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Friday, November 15, 2019
   
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EDITORIAL: Voters Will Have to Decide Whether to “Fine” Mayor Eddie DeLoach on Nov. 5th

  

 

 

 

EDITORIAL

October 31, 2019 - In advance of next week’s Municipal Elections in Savannah, all candidates were required to file updated fundraising and expenditure reports as of Sept. 30, 2019 for this election cycle.   Several of the candidates, principally Mayor Eddie DeLoach, seeking a second term, had reports that showed significant violations of the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission regulations and Georgia laws regarding the limits that can be contributed by an individual, a company, or a political action committee in what is termed a 'campaign cycle'.

The day after the Sept. 30 filings by all candidates, the local media began to review and publish the reports on the individuals, companies and PACS that had contributed to each candidate, and the size of the checks they wrote. It was immediately clear that the DeLoach campaign had many violations of the $2,800 maximum contribution rule. 

The Campaign Finance Commission will eventually review DeLoach's reports, and any citizen can also file a complaint about his campaign contribution violations.  Months from now, the Commission will potentially fine candidate DeLoach for the excessive contributions. 

But, it will be voters who will have to decide whether to "fine" him next Tuesday, on Nov. 5th. 

The DeLoach campaign was forced to respond this week, issuing the following statement two days ago:  “Mayor DeLoach is honored by the strong support from hundreds of citizens who want to continue moving Savannah forward with strong leadership and positive change. He looks forward to acting on that good faith to deliver another four years of historic results for every family across Savannah.  Our campaign refunded all inadvertent excess contributions earlier this reporting period, and those corrective measures will be reflected in our upcoming financial disclosure report.”

The condescension of that statement to the public is disappointing;  does not offer an adequate explanation of how the most fundamental rule in an election was ignored:  and does not explain how much money the DeLoach campaign will be returning. 

According to Carlton Hodges, DeLoach’s Campaign Treasurer, a local CPA, "This goes on all the time." He added that he is a volunteer, and said, "It's all been cleared up now."  

The total amount a candidate can accept in an election cycle was even increased in Georgia this year, as of April 2019, from $2,500 to $2,800.  Campaigns don’t deposit checks without reviewing their records, and are well aware of which donors have not yet maxed out their contributions.

Validation that the limit of $2,800 was well known is clear in reviewing the DeLoach contributions reports:  large donors such as Richard Kessler and Atlantic Waste Systems – a company that has been contacting member of the City Council seeking for the city to privatize trash collection – each contributed $2,800 to Eddie DeLoach. 

Only AFTER the September 30th reports were filed did the DeLoach campaign start returning money, we are told.  Had the campaign been returning money earlier, it would have been reported. 

Further, DeLoach’s Campaign Manager, Camille O’Dea, is an experienced Georgia election operative.  One of the key jobs of a campaign manager is to raise money.  Period. 

O’Dea assisted in his last campaign, was Campaign manager for the Houston Gaines for State House race in 2018; was a Press Secretary in the Secretary of State’s Office earlier this year, and was a Legislative Fellow last year for The Office of Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle.  She is well-schooled in campaign contributions laws.

The voters will have to decide if this abuse by the DeLoach campaign is the Mayor, once again, ignoring transparency in government … an allegation made often over the past four years by several members of the Savannah City Council.

Editor’s Note:  Contribution limits for candidates for General Assembly, County offices, Municipal Offices, District officials and all other elected positions other than statewide were increased in April 2019. These are the current limits:

 Primary Election

 Primary Runoff Election

 General Election

 General Runoff Election

 $2,800.00
Two thousand eight  hundred dollars

 $1,500.00
 One thousand five hundred dollars

 $2,800.00
 Two thousand eight hundred dollars

 $1,500.00
 One thousand five hundred dollars

The aggregate of monetary and in-kind contributions from the same contributor must also not exceed the maximum contribution limits authorized by the April 2019 Act.

 

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