Call it an uncanny convergence of news events. On the eve of former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy’s civil trial, the man who helped him slip the government’s noose four years ago is again making headlines, but this time it might be Donald Watkins who’s in trouble.
A report Sunday in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that Watkins helped direct $120,000 from two insurance companies to the campaign of Georgia gubernatorial candidate John Oxendine.
Georgia campaign finance law is much more strict than the loosey-goosey Alabama regulations that let campaign financiers here get away with almost anything. Georgia law limits contributions to $12,200 from a single source. It also prohibits donors from using political action committees to skirt that limit by breaking up large donations into multiple, smaller ones. What’s more, Georgia law prohibits public officials from taking campaign donations from companies they regulate.
According to the AJC, the $120,000 of donations came from two insurance companies based in Rome, Ga. — Admiral Life Insurance Co. of America and State Mutual Insurance. Watkins serves on the board of directors of both companies, which are both led by a close business associate, Delos “Dee” Yancey III. Yancey’s father helped Watkins start Alamerica Bank here in Birmingham.
As the Georgia insurance commissioner, Oxendine regulated both companies.
The $120,000 was divvied among 10 Birmingham-based PACs, which later donated $120,000 to Oxendine’s campaign.
Watkins told the AJC that the donations to Oxendine came from multiple sources as the law requires. Oxendine denied knowing the payments could have come from insurance companies he regulates.