Alabama Oxendine contributors reject Georgia subpoenas

By Camerion McWhirter
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
February 15, 2010

Ten Alabama political action committees, found last year to have funneled insurance company money to Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine’s campaign for governor, have rejected subpoenas from the Georgia State Ethics Commission.

Michael Waters, a Birmingham attorney for Alamerica Bank, where the PACs are located, wrote the commission last week that the commission did not have jurisdiction over the bank.

“The bank questions whether subpoenas issued by an agency in a state other than Alabama is a proper, lawful subpoena issued on the Bank,” he wrote.

The State Ethics Commission responded Monday by directing the Georgia attorney general’s office to pursue the subpoenas – which seek financial records -- by seeking an order from an Alabama court.

“We’d like to do that pronto,” said Chairman James Gatewood.

Last May, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that two Rome, Ga. insurance companies – State Mutual Insurance Co. and Admiral Life Insurance Co. – sent checks to the 10 PACS. The insurance companies are both headed by the same CEO, Delos “Dee” Yancey III. The PACs are administered by the son of Donald V. Watkins, the head of the bank who also sits on the board of both insurance companies. The bank also once was co-owned by Yancey’s father.

Most of the PACs had little or no money in their accounts before the infusion of cash.

Once the payments were made from the insurance companies, the PACs each sent $12,000 – a total of $120,000 -- to Oxendine’s campaign. The money was all sent in the same amounts and on the same dates from all the PACs.

Georgia’s Ethics-in-Government Act prohibits officials from taking money directly from companies they regulate. The law also prohibits funneling money through multiple PACs to get around contribution limits of $12,200 per candidate in a normal election cycle.

At the time, Oxendine said, “I had no knowledge it came from an insurance company.”

After the first AJC story on the PACs, Oxendine’s campaign returned the money and the State Ethics Commission opened a probe.

Yancey, whom Oxendine describes as a friend, is a major player in the insurance industry. Oxendine and Yancey often spend time together. Oxendine has gone on hunted trips as Yancey’s guest in Mexico and Georgia. Oxendine repeatedly has appointed Yancey chair of the Georgia Life & Health Guaranty Association, a state-created organization that pays claims when insurance companies become insolvent.

Yancey’s companies have been major contributors to the Georgia Republican Party, and in 2006, Gov. Sonny Perdue appointed him to the board of governors of the Georgia World Congress Center. The center oversees the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta.

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