GOP Labor Commissioner candidate Bruce Thompson faces campaign finance complaint

A Buford, Georgia woman has filed a campaign finance complaint accusing Republican Labor Commissioner candidate Bruce Thompson of violating Georgia campaign finance laws. 

The FOX 5 I-Team examined the allegations and found Thompson spent some $35,000 from his old state Senate campaign for his current Labor Commissioner race.

Jeri Tyler has two loves: boarding and feeding her current horses and reminiscing about the former horse races she followed, political horse races.

"I had a newspaper, and I was around politics a lot," said Tyler 

Tyler was the heart and soul of the Hog Mountain Herald until 1996.

Reporter: "You were editor, publisher and owner?"

 Tyler: "Yup."  

Reporter: So, at heart you are a journalist?"

Tyler: ""Yup."

The former journalist is now stepping back into the political game she so loves. 

Tyler has filed a campaign finance complaint against a statewide candidate running for Georgia Labor Commissioner, Bruce Thompson. 

"I’m hoping the voters will have a chance to see what kind of person he is," Tyler said. 

Thompson has been a Republican State Senator out of White, Georgia since 2013. But, when Labor Commissioner Mark Butler announced he was retiring, Thompson decided to run for his seat.  

The I-Team first reported on then State Senator Thompson during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic

In March 2020, Senator Thompson posted a picture on Facebook, telling people he'd been rushed to an intensive care unit with respiratory failure.

He said he was diagnosed with COVID-19.

Thompson promised, on Facebook, on March 22, to "remain at home in self-quarantine for the immediate future."

Then Thompson drove to his beach house on St. George Island, off the coast of Florida. Thompson told people on Facebook he had a clean bill of health.

"The audacity of a man, who had this disease a few days ago, and came into a community that has been virus-free is irresponsible. I'm just beyond words," Franklin County Sheriff A.J. Smith said.

An outraged Florida sheriff, A.J. Smith, said he would post a deputy outside Thompson’s beach house to keep him inside and protect the local community.

Thompson decided to come home and never answered the FOX 5 I-Team’s questions about the incident. 

Now, Thompson faces criticism about how he is paying for his race for Georgia Labor Commissioner. Records that are easily found on the campaign finance website.

"If you know where to look it pops right up. Anybody could find it. Not just me. Anybody who wants to take the time and effort could do this," Tyler said.

Jeri Tyler’s complaint alleges Thompson has illegally used donations from his state Senate campaign for his labor commissioner race. 

The law seems pretty clear. A candidate can only use contributions for "that elected office for which those contributions were received" 

In other words, Thompson can't take money people gave him for his state senate campaign and use it to run for labor commissioner. 

"It looks clear the statute states one thing, and he’s doing another," said Dr. Adrienne Jones.

Jones is an assistant professor of political science at Morehouse College. FOX 5 asked her to review the complaint. She said it appears Thompson is violating the statute. She worries about the enormous amounts of money it takes to run campaigns in the modern political world, still.

"For an office like labor commissioner, or any elected office, what people are looking for is someone who is going to abide by the law. If it’s a violation of the rules, it is a violation which means he either does not know the law or is ignoring it consciously," said Jones.

When the I-Team reviewed Thompson’s campaign disclosures, it looks like he spent some $35,000 from his Senate account to pay three different people to work on his labor commissioner race.

"The point of the Labor Commissioner is to make sure Georgians are employed, so you don't want someone who isn't honest with money, isn't honest in their own business," said Jones.

Thompson did not want to do an interview but sent FOX 5 a statement calling the complaint a "baseless, last minute attack by a desperate opponent who has led the most ethically challenged and scandal plagued agency in Georgia."

When the I-Team wrote back asking point-blank why he used Senate campaign funds to pay for people working on his labor commissioner race, he referred it to his lawyer.

Jeri Tyler has a "Mike Coan for Labor Commissioner" sign in her front yard. He was deputy labor commissioner under Mark Butler and took a leave of absence to run for the job.

She said she filed the complaint because people in high places need to follow the law.  

Reporter: "Did you file this for him. Did you file this on his behalf?"

Tyler: "Not really. Not really. I’m doing this because I’m ready for our government to be clean."

FOX 5 never heard from Thompson's lawyer. Republican candidate Mike Coan wrote FOX 5 to say he's calling on Bruce Thompson to return the contributions he used from his Senate account to their rightful donors and take responsibility for his misuse of campaign funds.