Former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine has been sitting on more than $500,000 in contributions for races he never ran for five years, but that doesn’t mean his campaign wasn’t spending money.
About two-thirds of the money his failed gubernatorial campaign spent after he lost and left office went to legal fees and donations to other political candidates, including a presidential hopeful and a county commissioner sent to jail.
Meanwhile, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in Sunday’s paper, little of it has been returned to donors, as is required by state law when candidates raise money for races they never run.
The AJC reported that Oxendine raised about $750,000 for the 2010 gubernatorial runoff and general elections. However, he finished fourth in the GOP primary, so never ran those races. He returned about $70,000 of that money.
For four years his campaign reported having about $500,000 in the bank. This year, in January, his report showed the money was gone. But when contacted by the AJC last week, he amended his report, saying he must not have carried the previous year’s balance forward.
Oxendine argues that he can legally use leftover money to defend himself against a complaint still pending before the ethics commission involving accusations that his campaign accepted illegal donations. Oxendine said the case has dragged on for years and he promised to return the runoff and primary election contributions once the case is resolved.
Ethics experts question whether he can legally use money raised for races that he never ran on legal expenses for a complaint filed before the primary.
Oxendine’s reports show he has spent about $14,000 of his leftover campaign money on legal fees since leaving office.
He has given more money to other candidates ($9,800) than he has refunded ($3,600) since leaving office in 2011, according to his reports.
In 2011, he used the campaign account to contribute $1,500 to then-Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who lost in the GOP presidential sweepstakes in 2012 and is running again in 2016.
Oxendine’s campaign also gave $2,300 that year to the campaign of Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirely Lasseter.
Lasseter resigned from the commission and pleaded guilty in 2012 to taking a $36,000 bribe from an undercover FBI agent in exchange for her support of a proposed development in her district. Lasseter received a 33-month prison term.
Oxendine’s campaign hasn’t given any money to other candidates since 2011.