February 14, 2017 11:30 AM
If you had only one cent in your pocket but could double your money every day, you’d be a multimillionaire in a month, because little things add up to big things if you keep doing them.
The same principle applies to local politics, as Atlanta City Council President Ceasar Mitchell is proving. Fox5 Atlanta’s Dale Russell reports the State Ethics Commission has opened a case against Mitchell alleging he failed to report nearly $300,000 in campaign funds –roughly $250,000(ish) in expenses and some $34,000 in contributions.
This investigation started out looking into golf tournaments used as fundraisers to support a PAC Mitchell ran called AtlantaNext. PAC laws don’t require nearly as much disclosure as regular campaign laws –and Mitchell always said he wasn’t required to disclose sources of contributions or expenses.
But in looking into the PAC, the Ethics Commission appears to have found a whole lot of rule-breaking of the failure-to-disclose variety. According to Russell,
“The complaint states one of those unreported expenditures was a “$52,992” in payment to his campaign manager “RaZor Consulting/Keisha Carter. It also states he failed to disclose more than “$205,045” in general campaign expenses.”
That’s a lot of money, but there’s no indication whatsoever that the contributions or expenses were illegal –only “unreported.”
It’s easy to forget to write down campaign expenses. A lost receipt here, a charge to the other credit card there, and the next thing you know, there’s hundreds of thousands of dollars that a candidate can’t account for, and a sketchy-looking candidate who voters don’t want to trust. Like the single cent that doubles every day, things add up.
The thing about “failing to disclose” though, is that people always assume candidates were trying to hide something. And then they start to think even worse things like, “A fella could get probably get himself a city contract worth multimillions of dollars with money like that.”
Now, let’s be abundantly clear: The unfolding bribery scandal at Atlanta City Hall and an investigation by the State Ethics Commission into the Atlanta City Council President are completely and totally unrelated, except in the minds of voters.
What is potentially problematic for Mitchell is that this isn’t first brush with an ethics commission, or his second, or even his third. Some of you might recall that this is the same Mitchell who was running for mayor in 2008. Back then he was hit with a fine for paying his brother nearly $50,000 out of his city council account. That “little” indiscretion landed him in the papers and pushed him out of the mayor’s race. Will this one, which could be 6 times as large as that one, do the same?
If we can believe the campaign reports, Ceasar Mitchell has raised more money than any other mayoral candidate so far. If he can shake this latest scandal, that may continue. But that’s a big “if,” as long has he continues to let these “little” things add up.