Former state Sen. Don Balfour, right, with attorney Robert Highsmith, in 2012 heads down the steps to the Senate mezzanine meeting room for an ethics hearing. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM
Photo: Bob Andres
Photo: Bob Andres

Ethics complaint accuses ex-Georgia pol of funding dark-money group

A Georgia ethics watchdog is preparing complaints against a group that is funding campaign advertisements targeting Republican lieutenant governor candidate David Shafer, as well as the ex-lawmaker he says is behind the ads.

William Perry said he plans to file the complaints Wednesday, a little less than a week before Shafer, a state senator, faces former state Rep. Geoff Duncan in the July 24 Republican runoff for lieutenant governor.

Perry, who runs Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, alleges that former state Sen. Don Balfour of Snellville cycled funds through a dark-money political action committee to run attack ads against Shafer, a longtime state senator.

Perry accuses Balfour of providing money to Citizens for a Working America, which has been, in turn, funding the Washington-based Hometown Freedom Action Network.

Balfour told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution he doesn’t know anything about the groups mentioned in Perry’s complaints.

“I would suggest he needs to be very careful because I’m no longer a public figure,” Balfour said. “He starts saying certain things and I’ll start suing his behind.”

The Hometown Freedom Action Network has run ads that refer to “Shady David Shafer” and allege he is being sued on accusations of conspiracy, used his political position to get rich and used his power to shut down a sexual harassment investigation against him.

Shafer has denied all of the claims.

The Hometown group reported raising $1.48 million as of early May, all but $10,000 of which came from the dark-money Citizens for a Working America PAC.

Balfour, who lost a re-election bid in 2014 after serving more than two decades in the General Assembly, last filed a campaign disclosure report in January 2016. It showed he still had $630,000 in his account. The state ethics commission’s website said he did not file required reports in 2017 and 2018, and that he owes $2,750 in late fees for not filing.

Former lawmakers must file campaign disclosure reports until all the money in their accounts is dispersed and they file termination reports.

Balfour said his campaign account has been dormant since he left office.

“If my people haven’t filed, then I need to file,” he said.

Perry said in his complaint, “I cannot provide proof that Balfour provided this funding because the former senator has not filed campaign disclosure reports in several years.”

Perry also said he believes Citizens for a Working America should be treated as a state independent committee, saying all the money contributed to the Hometown Freedom Action Network has been spent on anti-Shafer ads.

That means it would have to file state campaign reports as well.

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Staff writer James Salzer contributed to this article.