Consider Brittany Best, an executive assistant with Mullins Management in Evans.
Official records show Best, 24, has only voted once and never donated to a federal or state-level campaign in Georgia. Until this year, that is.
Her boss, Joe Mullins, is big backer of Republican Wright McLeod, an Augusta attorney seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.
Last Nov. 10, the 12th Congressional District hopeful’s campaign finance disclosure shows, Mullins gave $2,500 — the most the law allows. Joann Mullins, for whom McLeod’s campaign listed the same address as Joe, also gave $2,500.
Near the end of the most recent campaign finance reporting period, McLeod said, he called key allies — among them possibly Mullins. McLeod wanted to post strong totals for the quarter.
“You want to raise as much as you can as soon as you can,” he said. “It’s like cramming for an exam.”
He said he doesn’t recall calling Mullins, but added, “It sounds like something I’d be doing.”
If it was, Mullins was “maxed out,” so the only legal way he could help would be to get someone else to donate.
Back to Best. Until recently employed at the local Pizza Joint in addition to working for Mullins, she apparently isn’t wealthy.
But records show that on March 30 — the day before the end of the reporting period — she, too, gave McLeod $2,500.
On the same day, so did Heather Fehr, also an executive assistant to Mullins. Like Best, Fehr had never before donated to a federal campaign.
Fehr didn’t return three phone calls, but I reached Best, who said she was “very uncomfortable” discussing her donation.
Best confirmed she wrote a $2,500 check to the campaign and said she recalled a discussion at work with Mullins and Fehr about the McLeod campaign. She also said she knew Fehr gave to McLeod the same day she did.
Asked whether Mullins suggested she contribute, she didn’t answer directly. Asked again, she said she wasn’t sure what I meant by “suggested.”
“I wasn’t forced,” she said without further prompting.
Records show McLeod’s done at least some work with Mullins’ company, and Best said she’s met him “quite a few” times through such dealings.
“He seems like a great guy and like somebody I want to support,” she said, adding that McLeod “plays a big part in our business.”
But Best said she’d never been to a McLeod campaign event. Nor could she describe any of his views or proposals that she likes.
She said neither Mullins nor anyone else in the company reimbursed her for her donation. That — known as “laundering” money to hide its source — would have been illegal.
I asked how a person who’d been working two jobs — one of them in a pizza place — could afford to donate so much. She said she doesn’t have money problems, adding that her husband is an Army officer.
When asked again — well, maybe for the third time — how and why she settled on $2,500 — the max — she hung up.
If I were her, I guess I would have, too. But I never got to ask her how it was she chose the day before the end of the reporting period to ante up.
In a short interview Mullins broke off — because of bad weather, he said — he denied urging Best or Fehr to contribute. He also said he didn’t reimburse either woman.
Moreover, he denied even discussing the campaign with Best or Fehr. Note the inconsistency with Best’s statement.
Mullins said he hadn’t seen either woman at a McLeod campaign event. Asked what moved them to max out on the day before the end of the period, he had no answer.
He didn’t return a call I made to ask more questions. As was the case with Best, I had plenty.
For now, of course, there’s no proof that anyone did anything illegal.
But a lot of things still just don’t add up.