Citing insufficient evidence, the Alabama Ethics Commission has dismissed a complaint filed against Attorney General Steve Marshall accusing him of campaign finance violations.
In a 3-2 split, the commission voted to toss the charges, which originated from a complaint filed by Marshall’s 2018 Republican primary opponent, former Attorney General Troy King.
The allegations centered around a $750,000 donation Marshall’s campaign received from the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), a federal political action committee that donates to Republican candidates across the country.
As a tax-exempt organization organized under Section 527 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code — often referred to as a “dark money” group — RAGA does not disclose its donors.
The problem with the $750,000 donation, according to King’s complaint, was that RAGA accepts PAC-to-PAC donations, which Alabama’s Fair Campaign Practices Act has prohibited since 2010 in order to prevent the sources of large contributions from being obscured.
When the donation was first reported this summer, Marshall’s campaign argued the prohibition wouldn’t apply to federal PACs set up outside the state. His opponents argued state law defines a PAC the same way whether they’re formed in-state or out-of-state.
Ethics Commission Director Tom Albritton was also cited in statewide reports saying he’d advised other candidates accepting that type of donation that it wouldn’t be legal under state law.
Following public scrutiny, Marshall’s predecessor — former Attorney General Luther Strange — returned a $50,000 donation from RAGA in 2014. Marshall’s campaign declined to do the same.
On Wednesday, the ethics commission members Beverly Brady and former circuit judge Charles Price voted against dismissing the complaint against Marshall. However, the dismissal found the needed majority in members Jerry Fielding, Frank Ellis and John Plunk.