A newly appointed Clarke County Board of Education member never disclosed what he did with $100,000 he reported raising to run for mayor in 2018, and is under investigation for potentially violating federal campaign finance law as well.
Antwon Stephens raised money to run against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) this year despite being ineligible to serve in Congress because he won’t turn 25, the minimum age, until June of 2021. When Collins became President Trump’s chief defender in the House impeachment hearings, actress Alyssa Milano and prosecutor-turned-pundit Preet Bharara tweeted links to Stephens’ ActBlue fundraising account to their millions of followers.
According to a letter from the Federal Election Commission to Stephens’ campaign treasure, Ty Kelley, dated Jan. 26, he failed to file a statement of organization in a timely fashion. In addition, he has not filed any reports disclosing his campaign’s donors and expenses, although the most recent deadline was Friday.
Stephens also did not file any campaign finance disclosures for his mayoral campaign since Jan. 31, 2018, the Athens-Clarke County Board of Elections confirmed. In that report, Stephens stated he had raised $102,396 and had $88,695 on hand.
He dropped out of the race before the qualifying period in March 2018, but state law requires unsuccessful candidates to keep filing campaign finance disclosures until they’ve spent or given all the money away, then file a form terminating their campaign. Leftover funds can be kept for a future race, given to another candidate or a political party, used to pay back campaign debt or donated to charity.
The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission could fine Stephens for every filing deadline he missed, according to William Perry of Georgia Ethics Watchdogs, who frequently files complaints with the commission.
“This is a big problem,” Perry said. “For somebody to have raised campaign funds and not said what they ever did with the money is a complete violation. And now this person is in a position of trust.”
Stephens announced he was dropping out of the 9th Congressional District race upon being appointed to the school board Jan. 16. After the board selected Stephens from among four applicants to serve out the last year of Frances Berry’s term representing District 2, Stephens said on Twitter that he would donate his campaign funds to Devin Pandy, another Democratic candidate. Pandy has not responded to a request for comment.
Stephens has been a perennial candidate since he was a teenager. In the past he’s filed paperwork to run for Congress, state representative and governor, despite legally being too young to hold office. He was also accused of theft by deception in 2013, when a speaker at a tea party conference Stephens organized as a 17-year-old filed a police report alleging that Stephens owed her a $10,000 speaking fee and travel expenses. A search of court records turned up no indication of how that case was resolved. Flagpole has reached out to the speaker, conservative pundit Crystal Wright.
Friday, it came to light that Stephens did not graduate from Cedar Shoals High School, according to the student newspaper BluePrints, despite telling the school board that he was “Cedar Shoals class of 2014.” However, the board has said it doesn’t plan to take any action.
“While the unfolding of events and information is not optimal, it is not a legal disqualifier,” according to a statement from BOE President LaKeisha Gantt issued over the weekend. “Being a high school graduate is not a requirement for serving on the Board of Education and the Affidavit signed does not contain any representation about being a graduate. Therefore, this revelation does not change his eligibility for the office. Additionally, the Board of Education did its due diligence by having Mr. Stephens sign the qualifications affidavit before being sworn in.”
Stephens told Flagpole that he plans to issue a press release Friday regarding the recent controversies, including his campaign finances, and is not giving interviews until then.