Cobb school board member David Chastain fined for campaign finance violation
Georgia campaign finance laws are in place to ensure compliance by elected officials of the laws that govern persons holding elected positions. Campaign finance violations of these laws can encompass a wide range of infractions, including failure to disclose contributions, exceeding contribution limits, or misusing campaign funds, among others. Enforcement actions depend on the specific circumstances and applicable laws in the relevant jurisdiction and are usually the result of an investigation.
Many politicians in Cobb find themselves on the wrong side of campaign finance laws as a result of an investigation that found wrongdoing. In Georgia finance laws, primary and general election donations are treated separately. A donor can give the maximum donation to a campaign for the primary, then again for the general, but must follow the applicable law in doing so. If they don’t’ follow the law, they will be fined for the violations that occurred.
Such is the case with Cobb County School Board Member David Chastain, who was ordered to pay a $250 civil penalty, as well as $2,500 in reimbursements to two campaign donors, for violating campaign finance related to donations received from Republican State Rep. Ginny Ehrhart and Jonathan Crumly, a lawyer at Taylor English Duma.
Chastain’s Democrat opponent in the general election, Catherine Pozniak, accused Republican Chastain of violating state law. She filed a complaint with the Georgia Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission in October 2022, less than three weeks before Election Day. Her complaint did not stop Chastian from being reelected to the Cobb school board.
Pozniak’s complaint alleged that two donations Chastain reported exceeded the $3,000 contribution limit. A donation of $5,000 from Ehrhart for $5,000, and the other from Crumly for $4,000.
The nexus of the relationship among the group is Crumly’s firm, Taylor English Decisions, which received work in 2011 from Cobb schools to redraw its school board district map, which is now the subject of a federal lawsuit. In addition, Ehrhart’s husband, Earl Ehrhart, is CEO of Taylor English Decisions, the consulting and lobbying arm of the law firm.
Amended finance reports submitted by Chastain after the May primary ended listed two donations from the Ehrhart campaign dated from late August, a $3,000 donation for the primary and a $2,500 donation for the general. His amended report also split the donations from Crumly into two $2,000 donations, one for the primary and one for the general, both dated from late August.
A June consent order issued by the commission ordered Chastain to refund Ehrhart $1,500 and to repay Crumly $1,000.
Chastain blamed his violations on campaign reporting software. He says he has paid the fine and reimbursed the donors.