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Agency faults Georgia lawmaker over missing campaign reports

ATLANTA (AP) – A high-ranking Georgia state lawmaker says she is working to file two years of missing campaign finance records after the state ethics commission decided earlier this month that there is probable cause to believe she broke the law.

Rep. Erica Thomas, a Mableton Democrat, could be fined at a later date following a hearing before the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that it found at least $ 33,000 in unreported contributions to Thomas in a search of contribution records.

Thomas is the vice chairwoman of the Democratic Party’s House Caucus.

Thomas, who did not attend the meeting, said that an accounting firm on Tuesday began working with the commission to get her filings up to date. Since Tuesday, several reports were filed or updated. According to the filings, for finances reported so far between June 2018 and January 2020, Thomas has raised about $ 46,000 and spent about $ 43,000 on her campaigns in those years.

Because Thomas’ filings come within the 30 days after the commission found grounds to believe the law has been broken, she will be allowed to negotiate a fine settlement. Filing the missing reports does not settle the case, commission Executive Director David Emadi said.

“Just because she’s filing things now doesn’t excuse the violations that occurred,” he said.

Of the contributions Thomas received, about $ 16,000 were from 25 different political action committees, commission attorney Janene Browder said.

Browder also said that Thomas has held campaign fundraising events with other state representatives but did not report any contributions or expenses related to those events. Another unreported expense is maintaining a campaign website, Browder said.

Thomas also is facing another set of charges from 2019 for not filing some financial disclosures and campaign contribution reports and filing others late, dating to 2016. According to the state ethics commission’s website, she currently owes $ 875 in fees for missing seven filing deadlines.

She has paid $ 875 in fees for missing deadlines beginning in 2014 during her first campaign.

Thomas, who is Black, drew national headlines last year when she posted a video on social media after a man berated her for having too many items in the quick checkout lane of a grocery store and she said he told her to “go back” to where she came from. The man denied making the statement, and Thomas later appeared to hedge her comments by saying he made “those types of references.”

Thomas defeated Democratic opponent Terry Cummings, who filed the 2018 complaint that was heard last year, in the June primary. She will face Republican Jim Hickey in November.

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