The state ethics commission has fined Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms $37,000 for campaign finance violations stemming from the 2017 mayoral runoff election.
Bottoms agreed to a settlement to pay the fine at the commission’s Jan. 7 meeting. The commission, also known as the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, fined Bottoms’ runoff opponent, Mary Norwood, $27,000 for similar violations in August.
According to a consent order, Bottoms was fined for two infractions: she “improperly accepted $6,900 in campaign donations which exceed maximum campaign contribution limits, a violation of OCGA 21-5-41(b)” and “improperly accepted $110,797 in campaign contributions when respondent failed to elect separate accounting as permitted by OCGA 21-5-43(a) and exceeded outstanding debt from the previous election cycle to which the contributions were allocated, a violation of OCGA 21-5-41(d) and 21-5-43(a).”
Bottoms also agreed to help the commission train other individuals running for municipal office on how to comply with the state’s campaign finance laws. She has not yet paid her fine but has 30 days to do so, said David Emadi, the commission’s executive secretary. Norwood has already paid her fine.
The investigations into both Bottoms and Norwood started in 2019 after Charlie Stadtlander, who worked as a senior advisor for both candidates’ campaigns in 2017, filed complaints against both candidates in December 2017, just before the runoff.
The investigation that followed the complaints alleged the candidates illegally received a combined $551,748 in over-the-limit donations during the campaign. According to letters the commission sent each candidate, Bottoms and Norwood are accused of going over the limit by $382,773 and $168,975, respectively.
Bottoms edged Norwood by about 820 votes in a campaign where the two candidates each received about $2 million in contributions. They advanced to the December runoff after leading a field of 10 candidates in the general election a month earlier.
Both candidates’ campaign records and related documents were subpoenaed by the commission as part of the investigation, but Bottoms initially did not cooperate with the organization, causing the resolution in her case to be delayed for several months. Emadi said he’s pleased the probes into both candidates have been closed.
“The investigation and now conclusion into all of the Atlanta mayoral candidates from 2017 is the result of hard work and diligent efforts by commission staff,” he said. “Though the investigation was initially delayed for a little over a year due to issues with the prior administration at the commission, upon my taking over at the commission in 2019 we have expediently, yet diligently, pursued bringing all of these cases to a close.
“In a perfect world these results occur overnight, but in reality they are often borne through hard work which takes time. The time it took to properly and fully investigate these cases notwithstanding, all members of the public should welcome the fact that these truths ultimately will come to public attention.”
An email sent to Bottoms’ office seeking comment on the fine was not immediately returned.