A Lawrenceville Republican activist wants the State Ethics Commission to look into a group, possibly based out of Gwinnett County, that she says swayed the GOP’s lieutenant governor runoff race in former state Rep. Geoff Duncan’s favor.
Conservatives for Energy Freedom and Green Tea Coalition President Debbie Dooley filed the complaint with the State Ethics Commission against Georgia Swamp Drainers and five unidentified people referred to as “John Does 1-5” on Thursday. Dooley supported Duncan’s opponent, state Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, in the runoff.
Dooley is claiming the group, which she said was behind an “Official Trump Voter Guide” mailer that encouraged Republicans voters to support Duncan in the runoff, violated Georgia’s election code with mailers it sent out.
“Swamp is an illegal ‘dark money’ operation undertaken to affect the outcome of Georgia elections in flagrant violation of Georgia law,” Dooley wrote in her complaint.
The filing of the complaint came more than two weeks after the July 24 runoff, in which Duncan narrowly defeated Shafer for GOP’s lieutenant governor nomination, getting 50.1 percent of the votes cast.
The tightness of the results of that runoff puts the former legislator in a position of having to reunite the party and getting Shafer’s supporters to back his candidacy for the No. 2 office in state government.
In her complaint, Dooley targets Georgia Swamp Drainers rather than Duncan directly — although the complaint does offer a cascading series of postulations that if one violation occurred then another may have also happened, ultimately leading back to Duncan.
The group has not registered itself with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission and, therefore, there are no exact public records showing how much the group has raised or spent.
There is only speculation.
“From the mailers paid for by Swamp, it is apparent that more than $25,000 was expended by Swamp advocating for the election and defeat of candidates and that potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars were expended for this purpose,” Dooley said in the complaint.
But while Dooley is not directly accusing Duncan of doing anything wrong, she did imply in her complaint that he might know who was involved with the group. She said the return address on the “Official Trump Voter Guide” mailer was sent from a Norcross-area address that was a few doors down from a company to whom Duncan serves as a consultant.
Duncan’s campaign denied any knowledge of the group’s membership.
“We have no clue who the group is … and I think the sense among folks in the campaign was that they were not particularly helpful, whoever they are,” campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said. “We’re focused on the Democrats and the general election.”
The flyer also encouraged Donald Trump supporters to back Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the gubernatorial race, even though Trump publicly endorsed Secretary of State Brian Kemp in that runoff race. The president had stayed quiet on the lieutenant governor’s race though.
Dooley said other campaign mailers were sent from an address in a Kroger shopping center on Buford Drive in Lawrenceville. Since two return addresses from Gwinnett were used on mailers sent out by the group, Dooley wants the ethics commission to refer the case to Gwinnett County District Attorney Danny Porter for investigation and prosecution.
“There is an imminent danger that if Swamp is not immediately exposed, restrained and punished, its illegal actives (sic) may continue during the general election,” Dooley said. “There is also imminent danger that others may be encouraged by the success of Swamp to undertake illegal ‘dark money’ campaigns if the commission fails to immediately expose, restrain and punish Swamp.”