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State & Regional Govt & Politics
Feds seize $80,000 from indicted insurance commissioner’s campaign
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Feds seize $80,000 from indicted insurance commissioner’s campaign

Feds seize $80,000 from indicted insurance commissioner’s campaign
Jim Beck was suspended in May from his job as commissioner of the Georgia Insurance Department after federal charges were filed against him. EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com

Feds seize $80,000 from indicted insurance commissioner’s campaign

Federal officials seized $80,000 from the campaign account of suspended Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck, who is accused of stealing from his employer in part to fund his race for office in 2018.

That seizure was contained in a campaign finance report Beck filed Monday with the state ethics commission, paperwork that also showed he was raising big money from insurance interests days before he was indicted.

The seizure is being contested by Beck’s lawyers, and the feds did not close out his campaign account. According to his disclosure, Beck still had $171,000 left in his account as of June 30.

The federal government in mid-May unveiled a 38-count indictment accusing Beck of developing an elaborate scheme to steal $2 million from his former employer. At least some of the money, federal prosecutors say, went to fund his campaign for insurance commissioner.

Beck denied the accusations but asked Gov. Brian Kemp to suspend him from office so he could devote his time to fighting the charges. While suspended, he continues to be paid his $120,000-a-year state salary. John King, a former longtime Doraville police chief, took over for Beck as acting commissioner last week.

Beck put about $1 million into the race, largely self-funding his Republican primary victory.

Once he won the primary, checks from insurers came rolling in, including from people such as former Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, who paid for a fundraiser. At least nine board members of the company he is accused of defrauding, the Georgia Underwriting Association, also donated, mostly after the primary.

Among those board members were then-Gwinnett County state Sen. David Shafer — now chairman of the state Republican Party — and then-state Rep. Rick Golick, a lawyer for Allstate Insurance and a longtime Smyrna legislator.

Federal prosecutors say the scheme continued into last summer, at least two months after Beck won the primary but before the general election, when he beat insurance agent Janice Laws, a Democrat, by 3 percentage points. Beck spent about $27 for every $1 Laws did running for insurance commissioner.

Beck was legally prohibited from raising money during the 2019 General Assembly session, but he picked up where he left off collecting checks in April and early May, until a few days before his indictment. His reports shows he raised $93,250 in a little over a month, much of it from those in the insurance business.

Among his biggest donors was Oxendine, who used $14,000 in campaign money he had left over from his 2010 race for governor to give to Beck. That donation came May 10. Beck was indicted on May 14, and the U.S. Marshals Service seized some of Beck’s campaign money that day.

Oxendine’s contributions were the maximum donation he could give Beck for the 2022 primary and general elections, races the suspended commissioner may never run. Oxendine, who has been fighting state ethics commission complaints for a decade, had previously contributed about $15,000 to Beck.

Among other charges, one of the complaints filed against Oxendine is that he’s used leftover campaign money illegally for personal gain.

Stay on top of what’s happening in Georgia government and politics at www.ajc.com/politics.

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