There was an article written earlier this year by Tom Crawford about the current funding trends of Public Service Commissioner campaigns. The title was "It’s legal, but is it right?"
Here's the short version. Politifact ran a story earlier this year stating that 91% of the incumbent's campaign contributions come from the executives, attorneys, and lobbyists for the utilities. Furthermore, looking at specific contributions, Troutman Sanders and four of their attorneys donated a combined $10,000 to the incumbent in the district 5 seat just two days before he voted on a case they were presenting for their client, Georgia Power.
So after a bit of discussion with a friend of mine, I decided to see exactly what the law says, and I believe the wording of the law merits a bit further discussion as to the intent. Looking at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act of 2010, § 21-5-30 (f) states:
"A person acting on behalf of a public utility corporation regulated by the Public Service Commission shall not make, directly or indirectly, any contribution to a political campaign. This subsection shall not apply to motor carriers whose rates are not regulated by the Public Service Commission. Any person who knowingly violates this subsection with respect to a member of the Public Service Commission, a candidate for the Public Service Commission, or the campaign committee of a candidate for the Public Service Commission shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one nor more than five years or by a fine not to exceed $10,000.00, or both; and any person who knowingly violates this subsection with respect to any other public officer, a candidate for such other public office, or the campaign committee of a candidate for such other public office shall be guilty of a misdemeanor."
So what are your thoughts? Were the attorneys who act on behalf of a public utility corporation on a regular basis violating Georgia law by making a donation to a Public Service Commissioner's re-election campaign? And was the Commissioner that accepted that donation breaking the law as well?
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