An attorney for Nathan Deal late last week responded to a complaint filed with the State Ethics Commission that accuses him of improperly reporting personal debt and of using campaign funds for personal gain.
The response was filed by high-powered GOP attorney Randy Evans. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested the response from Evans and Deal’s gubernatorial campaign last week but received it Tuesday from George Anderson, a Rome-based government watchdog who originally filed the complaint.
In his response, Evans writes that Anderson’s complaints should be dismissed. The commission is investigating the complaints, although a hearing has not been set.
The first, concerns with whether Deal, the Republican nominee for governor, properly disclosed loans taken out by his private business. Deal filed an amended personal financial disclosure with the ethics commission after The Associated Press and the AJC reported in September that the former congressman had taken out more than $2.8 million in loans that were not disclosed on his original report.
Evans, in his response, notes that Deal filed amended disclosure reports. “This bald recognition of [Deal's] decision to amend is legally insufficient to form an actionable claim” under the Ethics in Government Act.
“On his own initiative, [Deal] completed a thorough and comprehensive analysis of his financial data to ensure that all aspects of his 2009 financial disclosure statement are now filed accurately,” Evans wrote.
The second complaint concerns how Deal’s campaign pays for private aircraft use. As the AJC reported in September, Deal’s campaign had paid more than $135,000 for the use of an airplane and helicopter to a private company in which he has an ownership interest.
Ethics law experts were split on whether the arrangement could violate state ethics laws. Anderson alleged in his complaint that Deal was personally profiting from the arrangement, a charge Deal has denied. Anderson also says Deal failed to disclose the ultimate recipient of the money, as Deal first paid North Georgia Aviation, which he co-owns, and that company in turn paid the company that owns the helicopter and the company that owns the airplane. North Georgia Aviation is part-owner of both companies.
In his response to the commission, Evans notes that Deal is “paying ‘fair market value’” for the flights in accordance with state law. Evans also writes that the arrangement “does not net a benefit to his co-owned businesses.”
“The conclusion is that [Deal's] campaign is not over-paying or under-paying for noncommercial flights at fair market value and therefore [Deal's] companies receive no benefit from the aircraft arrangement and [Deal's] campaign receives no in-kind contribution from the aircraft arrangement.”