The State Ethics Commission has ruled that funds transfers between political campaigns will be limited to the same terms as those for contributions from individuals.
The ruling comes in light of a Telegraph report in January that mayoral candidate Chuck Chalk received a $10,000 contribution from the coffers of the late Mayor Donald S. Walker.
At the time, State Ethics Commission officials said much could not be done unless someone filed a complaint with regards to the contribution. Warner Robins resident Charles Rose did that in March, alleging the contribution was not within the limits specified in the Ethics in Government Act.
Chalk listed the donation on year-end campaign contribution reports. He received the donation Dec. 19. Walker committed suicide Sept. 28.
Commissioners discussed last month how to handle the conflict between section 21-5-33, which speaks to the disposition of contributions and says contributions to a candidate may be transferred “without limitation” to any national, state or local committee of any political party or to any other candidate. Officials said in January that it shouldn’t take precedence over section 21-5-41, which states “no person or political entity shall receive more than $2,400 from a single donor during a general election and $1,200 during a general election runoff.”
A message left for State Ethics Commission Executive Secretary Stacey Kalberman about how the ruling would affect Chalk was not immediately returned.
Chalk lost a close runoff election against Chuck Shaheen after quickly gaining speed in the weeks following Walker’s death in late September. He received contributions of more than $12,000 in two weeks’ time — all from Walker supporters, including Walker’s widow, daughter and brother Tommy.
The money could have been used to pay back a $10,000 loan Chalk took out from Robins Federal Credit Union to help fund his campaign.
According to the contribution reports, Chalk deducted $10,230 on Dec. 31 to repay loans he’d given his campaign.At the time, Chalk said someone he trusted had gone through the process with state officials to ensure it was properly handled.
In Thursday’s advisory opinion, the commission said it decided to rule in favor of limits on contributions.
“We interpret the words “without limitation” as a reference to the types of organizations to which a candidate may contribute excess contributions and not as a reference to contribution limitation amounts or an exemption therefrom,” the opinion states.