ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - The State Ethics commission found probable cause that former Insurance Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine violated campaign finance laws.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign finance commission, formerly known as the Ethics Commission accused Oxendine of spending more than $200,000 of campaign money for personal needs.
Oxendine's attorney argued it was a loan and his client repaid it with interest.
“The money went directly to his home for adown payment,” said Ethics Commission prosecutor Robert Lane.
During the hearing, Lane tried to convince Ethics commissioners that former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine used campaign money from a 2010 failed run for Governor to buy a house and pay for other personal expenses.
“What house was purchased? Mr. Oxendine's primary residence in Fulton county,” said Lane.
John Oxendine was in his 30's when he burst onto the Georgia political scene. He was elected Georgia's Insurance Commissioner 4 consecutive terms, and then ran for Governor.
In 2010 Nathan Deal won the Republican primary in a run off and was eventually elected Governor. Oxendine finished back in the pack. That run for Governor led to one of two ethics complaints Oxendine is still battling today.
The commission accused Oxendine of taking illegal campaign contributions, diverting campaign money for his personal use, and spending money he raised for political races he never ran in.
“Our contention is these are not loans, they are purely for personal assets,” said Lane.
Lane argued Oxendine moved $237,000 during a two-year period from his campaign account to an account in his personal law firm. Lane argued $96,500 of that money was for a down payment on Oxendine's home. As for the rest, Lane said were used as payments for a Mercedes and Jaguar, IRA contributions, and the Atlanta Athletic club, and day care for a minor child.
“Loans are permitted under the act, they are investments,” countered Oxendine’s attorney, Doug Chalmers.
Chalmers argued the money was purely a loan from the campaign to the law firm and that campaign finance laws allow loans. He pointed out Oxendine paid the money back with interest.
“The campaign got nine thousand dollars of interest from these loans,” said Lane.
Lane told commissioners Oxendine never mentioned a loan on his earlier campaign reports and had no intention of paying back his campaign until an Atlanta Journal Constitution investigation raised questions and the Ethics Commission sued him.
“This is Mr. Oxendine saying trust me, I promise it’s a loan,” said Lane.
The commission found probable cause that Oxendine violated campaign finance laws and the case now heads to an administrative law judge for what is essentially a bench trial.
The commission also found probable cause that Oxendine accept campaign donations from 10 PACS, all connected to one man, that exceeded campaign donation limits.