In March, the Georgia General Assembly passed and Governor Kemp signed into law Senate Bill (SB) 120, titled the “Ethics in Government Act of 2021.” This bill ushered in a number of meaningful changes and additions to the campaign finance and ethics laws already in place. SB 120 also renamed the Chapter of the Georgia Code containing those laws to the “Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act.”
Among the changes brought about by SB 120 is the requirement that a candidate disclose the source(s) of his or her income for the five years leading up to the election in which the candidate is running. Previously, a candidate had to disclose their “financial affairs” for only the one year preceding their election.
SB 120 also clarifies and further restricts what a candidate can do with any leftover or unused campaign funds. The new law expressly prohibits using such funds to make any “gifts, loans, or investments” to the candidate, the candidate’s family, a business owned or partially owned by the candidate or a member of the candidate’s family, a trust benefiting the candidate or a member of the candidate’s family, or a nonprofit which is either controlled by or employs the candidate or a member of the candidate’s family.
Finally, SB 120 gives some additional “teeth” to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission to enforce these changes as well as those laws that were already in place. Rather than being limited to investigating complaints of alleged misconduct that are submitted to the Commission by some outside party, now complaints can also be made by an attorney working for the Commission, enabling the Commission to initiate an investigation on its own.
As always, but especially considering that SB 120 gives the state more enforcement tools, candidates will want to be aware of and adhere to all Georgia campaign finance laws to ensure they do not run afoul of the requirements concerning use and reporting of campaign funds.
The attorneys at Chilivis Grubman represent clients of all types and sizes in connection with campaign finance and election law. If you need assistance with such a matter, please contact us today.