LG candidate’s session fundraiser won’t violate law, ethics officials say

Country music star Jason Aldean will be performing at a fundraising event Feb. 19 in Athens for state Sen. Burt Jones's campaign for lieutenant governor.

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Country music star Jason Aldean will be performing at a fundraising event Feb. 19 in Athens for state Sen. Burt Jones's campaign for lieutenant governor.

The omicron COVID-19 variant convinced Republican lieutenant governor candidate and state Sen. Burt Jones that he should move a fundraiser featuring country music star Jason Aldean to next month.

The issue? Campaign finance law does not allow legislators to raise money during the legislative session, which started Monday.

But the concert, moved from Jan. 7 to Feb. 19 — right in the middle of the legislative session — would not violate campaign finance laws because Jones’ campaign said it stopped selling tickets last week, state ethics officials said. A link to purchase tickets was not working Friday.

Jones’ campaign said it confirmed with the ethics commission that moving the event would not violate any laws before rescheduling the event.

David Emadi, executive secretary of the state ethics commission, said the commission has also been told the campaign is not accepting contributions given after the start of the session for the event.

When asked whether the campaign is paying Aldean, a Macon native, for his appearance, a campaign spokesman didn’t answer, saying only “we’re going to be in full compliance on all ethics requirements.”

Emadi said a stripped down Aldean performance with a guitar and an amplifier would not violate campaign law. However, if Aldean holds a concert with a band, and Jones is not paying the musician, it would be a violation because it would amount to an in-kind contribution. Given Aldean’s going rate for performances, it would exceed the legal limit for donations.

“We’re excited to host Jason Aldean in Athens next month — with the ethics commission’s written approval — following Burt’s massive fundraising haul in his race for lieutenant governor,” Jones campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said.

Jones, a Republican from Jackson, said Friday that his campaign had raised $1.75 million from donors since he entered the race during the summer and loaned himself $2 million. His latest campaign finance report is not due until February.

“Everyone — except Burt’s competition, apparently — is looking forward to the event,” Lawson said.

Jones is squaring off against Senate President Pro Tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, and Republican activist Jeanne Seaver for the GOP nomination.

John Porter, a Miller campaign adviser, questioned the timing of the event and accused Jones of holding an illegal fundraiser. Miller’s campaign says he has raised about $3.35 million.

When asked for evidence that Jones was accepting donations during the session, Porter cited the event invitation for Feb. 19 that includes ticket prices — $7,800 for two VIP tickets and $2,500 for two general admission tickets.

“Burt is having a fundraising event during session,” Porter said. “Georgia law prohibits fundraising during session. It’s that simple.”

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