The AJC has uncovered a political fund with ties to House Speaker David Ralston stuffed with undisclosed donations from tobacco, title loan and pharmaceutical companies, among others. BOB ANDRES / BANDRES@AJC.COM

Secretive political fund tied to House Speaker Ralston

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has found a secretive political fund with ties to House Speaker David Ralston, a longtime advocate for transparency in political spending.

The fund, called the Ralston Conservative Leadership Fund, registered with the IRS two years ago but never disclosed its donors or how the money was spent until the AJC discovered it.

The fund collected at least $67,500 in contributions from a series of corporate interests with large lobbying presences at the State Capitol. Contributors include:

  • Alpharetta-based title loan company Select Management Resources ($25,000)
  • Pharmaceutical company Pfizer ($17,500)
  • Tobacco giant Altria ($10,000)
  • AT&T ($5,000)
  • The Georgia Auto Dealers Association ($5,000)
  • Georgia (Beer) Wholesalers for Better Government ($5,000)


Federal law requires groups like the Ralston Conservative Leadership Fund to annually disclose its donors. James McDonald, an Atlanta lawyer who works for the group, said the disclosure was not made due to “an administrative oversight.”

The fund is not registered with the state ethics commission at all. McDonald said it never met the threshold to require disclosure.

In a statement released Thursday, Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, put the fund in context with a bitter primary fight he had in 2014.

“Two years ago, undisclosed dollars from anonymous donors poured into my district and helped my opponent mount a bitter campaign of lies and distortions,” he said. “While any candidate knows politics can be a brutal, I was disheartened that certain groups were not subject to the same disclosure requirements as was my campaign.”

Ralston said he would continue to push from “greater transparency and a level playing field.”

“I am confident that those responsible for the RCLF will bear this philosophy in mind as they consider future actions because I do agree that it is important to set an example,” he said.

Read more about the fund in this week’s AJC Watchdog by clicking here.

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