Saturday May 28th, 2016 12:11AM

Report: PAC with ties to Deal raises $459,000

By The Associated Press
ATLANTA - A political action committee with ties to Gov. Nathan Deal has raised at least $459,000 in the last two years while not being required to file state disclosure reports, according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Real PAC of Georgia drew donations largely from companies doing business with the state or having an interest in legislation, the newspaper reported Friday. Among the donors were companies vying to become the sole administrator of the state's taxpayer-subsidized health benefits program for hundreds of thousands of state employees and retirees, the article said.

It was not known how much the PAC has raised because they have not filed a disclosure report since early 2012. The newspaper reported that PACs do not have to file state disclosures unless they donate more than $25,000 to political candidates in a year and said it tracked the donations based on disclosures filed by contributors to the PAC.

Those connected to the PAC include Deal's business partner, Ken Cronan, who is listed as secretary, and Jim Walters, a major Deal donor from the governor's hometown of Gainesville who is listed as chairman. Also affiliated with the PAC is Rick Thompson, the former executive secretary of the state ethics commission who is listed as the treasurer.

The PAC's website shows a photo of Deal and his wife, Sandra, on stage at a campaign rally and says, ``With your help we can create a job friendly environment, better our children's education, and protect our conservative values. Join us today!'' Deal campaign materials in 2010 used the phrase ``Deal. Real.''

Thompson told the newspaper that the group, which was created in May 2011, has never supported candidates and was organized to get a political message out. The PAC will use the funds to pay for an advertising campaign starting in September that will promote the Republicans' agenda, the newspaper said.

The PAC also has not filed a federal disclosure, although Thompson said the group's activities are winding down and financial information will be released.

Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson, D-Tucker, said such secret political action committee spending is a cause for concern.

``It's a terrible way to run the American political system to allow large donors to contribute to campaigns and not have any limitations,'' Henson told the newspaper. ``If you have big special interests helping put people into office who are protecting their interests and not the public's interest, that's a problem. It's worse if the citizens can't see who is giving the money.''

Real PAC filed a state end-of-the-year campaign report in early 2012 showing it had raised $157,300 from nine donors during the final few weeks of 2011. Among those early donors was Georgia Crown Distributing Co., which gave $50,000. The company's chairman, Donald Leebern, is a major Deal campaign contributor and was reappointed to the university system's Board of Regents by the governor.

The website reported on the PAC last week.

Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution,
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