On Friday, District 3 Commissioner Karen Bosch mailed a complaint against the Canton Tea Party Patriots and the Cherokee Tea Party Patriots, alleging they are not registered with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission as an independent committee. Bosch’s original complaint filed last month against the organizations was tossed out because there wasn’t sufficient information, according to state ethics officials.
In the latest complaint, Bosch alleges the Cherokee Tea Party Patriots have been collecting money and using the funds to convince voters to reject the upcoming sales tax referendum to fund regional transportation projects. She also alleges the Canton Tea Party Patriots, chaired by Carolyn Cosby of Ball Ground, Review and Recommendations Committee to Assist County Government chairwoman, has been raising money to influence voters on which candidates to support in upcoming local elections.
Bosch said the organizations are not registered with the state as independent committees, thus voters are not able to account for how the organizations are using the money they are raising.
Bosch, who is not running for re-election to the commission, said she believes her complaint has merit.
“There’s certainly ample evidence to show that the members of this local organization have supported candidates and continue to support candidates,” she said.
She said it’s only fair to voters to know “who these people are” when they are considering which local candidates to support and if they should approve the upcoming transportation referendum. She also said it’s the local tea party’s “responsibility as citizens activists group to do things responsibly.”
“They need to be willing to show who they are and where they get their money,” she said.
According to state law, independent committees are ones that make “independent expenditures,” or an expense that “expressly advocates the election or defeat of a clearly identified candidate, but which is made independently of any candidate’s campaign.” Committees are required to register with the state before collecting or spending contributions.
Holly LaBerge, director of the commission, said her office has not received the complaint yet.
Once the commission receives the complaint, it will send out a notification to both the complainant and respondent notifying them of the ethics charge. LaBerge said the respondent has 30 days to respond to the allegations and once that’s complete, the investigation into the allegations can begin.
Bosch provided the Tribune with copies of examples of what she believes proves her case and that she sent to the state as part of her complaint. One example shows a double-sided flier and lists the Cherokee Tea Party Patriots at the top of the flier.
It also lists the organization’s mission, its contact information, when and where it meets and the reasons why voters should vote down the proposed 1 percent sales tax to be used to fund regional transportation projects.
On the bottom of the flier she provided, voters are encouraged to visit www.traffictruth.net to find out the facts and how to proceed with the TSPLOST referendum.
Bosch also shared another example of what she believes is Cosby’s review and recommendations committee’s preference for the challenger in the Cherokee County Commission District 2 race.
In a flier that is said to have been produced by Cosby’s review and recommendations committee, the flier, towards the bottom. says: “Who is the Tea Party Favorite? Channing Ruskell Post 2.”
Ruskell is challenging incumbent Jim Hubbard for the seat, which represents southeast Cherokee County.
The flier also contains newspaper headlines from the Tribune and the Cherokee Ledger-News regarding the controversial Ball Ground Recycling lease agreement and says: “Jim Hubbard must be replaced.”
Cosby criticized Bosch’s complaint, saying it was a shameful attempt by Bosch to silence free speech.
Cosby said Bosch has no evidence of wrongdoing and “it looks like to me” that Bosch is speaking on behalf of the county commission.
“If she’s not a spokesman for the other commissioners, then they should be condemning what she’s doing,” she said. “It looks to me like they are trying to silence citizens’ voices.”
Cosby said the county commissioners all support the TSPLOST and want to “silence their opposition.” Cosby said that as a private citizen, she has been outspoken in how she feels about issues and candidates as “that’s my constitutional right to do so.”
Conrad Quagliaroli, chairman of the Woodstock-based Cherokee Tea Party Patriots, said Bosch was, “as usual, off-base.”
“I do not collect money for candidates or causes, only to pay the expense of our chapter,” he said.
Both Quagliaroli and Cosby said the donations they collect help run their operations. Cosby said her organization has been trying to raise money for office supplies and Quagliaroli said the money he raises also goes toward office supplies and sign makings.
The signs this year, he said, will say “Send a message this year. Vote conservative.”
Cosby said her chapter has not endorsed candidates, but did say they have tea party favorites. That ranking, she said, is reserved for candidates who are members of the tea party and attend meetings on a regular basis.
“We have a right as a group to speak out and we will do that,” she said, adding the organization will not tell voters how to vote.