Wealthiest Georgia candidate insists on disclosure

Lawyer Roy Barnes is seeking another term as governor and says he will put his holdings into a trust if he is elected.

ATLANTA --- As an investor, Roy Barnes' portfolio shows he likes rental property and bank stocks. What his financial holdings say about his politics is open to interpretation.

According to the personal financial statements filed by the qualified candidates for Georgia governor, Barnes is far and away the wealthiest in either party's primary. The former governor's $16.6 million net worth is more than five times that of the next richest, fellow Democrat DuBose Porter, and eight times the wealth of Republicans Jeff Chapman and Nathan Deal, who dominate the GOP's pack with about $2 million each.

Barnes has been the most forthcoming in releasing detailed reports.

"Georgia deserves a governor with nothing to hide," Barnes said at a Capitol news conference called to release the 1,500 pages of reports May 5.

Such detailed disclosure also wins points with good-government groups.

Bill Bozarth, the executive director of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause, isn't picking any favorites, but he does appreciate Barnes' campaign's openness.

"I'm sure they did it partly for campaign impact, but how can you argue with disclosure as compared to less disclosure?" Bozarth asked.

Among the personal tidbits revealed is that Barnes and his wife paid nearly $12,000 to their domestic help, plus Social Security taxes. Not everyone with a maid, yard man or baby sitter reports the wages and pays the taxes.

The detailed reports show that the former legislator and one-term governor built his income from $900,000 in 2007 up to $3.7 million in 2008 and to $4.5 million last year.

According to copies of tax returns Barnes made public and a financial-disclosure report he filed with the State Ethics Commission, he derived his means from his investments and his employment as a lawyer. Plus, he has averaged $70,000 to $80,000 annually from his service on various boards.

One source of income, though, was sold before he launched his campaign. He had held a one-quarter interest in Croy Engineering of Marietta, a firm that has been paid more than $19 million during the past five years in business with local governments across the state. Just last year, Barnes made $145,000 from his share of the business.

Barnes not only earned money indirectly from governments he did business with but also made some directly with the city of Holly Springs when he sold property for $2 million, and his law firm was hired by several cities.

Such possible conflicts of interest will be minimized by a pledge to suspend his legal practice and put all of his holdings into a trust managed by a custodian without Barnes' input.

He had instituted a similar trust during his prior term in the governor's office.

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