Originally created 11/08/97

GOP candidate faces ethics fine

TLANTA -- Republican gubernatorial front-runner Guy Millner might become the second major GOP candidate in recent months to face sanctions from the state Ethics Commission for his failure to properly disclose nearly 500 contributions when he first ran for governor in 1994.

Officials with Mr. Millner's campaign are expected to meet with State Ethics Commission staffers next week to explain why their candidate failed to properly report nearly $125,000 worth of contributions in 1994.

Teddy Lee, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, wouldn't comment on possible fines against Mr. Millner.

But the number of omissions dwarfs the violations that led the Ethics Commission to fine Mr. Millner's chief GOP rival, Michael Bowers, $3,600 this summer.

Mr. Lee said he expects Mr. Millner's case to be discussed at the Ethics Commission's next meeting, Dec. 5.

"Though there has been no complaint filed, we would rather not wait on this until the middle of 1998 when it's only going to get older," Mr. Lee said.

Mr. Millner acknowledged last month he paid a $21,000 civil penalty to the Federal Elections Commission for violating disclosure laws in his unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid last year.

He loaned his campaign $213,000 shortly before the election without reporting it in time to meet FEC regulations.

The candidate called it a "clerical oversight."

Mr. Millner raised more than $4 million during his first campaign for governor in 1994, in which he was edged by incumbent Zell Miller.

He apparently failed to report 486 contributions -- 8.5 percent of his total major contributions -- worth almost $125,000, until amending his filings last month. He also belatedly reported expenditures totaling nearly $642,000.

Mr. Millner has paid the Ethics Commission $150 in late filing fees.

However, the candidate also may either face a fine for the late disclosures or an Ethics Commission investigation if the issue isn't resolved by Dec. 5.

"There's more stuff that's missing than in some of the recent cases we've handled," Mr. Lee said. "There's a lot missing."

Mr. Bowers' staffers have called for a large levy since their candidate was hit with a $3,600 penalty for disclosure violations in August.

Mr. Bowers admitted he failed to disclose 36 contributions worth $13,000 to his 1994 attorney general's re-election campaign -- including 16 checks linked to the powerful King & Spalding law firm, where former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell is a partner.

Mr. Bowers also didn't itemize $44,000 in campaign funds used to pay off an American Express bill and reimburse expenses.

One difference in the two cases is Mr. Millner admitted his omissions before a complaint was filed with the Ethics Commission.

Mr. Bowers didn't file new disclosures until the commission was about to decide whether to launch a full investigation into a six-month-old complaint against him.

However, Bill Crane, spokesman for Mr. Bowers' campaign, argued his candidate's disclosure occurred after an internal campaign audit, not because of anything filed in the complaint.

"We paid a fine that runs roughly $100 per contribution (not disclosed). We would hope the Ethics Commission would treat all campaigns equally in their review of previously undisclosed contributions," Mr. Crane said. "Four-hundred and eightysix checks and $125,000 is more than most campaigns in Georgia ever raise. The amount of the error is egregious, and we hope the commission would hold all candidates to the same standard."


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