By Joe Johnson
State Rep. Marcus Wiedower did not illegally accept campaign contributions while the General Assembly was in session earlier this year, according to the freshman incumbent’s campaign. The campaign issued an explanation after Classic City News published a story Monday about a member of Athens-Clarke County Democrats distributing to media outlets a complaint he filed on Sept. 8 with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission that Wiedower (R-119) accepted 21 campaign donations totaling $15,000 between Jan. 17 and 23, during the state house session that began Jan. 13.
According to Georgia law, “No member of the General Assembly or that member’s campaign committee...shall seek or accept a contribution or a pledge of a contribution to the member, the member’s campaign committee...during a legislative session.”
Wiedower’s campaign said the campaign funds were received prior to the start of the General Assembly, but the wrong date of receipt of those funds were recorded on a campaign contribution disclosure report that Wiedower filed on Feb. 7.
“When a complaint is released to the media like this, it is usually just a political hit. That is all that is happening here,” Wiedower’s campaign said in a statement. “Representative Wiedower takes his compliance obligations seriously, and there was no violation of the Campaign Finance Act.
“In this case, all contributions were received and accepted before the legislative session started. Due to an oversight, when the campaign contribution disclosure report was prepared, the date of deposit was used on the report rather than the date of receipt. The campaign committee is filing an amendment to cure this technical defect.”
Wiedower is campaigning to retain his seat in the face of a challenge by Democrat Jonathan Wallace.
State house District 119 includes parts of Athens-Clarke and Oconee counties.
Athens-Clarke County Democrat Bruce Menke denied that his complaint to the campaign finance commission was just a political hit job.
“This publication of donation reports enables the voters to be comfortable that each candidate is acting in compliance with the rules,” he said. “By the same token, if the candidate submits records which appear to show an irregularity, it is both appropriate and a service to the voters to call that matter to the attention of the Georgia Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission for examination. The requirement that candidates file donation reports, the availability of those reports for public inspection and the creation of the commission to oversee compliance with the rules are all of a piece. The voters who note and report anomalies in donation reports are rendering an important service and contributing to ensuring that all candidates follow the rules and that all candidates are competing on a level playing field.”
Menke added, “There is something disingenuous about a candidate who submits an official report to a state agency, a report which is to made available to the public for inspection, a report which raises a question of a possible infraction and then claims that, when a voter asks the commission to look into the matter, it is a political hit job.
“On the contrary, let us continue to encourage all voters to be attentive to the official submissions made by all of our candidates and to be prepared to report concerns to the commission,” Menke said. “Each of us plays an important role in guaranteeing compliance with the law. That is the way we guarantee that every candidate, regardless of political affiliation, is in full compliance with the law.”