Opponent accuses Cobb BOE chair of campaign finance violations
The race between an incumbent Cobb County School Board member and his challenger is heating up with allegations of campaign finance violations.
Why it matters: Whomever wins the contest between incumbent Republican David Chastain and Democratic challenger Catherine Pozniak will determine which party will control the Board of Education.
Driving the news: Pozniak on Monday filed a complaint with the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission alleging her opponent accepted campaign contributions that exceeded the $3,000 threshold and did not differentiate between primary and general election donations.
- In her complaint obtained by Axios, Pozniak says Chastain's original Sept. 30 fundraising report shows he accepted $5,500 from the campaign of State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart and $4,000 from an attorney who works for Taylor English Duma, the law firm hired by the board to redraw its boundaries.
- In an amended version of the same report, the filing shows both contributions were broken up to reflect they were below the threshold and given during the primary or general election cycles.
- Pozniak also says Chastain is using two unregistered committees to solicit donations.
Be smart: Campaign contribution limits for General Assembly, county and municipal races are $3,000 for primary and general elections and $1,600 for runoffs.
What they're saying: Pozniak argued in a press release that Chastain is "well aware" of Georgia's campaign finance laws.
- "David Chastain's disregard for campaign finance laws raises serious questions about his leadership and conduct as chairman of the Cobb County Board of Education," she said.
The other side: Chastain said Thursday in a press release that Pozniak's complaint is "baseless and politics at its worst."
- "Only a frantic candidate would make such groundless and inaccurate claims while ignoring the real facts," he said.
- Chastain also said he retained former state ethics commission chairman Jake Evans, who is quoted as saying the board chairman "fully complied with state campaign finance laws."
Yes, but: Eric Teusink, an attorney who has prior experience with campaign finance law and no affiliation with Pozniak's bid, told Axios if the issues raised in the complaint are true, then "there are certainly multiple violations of Georgia campaign finance law that have occurred.”
- "To me, it just looks like sloppy compliance and or legal work is happening here," he said. "And getting this type of compliance work and campaign finance work done isn't cheap. It's time-consuming and so you'll see issues like this arise."
Of note: Haley Barrett, the commission's communications director, told Axios that since the election is less than 30 days away, the body won't accept or reject the complaint until after Nov. 8.
Meanwhile, Chastain is also being criticized for his campaign sending emails to the official email accounts of Cobb County School District employees. One Cobb educator showed Axios an email sent from Chastain's campaign to her work account that she says she did not sign up for.
- While there are laws against school district employees using public resources (including emails) to engage in political activity, William Perry of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs told Axios there are no statutes on the books that regulate which email people receive.
- "But optics-wise, political strategy-wise, is it a good idea? I don't think so," he said. "You're raising the question of whether or not you're trying to use your position as a board member over those employees to try to influence them for support."
Editor's note: This story has been updated to include a statement from David Chastain.
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