ATLANTA (AP) — A Republican candidate for Georgia lieutenant governor acknowledged he has been flying to campaign events on his family's private plane without yet disclosing any donations or expenses related to the flights in campaign finance filings.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that a campaign spokesperson for state Sen. Burt Jones said the Jackson businessman planned to pay one lump sum after the May 24 primary for all flights taken.
However, state campaign finance laws don't appear to allow that approach. The law says candidates “must disclose (expenses made) on the campaign contribution disclosure report due for the reporting period in which the flight occurred.”
Officials with the state ethics commission declined to comment. Generally, candidates must disclose campaign spending and in-kind donations of goods or services on the next report following when they are made. After May 1, candidates must report all donations worth $1,000 or more within two business days.
The newspaper reports that flights recorded by airplane tracking websites suggest that at least eight one-way flights between Feb. 2 and May 9 corresponded to campaign events Jones posted on his Twitter account.
On Feb. 24, records show the plane flew from Hampton to Savannah. The next day, Jones posted photos on Twitter from a Savannah event that also included Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker.
“Awesome day yesterday in Savannah for a meet-and-greet...," Jones wrote, adding "even ran into a fellow UGA player out on the trail…”
Jones is facing three other candidates in the May 24 primary. His top rival is Senate President Pro Tem Butch Jones of Gainesville, while Jeanne Seaver of Savannah and Mack McGregor of LaFayette are also running.
Miller alleges that the failure to report is part of a pattern of behavior with Jones, noting that Jones admitted fault and agreed to pay a $1,000 civil fine to the ethics commission in March for spending money from his separate state Senate campaign account on his run for lieutenant governor. Jones also agreed to reimburse his Senate campaign $8,000.
During legislative action on an unrelated bill in March, Miller offered an amendment that would have required the ethics commission to decide on any complaint filed before an ensuing election. That amendment failed 27-25, with Jones among those voting “No.”
“But Jones has repeatedly broken campaign finance laws — and gotten caught,” Miller said in a statement.
Jones fired back in a television commercial that Miller has had ethical problems of his own, citing how Miller's car dealership parked cars on state-owned land in Gainesville between 2010 and 2014 after a rental agreement expired.
“It is pathetic and disgusting that Butch Miller is resorting to gutter politics and attacking Burt Jones,” spokesperson Stephen Lawson said, calling Miller a “used car salesman” who had defrauded the state.
Jones reported raising $4.1 million in contributions through April 30, including $2 million that he loaned to his campaign. Jones had more than $300,000 in cash remaining. Miller had raised $3.6 million through April 30 and had $1.5 million on hand.