Republican gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine said Monday he has returned contributions that came from a series of political action committees tied to a Rome-based insurance company.
In a statement just released, Oxendine, who is the state’s insurance commissioner, said the contributions from the Alabama-based PACs appeared to be “from different entities, not controlled by the same person or people. Under those facts, as we understood them, accepting these contributions was perfectly legal.
Oxendine also said that, “based on facts that have recently come to light, previously unknown to us, we have concerns whether our understanding of the facts were complete. Last week, before these facts fully came to light, we filed an advisory opinion request with the Georgia State Ethics Commission.”
The allegations first came to light last week through the reporting of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The paper asked Oxendine about the more than $100,000 in contributions on at least two occasions before publishings its findings on Sunday.
“out of an abundance of caution, I decided to return the funds pending advice from the State Ethics Commission,” Oxendine said.
“Let me be transparent and direct with the taxpayers of Georgia,” he concludes. “I have promised to transform Georgia government. Although my staff and legal counsel, Stefan Passantino of McKenna Long and Aldridge, advise that we have done nothing illegal, based on the facts as we know them, I am concerned Georgia voters might see this as politics as usual. Therefore, last week, immediately after my initial awareness of this matter, I ordered the process be set in motion to return every single contribution in question and seek advise as to our rights and obligations to the State Ethics Commission.”
Meanwhile, Monday, George Anderson, the executive director of the Ethics in Government Group, said he has asked the State Ethics Commission to investigate Republican gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine’s campaign contributions that are tied to a Rome-based insurance agency.
Anderson, who often files Ethics complaints against candidates and elected officials, says in a filing with the commission that Oxendine violated the state Ethics in Government Act by accepting more than $100,000 in contributions through 10 Alabama-based political action committees formed by Donald V. Watkins, a director of Admiral Life Insurance Co. of America and State Mutual Insurance. Both firms are headed by Delos “Dee” Yancey III from the same building in Rome.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported the allegations on Sunday. Oxendine has not disputed the allegations in the article, but has lashed out at the AJC and accused the paper of biased reporting.
In his filing, Anderson said Oxendine should be fined and forced to admit “illegal acceptance of said PAC contributions.”
The contributions would appear to violate both the limits of donations to an individual candidate and the state’s ban on “common source contributions,” which means an individual cannot get around contribution limits by funneling cash to a candidate through various sources he controls. It is also illegal for a candidate to accept contributions from a source he regulates. Oxendine is the state’s insurance commissioner.