Garrett Jamieson said he mailed complaints to the state ethics commission Monday, contending Cosby has violated Georgia campaign law by not registering the Canton T.E.A. Party or Georgians for Healthcare Freedom as political committees.
Jamieson alleges in the complaints each group collects money and spends it on their causes, making them subject to state ethics law requiring such organizations to be registered with the ethics commission and report financials. According to state law, groups using money to affect the outcome of an election — whether it is related to a candidate, referendum, recall or ballot question — must register as a committee and file financial disclosures.
Cosby, a 63-year-old Maine native and longtime critic of Cherokee government, said neither group has any reason to report to the state ethics commission. She said the complaints show her political opponents are “fishing” for something against her.
“They’re looking for something, but there’s nothing to be found,” said Cosby, who must turn in the signatures of nearly 6,000 registered county voters to elections officials by July 8 to make it on the ballot. “I’ve been waiting for them to make complaints. I knew they were going to. Anybody can make an accusation. These are unfounded accusations. They’re on a fishing expedition. They’re hoping to find some infraction; that’s all this is about.”
Cosby is the chair of the health care group, which made a name for itself with a statewide petition drive against the Affordable Care Act and supporting Georgia legislation against the federal law.
She was the longtime chair of the tea party group, but resigned before setting out to run against the Republican incumbent Ahrens as an independent. Jamieson says he was filing the complaint against her in the previous role with the group, as she only recently resigned.
Cosby questioned Jamieson’s political affiliations.
Jamieson, a BridgeMill resident, is an officer in the Cherokee County Democratic Party, but said he made the complaints as an individual outside of the party, as a concerned resident.
“The issues brought forth in these complaints transcend partisan politics and are of concern of all citizens of Cherokee County,” said Jamieson, who also filed complaints in September questioning the qualifications of three state Senate candidates. None of those complaints were upheld, though Jamieson elected not to proceed with one of them.
In the Canton T.E.A. Party complaint, Jamieson said Cosby collects money for membership fees and takes up donations at every monthly meeting.
“She expends money for each campaign she has launched with the costs for the group website, flyers she distributes, homemade signs, robo-calls, etc.,” Jamieson wrote in the complaint.
Cosby, though, said the tea party has no membership fees and takes in money only to cover expenses, such as email service and printer ink and paper.
“We basically maintain an account of about zero,” she said. “We just don’t raise money through the Canton T.E.A. Party, because if we were going to support campaigns, you would have to be a (political action committee), and we choose not to do that … There are certain rules that require you to report to the state, and we don’t conduct that kind of political activity.”
Asked about the robo-calls, Cosby said she did send out calls leading up to the May 20 primary, but didn’t pay for them with money from the tea party.
“I can do whatever I want as an individual, and I acted under the capacity as an individual,” she said.
In the health care group complaint, Jamieson accuses Cosby of raising money while collecting signatures for her drive against the Affordable Care Act. He attached a picture, which he said was Cosby sitting outside the post office in Dalton, with a glass jar asking for donations.
“Because she has not registered the group, she has not filed any reports, so there is no way for the public to know how much money she has raised, what expenses the group has paid for or if she has co-mingled funds given to one group that she could have used to support the mission of her other group,” the complaint says.
Cosby acknowledged Georgians for Healthcare Freedom takes donations.
“That money is for lobbying, but there was no issue on the ballot,” she said, referencing Georgia law. “We were lobbying on behalf of legislation. We were citizen lobbyists. We weren’t an official lobbying group.”
Jamieson’s accusations are the latest against Cosby, who was also connected to ethics complaints filed in 2012 by former Cherokee Commissioner Karen Bosch. One complaint was against Citizen’s Review and Recommendations Committee and one went after the Canton T.E.A. Party.
The state ethics commission found “probable cause” to send both complaints to the Attorney General’s Office for further investigation. Cosby’s name was removed from the CRRC complaint, though the commission plans to consider re-attaching her name at a later meeting. Neither complaint has been resolved because the state ethics commission lacks a staff attorney, officials said.
Holly LaBerge, executive director of the state ethics commission, said Monday she could give no timeline of when the new complaints would be addressed, though she said two attorneys were planned to start Tuesday. Cosby will have 30 days to respond before the commission begins to look into the complaints.