AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Oxendine accuses ethics panel of wasting money investigating him

Facing new allegations of political wrongdoing, former Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine fired back at the state ethics commission Saturday, accusing the panel of wasting taxpayer money in a long-running attack against him and his failed 2010 campaign for governor.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Saturday that the commission has rewritten an existing complaint against Oxendine, adding accusations that he accepted more than the legal limit from 20 donors during the 2010 campaign and that he spent $208,0000 in contributions raised for political races he never ran.

The complaints came about a month after the AJC reported that Oxendine’s campaign failed to return about $750,000 in contributions he received for the 2010 Republican gubernatorial runoff and general election — races the former commissioner never got a chance to run because he finished fourth in the GOP primary.

After questions were raised by the AJC, Oxendine filed an amended disclosure report showing the campaign had $500,000 left in the bank five years after he lost the 2010 primary. The ethics commission complaint says Oxendine improperly spent more than $208,000 raised for the runoff and primary even though he never actually ran those races.

Oxendine, a colorful and controversial political figure during his 16 years as Insurance Commissioner, didn’t back down after the new allegations were released.

“Seven years ago, a bunch of government staffers brought wild and unsubstantiated claims against my campaign,” he said Saturday. “After wasting hundreds of thousand of taxpayer dollars, they have refused to produce one shred of evidence or even allow the case to appear before a judge. If they never take the case to a judge, they never have the embarrassment of losing.

“In order to cover up and deflect from their previous acts of incompetence and wasteful government spending, they are now attempting to add new frivolous allegations in a case that has remained open for an unprecedented seven years without any evidence of wrongdoing whatsoever being presented on their part.”

The new allegations were tacked onto an existing complaint against the former commissioner and two insurance companies that accused Oxendine of accepting $120,000 in illegal contributions from the insurers. The case against the insurers, filed in 2009, was dismissed in 2014, largely because previous commission staffers had made so little progress on it. But more recent staffers have continued to work on the case against Oxendine for receiving the excess money.

The new charges in the complaint came after the commission audited Oxendine’s campaign accounts in response to the AJC’s report.

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About the Author

James Salzer has covered state government and politics in Georgia since 1990.