Political Insider

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Georgia 6th: Ethics complaint targets Handel fundraiser

A Democratic activist filed an ethics complaint this week that claimed a staffer for U.S. Sen. David Perdue violated campaign law by using his staff time and official title at a fundraiser for Republican Karen Handel in coastal Georgia.

The complaint sent to the Senate Ethics Committee highlights an invite for a May 15 Glynn County GOP social hour and Handel fundraiser that lists Sam Tostensen, a Perdue field representative, as a greeter. It was filed by Melissa Snyder-Pike of Marietta, a former Cobb County Democratic chair and supporter of Democrat Jon Ossoff.

"By using Mr. Tostensen's official Senate staff title to entice donors to contribute to Karen Handel's campaign," Pike wrote, "Senator Perdue and Mr. Tostensen have violated the longstanding rule against using official resources for campaign purposes."

Handel's campaign did not comment, and party officials say she wasn't at the social hour. Perdue's office said in a statement it was an "oversight error."

"This event was outside of official work hours and is nothing more than an oversight error on an invite by a local GOP for a social event," said the statement. "We expect the Ethics Committee will see this oversight for what it is, a simple mistake, and disregard this complaint."

Joe Wilkinson, an active member of the Glynn GOP and former chair of the Georgia House Ethics Committee, questioned the motive of the complaint.

"It appears to me to fe a frivolous complaint," he said. "Staffers have appeared at political events for as long as I can recall."

Field operatives are nonpartisan positions responsible for helping residents deal with federal agencies, such as securing help from Social Security and Medicare.

Handel and Ossoff are squaring off in a June 20 runoff to represent the 6th District, which spans from east Cobb to north DeKalb, that could be a bellwether for the 2018 midterms.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.