ATLANTA (AP) — The fundraising arm of the Georgia Senate Republican Caucus has not filed a mid-year campaign finance report nor has it submitted its annual registration with the state ethics commission, records show.
Senate Majority Leader Ronnie Chance said Monday the caucus has been transitioning to a new political action committee and pointed to state law that does not require filing until a PAC reaches $25,000 in combined contributions or expenditures on a candidate in a calendar year.
Chance, R-Tyrone, said the new PAC, called the Georgia Republican Senatorial Committee Inc., was formed in August and has held one fundraiser since then. He said the PAC has not reached the $25,000 threshold and is operating within state law.
The caucus' old committee, called the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust, last filed a report Jan. 2, showing it had nearly $97,000 in cash on hand at the end of 2012. Generally, political action committees file twice in a non-election year — once at the end of June and then again at the end of the year.
A search of the state ethics commission's website does not show any contributions made to either committee this year, although the new committee was established after the mid-year report was due. During the last non-election cycle in 2011, the old committee filed both its campaign finance reports and reported more than $141,000 in contributions for the calendar year.
Meanwhile, the PAC for House Republicans, known as the Georgia House Republican Trust, filed its registration information in late April and its mid-year report on July 5. The report shows the House committee had received $126,000 in contributions from Jan. 1 through June 30 and had roughly $585,500 in cash on hand, according to the state ethics commission.
Democrats handle their fundraising differently. Money raised by the Democratic caucus in the House and Senate generally goes into an account managed by the state party.
William Perry with the government watchdog group Common Cause Georgia said he's concerned in general about reporting requirements for PACs.
"Our laws concerning PACs are very worrisome because of this type of an example, the fact that you can raise and spend so much money before you hit a trigger where you have to disclose," Perry said. "PACs are very hard to trace in the state of Georgia, and that is something that definitely needs to be tightened up."
Paperwork to shut down a separate independent committee known as the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC was filed on Jan. 7. That committee had drawn scrutiny during the 2012 campaign for its connections to the Senate Republicans' political action committee, which had contributed $162,000 to the independent committee according to state campaign finance records.
Chance said he thought paperwork had been filed to shut down the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust as well and that the $97,000 in funds held by the old committee were to be transferred to the Georgia Republican Party. Chance said the caucus felt it was best to start over with a new PAC.
"We want everything to be transparent. We want everything to be open, and we are following the letter of the law," Chance said.