Handel hit with ethics charge

ATLANTA -- A political blogger has filed an ethics complaint against Republican gubernatorial hopeful Karen Handel, alleging she illegally paid staffers from her old secretary of state campaign fund.

Handel's lawyer, Robert Highsmith, said Wednesday the expenditures of $13,200 were legal and has asked the state Ethics Commission to dismiss the complaint.

He said the staffers in question were not working on Handel's gubernatorial bid. Under Georgia law, campaign money is supposed to be used for the office for which it was raised.

''It's perfectly appropriate for office holders to have access to political advice and have campaign funds pay for it,'' Highsmith said.

The complaint, filed this week by Bill Simon, notes four expenditures from Handel's secretary of state fund after Handel had announced her bid for governor in January 2009.

Handel campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said the complaint was frivolous and noted Simon's company received money from John Oxendine and Eric Johnson, two of Handel's opponents in the GOP primary.

Handel will face Nathan Deal in an Aug. 10 runoff. Deal's spokesman Brian Robinson said his campaign has not paid money to Simon's company.

Simon said his complaint was based on the law, not politics. Simon's company provides political paraphernalia like bumper stickers and yard signs to campaigns. He said the payments from Johnson and Deal were unrelated to the ethics complaint.

Handel has made ethics a centerpiece of her campaign and pledged to restrict campaign-to-campaign contributions.

''I couldn't put up with what was coming out of the Handel camp that she was more ethical than everyone else,'' Simon said.