Barnes told commissioners during a hearing on Friday that he only registered as a lobbyist out of an abundance of caution in 2007 when working for a local government as a private attorney. He pointed out that the complaint was filed two weeks ahead of the 2010 gubernatorial election, which Barnes sought unsuccessfully as the Democratic nominee.
The ethics panel found that the law was somewhat unclear and relied on a prior advisory opinion that lawyers are not necessarily lobbyists.
The commission is expected to take up several other complaints Friday involving former and current officials, including Gov. Nathan Deal.