ATLANTA - Ethics officials want more information to determine if Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine was wrong to accept money from political action committees funded by Georgia insurance companies.
"It's hard for me to believe somebody didn't know anything about this," State Ethics Commissioner James C. Gatewood said of 10 checks delivered by 10 PACS from Alabama on the same day.
Seven of the checks have the same address and three have another address, although attorney Stefan Passantino said it is common for PACs to use the same professional treasurer or registered agent.
Passantino said Oxendine returned the checks, after newspaper reports revealed that Georgia insurance companies fund the PAC, but the law allows for such a transaction, as long as the PAC has funds from other sources to devote to the candidate.
Oxendine, who lives in Duluth, is now campaigning for the Republican nomination for governor.
Commission Chairman William H. Jordan asked for more information on the complaint, adding the PACs and the Georgia regulated entities to be named as respondents to the case, as he tabled it to a future meeting.
"The campaign is pleased to continue our positive corporation with the Commission on this matter and has full confidence that this matter will be dismissed once the Commission gets the information it seeks from other parties," said Tim Echols, who is the manager of Oxendine's campaign for governor. "Team Oxendine has the highest respect for the taxpayers of Georgia. With every action we undertake there is a commitment to honor both the letter and the spirit of the laws and regulations governing the campaign. We are pleased that the State Ethics Commission has validated the campaign by clearing the campaign of any wrongdoing from these meritless attacks."
The question facing the panel is whether Oxendine or his campaign knew "or should have known" that the money was coming from industries he regulates as insurance commissioner.
"To me, there's a lot of smoke here," Jordan said. "There's not (enough) information we have for us to go either way on this. ... (The PACs) have a lot of information that sheds light on the 'know or should have known' standard."
The commission also dismissed a complaint involving the campaign's purchase of a used SUV for travel needs.
"Georgians are sick and tired of the negative attacks on John Oxendine," Echols said. "Every week one of John Oxendine's opponents attempts a negative attack. They are desperate to stop his pro-family, pro-faith, pro-freedom Reagan message. Once again, their negative attack has failed. They will continue to fail. Their negative attacks only hurt Georgia. Everyone knows John Oxendine's positive Contract with Georgia is the answer for Georgia's families."