Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ethics Panel Puts Perdue on Notice; the State Commission Decides to Further Investigate Three of Accusations from Democrats

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Ethics Panel Puts Perdue on Notice; the State Commission Decides to Further Investigate Three of Accusations from Democrats

Article excerpt

Byline: BRANDON LARRABEE, The Times-Union

ATLANTA -- Gov. Sonny Perdue faces the prospect of a full-blown ethics hearing after the State Ethics Commission found "reasonable grounds" to believe he violated the codes governing elected officials' behavior.

For Democrats, who have filed a slew of complaints against the governor claiming he broke the state ethics laws on everything from his use of state helicopters to political advertisements in his 2002 bid for office, it was a partial victory. But some of the charges the party has loudly championed were thrown out by the five-member commission.

There were three charges the panel decided to go forward with. The first says Perdue used taxpayer money for partisan purposes by posting on a state Web site a speech he gave at the Republican Party's 2003 Presidents Day fund-raising dinner. Democrats say the speech was overtly partisan, praising the GOP's recent victories in statewide elections and promoting the party's agenda.

The commission also moved ahead on allegations Perdue violated the code when he used a plane owned by his wife's company, Perdue Inc. The corporation had already donated the maximum allowed contributions to Perdue's campaign, but use of the plane would count as an additional contribution.

And the panel will further consider campaign donations Perdue received he failed to correctly report in the contribution disclosures required by state law.

However, the commission refused to take up again the issue of Perdue's use of state aircraft, which had already cleared the commission. They decided not to punish Perdue for mentioning a campaign Web site during his State of the State address last January. And they declined to act on accusations Perdue's former chief of staff used a state telephone to arrange a fund-raiser for President Bush's re-election campaign, something Perdue's office denies.

Michael Jablonski, an attorney who represented Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Bobby Kahn at the hearing, declared victory.

He said what the commission did was "very honorable and was good for the state of Georgia. …

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