Shaheen may have violated campaign contribution law

chwright@macon.comOctober 29, 2013 

Chuck Shaheen

WARNER ROBINS -- Mayor Chuck Shaheen may have illegally contributed his leftover mayoral campaign funds to his campaign for City Council Post 1, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

“He can send that money back to his contributors ... and ask them to re-contribute it to his council campaign,” said Holly La-Berge, executive director of the commission. “But he has to give them a choice.”

Shaheen donated just over $568 from his 2009 mayoral campaign fund. It’s a small percentage of his current campaign fund, but LaBerge said “that is not legal.” Shaheen said he was not aware of the rule.

“I don’t know what to tell you, but we’ll sure correct it,” Shaheen said.

Money leftover from former campaigns can either be donated to charity or used to run for the same seat in another year. It cannot be used to run for a different seat than for which it was contributed, La-Berge said.

LaBerge said her office will review and audit the transaction if a complaint is filed.

Councilman Daron Lee and former Councilman Mike Brashear potentially also faced this conflict, as both are running for mayor. However, both had zeroed out their war chests after their 2009 and 2011 campaigns, respectively.

As of his Sept. 30 state filing, Shaheen had received $14,669 for his council campaign -- including the mayoral fund transfer. His Oct. 25 filing was not available, but the grace period for turning it in does not end until Friday.

In an interview, Shaheen said he didn’t think he had done anything wrong.

“I don’t understand,” he said. “If another campaign gives money out of their campaign, what’s the difference?”

Shaheen listed the exchange on a state form filed earlier this year, but LaBerge said her office wouldn’t have known about it unless a voter filed a formal complaint. The Telegraph discovered the possible violation while researching laws governing campaign contributions.

“We don’t have the manpower” to review all electronic forms, LaBerge said. “We can’t follow the money, so to speak.”

If a complaint is filed and a hearing finds Shaheen violated the law, he could face a fine up to $1,000. If found to have knowingly violated the law, he could face a misdemeanor charge.

To contact writer Christina M. Wright, call 256-9685.

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