to drop their campaign finance case against former state insurance commissioner John Oxendine, who will return the remaining $128,000 to his campaign fund and n will admit any wrongdoing.

The deal ends a years-long fight over whether the Republican broke state law by using campaign funds to buy a house, rent luxury cars and join a private club.

Some members of the Georgia government’s Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission expressed frustration that Oxendine did not admit wrongdoing in the consent order, which the commission approved 4-1.

“I am somewhat frustrated that there is no admission of wrongdoing and that we are not even calling it a penalty,” said commissioner Rick Thompson, who was previously the agency’s executive director. of ethics.

But Oxendine has resisted the commission’s investigation at every turn, fighting an attempt to subpoena his bank records for years and then challenging the commission’s ability to prosecute him, saying it waited too long. long time. Oxendine recently sued the commission in Fulton County Superior Court, trying to have the case dismissed.

Commission attorney Robert Lane said the commission could have continued its lawsuit, but said Oxendine could have spent the remaining campaign donations in dispute, leaving nothing for the state to recover. That could have left the state in the predicament of trying to sue Oxendine’s other assets in Florida, where commission executive director David Emadi said Oxendine now lives.

“When you weigh all these issues against each other, I think it’s the best available option we have,” Emadi said.

Oxendine did not attend the hearing. His attorney, Douglas Chalmers, told reporters that Oxendine “is pleased to have finally been able to put the 2010 gubernatorial election behind him.”

“Every single allegation that has been asserted by the commission over the past 13 years has now been dismissed with no violation found or sanctioned,” Chalmers said.

Emadi, however, highlighted Oxendine’s agreement to give up his remaining campaign money.

“The reality is you don’t write a check for $128,000 to the government if you haven’t done anything wrong,” he told reporters after the hearing.

Commissioners previously accepted a judge’s ruling that they could not sue Oxendine for accepting $120,000 in bundled contributions – 10 times what was then the legal limit – from two Georgian insurance companies in 2008 when he was running for governor. The judge concluded that the penalties applied only to the donors and not to the recipients.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2016 that Oxendine kept $500,000 in leftover cash from his gubernatorial campaign and kept contributions collected for a possible Republican runoff and general election he won’t run for. was ever featured after losing the Republican primary.

Oxendine filed new reports in October 2015 indicating that more than $700,000 remained, including $237,000 in loans to his law firm.

The Ethics Commission said Oxendine used some of those loans to make a $96,500 down payment on a home. The rest went to Mercedes and Jaguar rentals, retirement account contributions and sports club dues, officials said.

It is illegal in Georgia for a candidate to use campaign contributions for personal expenses unrelated to a campaign. Chalmers argued in 2019 that loans are allowed. State law says Oxendine could have returned remaining campaign money to donors, charities or other candidates.

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Follow Jeff Amy on Twitter at http://twitter.com/jeffamy.

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