The State Ethics Commission has postponed approving an advisory opinion regarding $120,000 in questionable donations made to Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine’s campaign for governor.

After the Atlanta Journal-Constitution broke the story in May about the payments — made through 10 Alabama political action committees. Oxendine announced he would return the money. His attorney, Stefan Passantino, sought an explanation of the ethics law from the state commission. The commission also opened an investigation into the legality of the payments. A ruling is expected in late summer or the fall.

State law prohibits companies from giving money to the campaigns of officials that regulate them. In the advisory opinion, commission attorney Tom Plank wrote that PACs cannot serve as pass-throughs for a regulated company to get around the law. Passatino asked the commission to clarify whether candidates have to seek proof PAC money isn’t coming from a regulated company. He argued candidates shouldn’t have to do that, “unless there is some suspicion that is the case.”

In the Oxendine case, the two insurance companies, both headed by Rome, Ga. businessman Delos “Dee” Yancey III, sent $14,000 to each of 10 PACs all chaired by the son of a director of both companies. Those PACS had low balances at the beginning of 2008 and received no money except for the insurance company money. At the end of 2008, all 10 PACs made $12,000 payments into Oxendine’s campaign.

The commission is expected to add Passatino’s wording to its decision and then approve the opinion in coming weeks.

Atlanta Journal – Constitution