Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 18, 2012


Charlie Boy is a 46-pound, young Golden Retriever available for adoption from Angels Among Us Rescue.

The Cobb County Animal Shelter is packed after 63 dogs were turned in on a single day last week.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

On Saturday, Governor Nathan Deal was the keynote speaker in Rome, GA at the Georgia Honors Iraq War Veterans event.

“I know we live in a world where it doesn’t appear that the rest of the world appreciates the sacrifice that the United States of America makes on their behalf, as well as on our own behalf, but I can tell you in my travels, in my contacts with people around the rest of the world, they truly understand that the only real bastion of freedom, the only protector of liberty is the United States military,” Deal said to thunderous applause.

During his remarks, Deal called Gold Star Mother Jan Johnson, whose son Justin Johnson was killed in Iraq, to the podium where he presented her with a proclamation declaring June 16, 2012, Celebrate Iraq Veterans and Families Day in the state of Georgia.

“Justin is a Georgia hero; he is an American hero and his service will not be forgotten, nor will we forget your loss,” Deal said.

Deal used the occasion to make a plea for business leaders in the audience to remember that thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq, and many will soon return from Afghanistan, in need of a job.

The Rome News-Tribune also has video of the event.

On Friday, the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission had a full plate before it, but left some for July.

dismissed the complaint against former Democratic Governor Roy Barnes.

In 2007, Barnes was representing a client before a local zoning board and determined that the broad wording of state ethics law could determine that to be lobbying. He registered as a lobbyist, but before filing any disclosure reports he received an advisory opinion from the commission clarifying the law: He did not have to register. If he was not required to register, Barnes said, how could he have been required to file lobbyist reports?

The Commission also accepted a consent order by the lobbyist, Christopher Brady who took Speaker David Ralston to Europe in 2010.

Brady’s attorney, Stefan Passantino, said the state’s ethics law in effect at the time did not consider Brady’s expenditure on Ralston’s trip to be lobbying. He and the commission had a lengthy discussion about what constitutes lobbying as the law apparently limits it specifically to an attempt to influence an elected official about legislation.

Passantino said no legislation regarding mag-level trains was before the General Assembly at the time.

The Commission voted unanimously to find probable cause that John Oxendine’s campaign violated the Ethics in Government Act in 2010 when it accepted contributions over the individual contribution limit from a number of Alabama Political Action Committees whose funding originated with a single individual.

Oxendine attorney Stefan Passantino did not dispute that his client’s campaign accepted contributions from 10 political action committees and two Rome-based insurance companies that used the PACs in 2008 to funnel $120,000 to Oxendine’s campaign.

Instead, Passantino argued that the law placed an unfair burden on the campaign to know that the contributions were all linked to the same individuals and organizations.

Finally the Commission deferred taking action on complaints against Governor Deal and his 2010 campaign.

A second member of the Commission has referred to lawsuits by the former executive director and her assistant as “frivolous.”

Dunwoody City Council member Adrian Bonser will be the first public official charged before the city’s ethics board.

 

In a May 29 letter, Dunwoody City Council submitted a formal letter of complaint to the Board of Ethics against Bonser. The letter, signed by the mayor and the other five members of the council, alleges that Bonser violated sections of Dunwoody’s city charter and code of ethics, and lists as evidence the report of an investigation commissioned by the mayor.

“There should be a presumption of innocence and it has not been that way with certain council members [in this case],” Bonser said. “I think the entire investigation was a completely emotional and knee-jerk reaction and a poor use of taxpayer dollars.”

The council held executive sessions in late January and early February to discuss what is now known as “Project Renaissance,” a public-private partnership with John Wieland Homes and Neighborhoods to develop 35 acres in the Georgetown area into homes, shops, parks and a possible municipal complex.

After information from the meetings was leaked to a blogger and a newspaper, Mayor Mike Davis brought in former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to investigate the leak. Wilson’s report concludes Bonser and then-City Attorney Brian Anderson shared the information. Both have denied being the source of a leak.

Anderson resigned when faced with the threat of termination. On May 29, the council approved a separation agreement that provides him with two months’ severance pay.

Muscogee County Coroner Bill Thrower, who was bounced from the ballot after the check written by his wife bounced, is appealing the decision.

Supporters of the Fulton Science Academy contributed to Senator John Albers’s campaign, shockingly because he also supported Fulton Science Academy’s charter being renewed. This is seriously a news story, AJC? Tuck your agenda in, it’s showing.

Backers of Ron Paul for President will continue to show up to Republican events until it’s actually time to elect a President in their quixotic quest for a nomination their candidates has given up on.

Ron Paul has given up on becoming president, but loyal supporters are promising to promote the libertarian-leaning Texas congressman’s principles at the Republican national convention this summer, a potential complication for Mitt Romney’s goal of a peaceful coronation.

Paul backers have taken over state Republican conventions Nevada and Maine, and had a strong showing this weekend in Iowa, aiming to increase their voice and clout at the nominating convention in Tampa, Fla.

“We want to send Ron Paul-inspired folks to that convention to show we’re not going away,” says Iowa Republican David Fischer, a top Paul backer in the state.

Georgia atheists are organizing a group to lobby the General Assembly. Now the term “godless lobbyist” can be used literally. In what I’m sure is pure coincidence, the Georgia Solar Energy Association will also be forming a lobbying arm.

A Minnesota case with the potential for revisiting Citizens United may be accepted for hearing by the United States Supreme Court.

More than half of the local governments that would receive more than a billion dollars under the T-SPLOST to be voted on July 31st have failed to produce plans detailing what they will do with the money, according to the AJC.

Austin Scott obviously has seen all the Terminator movies and understands the threat posed by SkyNet, as he is teaming up with Sen. Rand Paul to offer legislation to restrict the domestic use of drones:

“We’re not opposed to the use of drones. But their use has to be consistent with the established rules with regard to search and seizure. The same thing that you would have to obtain to use a wiretap, you would have to have for the use of a drone,” Scott said. “This has the potential to be a huge invasion.”

H.R. 5925 includes exemptions for border patrols, and emergency use by law enforcement or national security authorities. Ultimately, Scott said, the legislation could address privacy rules when it comes to the commercial use of drones as well.

In that story, Jim Galloway notes that Rep. Scott plays left-field for the Republican congressional team, while Rand Paul plays center-field. So this proposal literally comes out of left-field.

Scott Hammond was sworn in as Upson County Commissioner for district 3 on an interim basis until a new commissioner is elected in the July 31st Special Election.

The Sumter County Board of Elections removed two school board candidates from the ballot.

Brantley Wills, a former resident of Webster County, had moved to Sumter County and had changed his residency but not his voter registration.

NeSmith said the Georgia Secretary of State is emphatic that a candidate cannot seek office in a district in which he does not live or is not registered to vote.

Linda Wright was seeking to run in District 1. When she presented herself to qualify for election, she was told that she actually lives in District 6. She said she and her family had been voting in District 1 for many years. However, she paid her qualifying fee for District 1.

NeSmith reiterated the Secretary of State’s position that it doesn’t matter where a candidate has been voting, even if it’s erroneous, but that she can’t seek office in a district in which she does not live.

He said the road on which Wright lives splits Districts 1 and 6.

“It’s the candidates’ responsibility to go to the map and make sure they live where they think they live because there can be clerical errors … “ NeSmith said. “The Secretary of State’s Office says if she’s been voting in the wrong district, this should be corrected immediately.”

The Sumter County Boards of Elections and Education are also defendants in a federal lawsuit challenging the school board district lines.

The contest for sole County Commissioner in Murray County turned personal as both candidates have close relatives who are employed by the county and traded charges.

[Challenger Brittany] Pittman charged that [Commissioner Greg] Hogan hired his daughter, Sarah Hogan Brindle, in the county’s 911 department, with Hogan responding that he had not — it was the department head (Peggy Vick) who had done the hiring. Hogan then countered that if Pittman were elected, she could arbitrarily give her husband — Parks and Recreation Director Anthony Pittman — a $20,000 raise if she wanted to.

Hogan also fielded a question from the audience about why he changed parties, from running as a Democrat during last year’s special election to fill the unexpired term of David Ridley to running as a Republican this year. Pittman is also running as a Republican.

“I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” he said. “There are certain things morally that I don’t believe in, like gay marriage. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman.”

The statement received applause from the audience.

Snellville Mayor Democrat Kellie Kautz denies that she planned to propose banning firearms from parks.

Hispanic voters have the potential to change the direction of electoral politics in Georgia, according to political scientists.

“(Georgia) is one of the states that has a lower registration rate,” said Matt Barreto, a political scientist at the University of Washington whose research is referenced in the center’s report. “I think that poses a significant challenge to Latino empowerment.”

The Center for American Progress report suggests that some 88,200 Hispanics are eligible to vote in Georgia but not registered.

And if another 120,000 Hispanics in the state who are eligible to become citizens start the process and become active voters, their voting power could sway a Republican state in favor of Democratic candidates in the future.

“I think I can honestly say that Georgia’s not exactly thought of as a swing state (in national elections), but at the same time, there’s a substantial new bloc of people that could end up really putting it into play,” said Philip Wolgin an immigration policy analyst at the Center for American Progress’ left-leaning Action Fund.

“Of course, the question is, are they going to register? Are they going to naturalize and vote?”

Rock-em, sock-em robots in CD 9, 12

The AJC writes that the Republican Primary between State Rep. Doug Collins and radio talker Martha Zoller will provide fireworks as each tries to distinguish their record from an opponent with whom they share much ideology.

Not surprisingly, the 12th District Republican Primary to challenge Democrat John Barrow is also becoming a brawl.

Fundraising leader Wright McLeod is now facing questions about the improbability of maximum $2500 contributions to his campaign by employees of a supporter.

Consider Brittany Best, an executive assistant with Mullins Management in Evans.

Official records show Best, 24, has only voted once and never donated to a federal or state-level campaign in Georgia. Until this year, that is.

Her boss, Joe Mullins, is big backer of Republican Wright McLeod, an Augusta attorney seeking to oust Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

Last Nov. 10, the 12th Congressional District hopeful’s campaign finance disclosure shows, Mullins gave $2,500 — the most the law allows. Joann Mullins, for whom McLeod’s campaign listed the same address as Joe, also gave $2,500.

Until recently employed at the local Pizza Joint in addition to working for Mullins, she apparently isn’t wealthy.

But records show that on March 30 — the day before the end of the reporting period — she, too, gave McLeod $2,500.

On the same day, so did Heather Fehr, also an executive assistant to Mullins. Like Best, Fehr had never before donated to a federal campaign.

Fehr didn’t return three phone calls, but I reached Best, who said she was “very uncomfortable” discussing her donation.

For now, of course, there’s no proof that anyone did anything illegal.

But a lot of things still just don’t add up.

Added to legitimate questions about McLeod’s devotion to the Republican Party, and his truthiness, further bad news may irreparably damage his campaign.

Ends & Pieces

Lawrenceville will celebrate the Bicentennial of the War of 1812 today

The Philadelphia Winn Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution will host an event, “Ring the Bells for 1812,” at 11:30 AM

[O]ne lesser-known story is that of Captain James Lawrence, the namesake of Lawrenceville. Lawrence gave one of the most famous naval cries in history — “Don’t give up the ship!” — when he was mortally wounded in battle, a press release from the DAR chapter pointed out.

During Monday’s event, at the gazebo in Lawrenceville’s Courthouse Square, Lawrenceville Mayor Judy Jordan Johnson will sign a proclation in recognition of the historic day, and the public is encouraged to bring a bell to ring as part of the ceremony.

Dredging the Savannah River to allow deeper access to the Port of Savannah will benefit Middle Georgia as well as the coast.

“It’s possibly the highest benefit-to-cost of any project the Army Corps of Engineers has ever done,” Curtis Foltz, executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said last week.

No study has attached a prediction of new jobs to the port project, but economic development officials along the corridor of Interstate 16, which runs from Savannah to Macon, say they will be in even better position to recruit new industry, especially logistics companies and distribution centers.

“I can’t even guess the numbers of jobs, but this could have a tremendous impact,” said Pat Topping, executive vice president of the Macon Economic Development Commission.

A recent economic impact study estimated Georgia’s deepwater ports accounted for one of every 12 jobs in Georgia in 2011 — or about 352,000 full- and part-time jobs. More than 20,000 jobs in Middle Georgia were found to be port-supported, with most of them in five counties — Bibb, Houston, Washington, Laurens and Baldwin.

Glynn County public schools were ranked among the worst school system bargains in the country.

Kevin McCoy, a former world champion, won the Georgia state disc golf championship in Augusta and was given a green hoodie.

The Brookhaven Bucks, part of the wooden-bad summer development Sunbelt League play the Berkley Lake Tides tonight at the Oglethorpe University campus, and the Atlanta Crackers on Wednesday.

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