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Unofficial Opinion 94-2

Unofficial Opinion 94-2

January 21, 1994
To: 

Representative
District 100

Re: 

The Ethics in Government Act requires a campaign committee formed for the purpose of opposing a local option sales tax referendum to file a campaign contribution disclosure report; however, the Act does not compel each contributor to such a committee to file a separate disclosure report.

You have asked for my unofficial opinion concerning an interpretation of the Ethics in Government Act, O.C.G.A. § 21-5-1 et seq. ("the Act"). Your request stems from the following factual scenario. A committee is organized to oppose the adoption of a special local option sales tax in a local referendum. This campaign committee files a disclosure report showing a contribution to its effort made by a political body. You ask whether that political body must also file a disclosure report showing its contributions because of its particular expenditure made to the local campaign committee.

There is no question that the Act mandates that any "campaign committee which accepts contributions or makes expenditures designed to bring about the approval or rejection by the voters of any proposed question which is to appear on the ballot in any county or municipal election" must file a campaign contribution disclosure report with the Secretary of State if contributions received or expenditures made exceed $500.00. O.C.G.A. § 21-5-34(a)(2)(A). A "campaign committee" is defined to include "any person or any committee which accepts contributions or makes expenditures designed to bring about the

approval or rejection by the voters of . . . a proposed question which is to appear on the ballot in any county or municipal election." O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(2).

Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 21-5-34 details disclosures which must be made by candidates or campaign committees which accept contributions or make expenditures. Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 21-5-31 mandates similar disclosure requirements for any person who "accepts contributions for, makes contributions to, or makes expenditures on behalf of candidates." (Emphasis added). The term "candidate" is defined in O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(4) and includes only individuals seeking nomination or election to public office, not a campaign committee. Therefore, nothing in O.C.G.A. § 21-5-31 would require a contributor to a campaign committee formed for the purpose of opposing a local option sales tax referendum to file a campaign contribution disclosure report.

You have suggested that a political body which contributes to a campaign committee designed to oppose a local referendum may itself become a "campaign committee" as defined by the Act. I do not believe the current language contained in the Act supports such a conclusion. Official Code of Georgia Annotated § 21-5-34(a)(2) requires contributor and expenditure disclosures for those campaign committees which are formed for the express purpose of supporting or defeating a local ballot question. There is nothing in that Code Section or in O.C.G.A. § 21-5-31 which also requires contributors to these committees to make such disclosures. A contributor to a campaign committee does not by making such contribution become transformed into another "campaign committee" as defined by O.C.G.A. § 21-5-3(2). If the General Assembly desires to require such additional disclosures, it could extend O.C.G.A. § 21-5-31 to require the report of contributions made to campaign committees as well as those made to candidates.

Therefore, it is my unofficial opinion that the Ethics in Government Act requires a campaign committee formed for the purpose of opposing a local option sales tax referendum to file a campaign contribution disclosure report; however, the Act does not compel each contributor to such a committee to file a separate disclosure report.

Prepared by:

MARK H. COHEN
Senior Assistant Attorney General