Democrats in Georgia are having such a hard time finding candidates to run for office, they've had to go back to the seventies. They've conjured up Jimmy Carter's grandson Jason and Sam Nunn's daughter Michelle to be their statewide candidates for Governor and Senator.
Jason Carter had intended to make ethics a big issue in his gubernatorial campaign. He might want to rethink that with what appears to be an ethics violation at the kick off of his own campaign. And it's not just any old ethics violation, but one a state legislator in Georgia should absolutely, positively know about.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act is codified in Title 21 of the official code of Georgia. To avoid ethical issues over campaign donations, Georgia law prohibits legislators and statewide office holders from accepting contributions or pledges while the state legislature is in session. For those 40 legislative days, which in reality can stretch over two to three months, no elected officials in the legislature or executive branch of Georgia government can raise money.
O.C.G.A. § 21-5-35 (2014) specifically states,
No member of the General Assembly or that member's campaign committee or public officer elected state wide or campaign committee of such public officer shall seek or accept a contribution or a pledge of a contribution to the member, the member's campaign committee, or public officer elected state wide, or campaign committee of such public officer during a legislative session.
Note the key highlighted language. They cannot accept contributors or even pledges of contributions while the legislature is in session. O.C.G.A. § 21-5-35(b)(2) makes clear legislators can accept money for fundraisers that were held before the session, making it even more clear that money and pledges during the legislative session for events during or after the session expires are prohibited.
The Georgia legislature did not adjourn sine die until midnight last night.
But the New York Post reported two days ago that Jimmy Carter is going to New York to fundraise for Jason Carter. Not only that, but there is already a host list of people who've committed money, including Michael Stipe of R.E.M. and Gerald Rafshoon who worked for Jimmy Carter.
In fact, the invitation showed up on this website while Jason Carter was still on the floor of the Georgia State Senate working on its last day. It lists seventeen people and to join on as a co-chair or co-host, a person had to pledge to raise money or donate money.
The New York Post reported on it March 19, 2014.
The invitation appeared online on March 20, 2014, at 10:40pm ET.
The Georgia Legislature did not formally adjourn until 11:59:59 p.m. ET on March 20, 2014.
That means the invitation was in the works, printed, and circulated before March 19, 2014, with pledges made by the hosts and chairs during the Georgia legislative session in violation of O.C.G.A. § 21-5-35.
Now, Carter could claim that the invitation says it is a fundraiser for the "Democratic Party of Georgia's Georgia Victory 2014 Fund," except the invitation also says it is "paid for and authorized by Carter for Governor, Inc.," and the law and regulations are pretty straight forward. The victory fund accounts are directly related to the "campaign committee of such public officer," in this case Carter. The Georgia Democratic Party will be using those funds to help elect James Carter.
It takes a lot of chutzpah to attack Governor Deal for ethics issues while pushing beyond ethical fundraising boundaries at the same time. This is probably why Democrats were working over time to make sure a copy of the invitation did not leak out — and also signals Carter's team knows he is on dubious ethical ground. No doubt his campaign will decide to focus on plain meaning and ignore intent, while himself championing ethics. Hahahahaha.
By the way, I realize he's Jason's grand dad, but who in their right mind wants History's Greatest Monster raising money for them other than Habitat for Humanity and Palestinian terrorists?
This argument is the only argument they can plausibly make. But considering the pressure applied to keep the invitation from leaking out, that suggests strongly that Jason Carter's campaign knows the dubious ethical grounds he is treading here. Multiple reporters from multiple organizations have been trying to get their hands on the invitation for two days.