Insider Advantage: Why we’ll wait to hear from Congressmen on 2014 Senate race

Originally published at InsiderAdvantage.com on March 4, 2013

Once Paul Broun announced his run for the United States Senate in 2014, the anticipated thumps of other shoes falling never materialized, as Broun’s Congressional colleagues play the waiting game to announce their intentions for 2014.

Congressman Tom Price recently said that he isn’t likely to announce his intentions until May or later, but the rest of his statement contained a kernel of what may be motivating Congressmen to postpone their official announcements for 2014.

Price noted at the time that he had raised $300,000 in the previous two weeks for his reelection campaign. Federal campaign finance law allows incumbent Congressmen to raise money for their reelection for as long as they are “actively seeking” the office. Once they are no longer actively seeking reelection they can’t continue raising money for that race.

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State Rep. Ron Stephens on Ethics: Strengthen the Commission

From the Savannah Morning News story by Larry Peterson:

Stephens says he has a plan to restore the effectiveness of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The Savannah Republican and others are gearing up to make political ethics a hot topic at the 2013 legislative session.

“I think he’s onto something,” said Kennesaw State University political scientist Kerwin Swint. “I think a lot of what’s he’s saying make perfect sense.”

The commission’s weakness was cited this summer in a national study that found Georgia the state most at-risk for political corruption.

A report by the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Public Integrity flunked Georgia in — among other categories — “ethics enforcement agencies.”

[The Commission's] budget is more than 40 percent lower than in 2008. And the number of cases of alleged violations it’s handled has declined even more.

Meanwhile, the legislature has stripped it of its authority to make rules.

Lawmakers also saddled it with riding herd on compliance by thousands of candidates for local offices. That, news accounts say, is a chore commission staffers have acknowledged mostly isn’t getting done.

Such candidates must cope with the commission’s over-extended staff and computer systems. They often find it impossible to file their reports on time or find anyone who can answer their questions.

“If you don’t match responsibility with means,” Stephens said, “the folks at the commission can’t do the right thing.”

Accordingly, he said, he’ll propose giving the panel back its rule-making powers and restoring its budget to about its 2008 level — $1.9 million.

Stephens said he might propose barring lobbyists from making campaign donations to the legislative caucuses or political parties while the legislature is session.

He says the practice is an end run around the current ban on legislators accepting campaign cash during the session.

“And if some of the money a special interest gives gets spent on a legislator,” he said, “we don’t know where it came from.”

Stephens said he’ll attach his ideas as amendments to a bill due to be carried by Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus.

It would limit the value of lobbyist gifts to legislators to $100.

Governor: ‘Worthwhile discussion’

Gov. Nathan Deal seems open to considering Stephens’ ideas.

Deal said last week in an interview that he included an additional $260,000 commission budget this year.

He also acknowledged widespread concerns about the panel’s attempts to monitor local-level candidates.

But he said any law giving it back its rule-making powers must be worded to make sure it stays “within the confines of its jurisdiction.”

House and Senate leaders are mulling over ideas such as Stephens’ and McKoon’s, he said.

“I think it’s a worthwhile discussion,” he said. “And I look forward to it moving forward.”

Much will depend on House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, who likely can stop anything he’s strongly against.

Political Consultant Brian Laurens lied

 

So childish baby-faced Political Consultant Brian Laurens has accused me of breaking the telecommunications laws and falsely using his Caller ID in making robocalls against Senator Chip Rogers. Brian Laurens is the owner of Brikel Communications/Laurens Direct Mail and he’s threatening to use my cell phone number the same way.

Let me go on the record saying I did not do those calls and was not engaged by Brandon Beach’s campaign to do any robocalls until after they were made. I will stake my professional reputation on this and am calling on Brian Laurens to retract his statement and apologize.

I wrote about the robocalls on July 25th of this year. Note that date, it’ll be important soon.

Brian Laurens, a political consultant to Senator Rogers, accuses Beach of sending out robocalls and transmitting Laurens’s cell phone number as the Caller ID number.

I quoted an article in the Cherokee Tribune that quoted Brian Laurens about the alleged robocalls:

A Holly Springs political consultant who works for Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock) is accusing Senate District 21 challenger Brandon Beach of pirating his number and using it to make robo calls on Sunday.

Beach on Monday said his campaign had nothing to do with the robo call and labeled the calls as dirty politics as usual.

Brian Laurens, owner of Brikel Communications and Consulting, is accusing Beach of using his cell phone number to call voters.

Laurens said he discovered the alleged robo calls were made when he returned home from church on Sunday.

The Holly Springs resident said the calls began to pour in around 2 p.m. and went through 8 p.m. Sunday.

“The call said something about Chip Rogers being for the TSPLOST and voting for it and was portrayed as coming from a registered LLC, (the) Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee County,” he said.

But there are a couple of holes in Brian Laurens‘s story.

Brian says he knows that I did the robocalls in question because Brandon Beach’s disclosure with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission shows that I did some calls for Beach in his Senate campaign against Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, who is a client of Brian Laurens and Brikel Communications.

Sure enough, there’s my company on Beach’s disclosure for a payment received 9/26/2012 for Automated Calls. I surely did do some calls for Brandon Beach. I don’t deny it. But I do deny doing the calls that Brian Laurens complained about on July 25th, and I deny ever having falsely used somebody else’s Caller ID to put out robocalls in any election campaign ever. Note that date: July 25th.

Washington Political Group, another Georgia company that does robocalls is also on that disclosure for payments as follows:

7/13/2012 $14,032.56
7/16/2012 $13,924.18
7/18/2012 $16,191.58
7/26/2012 $15,908.72
8/06/2012 $2358.59

Washington Political Group also appears on Beach’s earlier disclosure for payments of:

5/21/2012 $10,650.00
6/25/2012 $10,876.89

So that’s more than $80,000 that Beach’s campaign paid to Washington Political Group, who is known to do robocalls. I’m not saying that they did the calls; doing so presents several problems. First, it assumes that Brian Laurens was telling the truth when he complained about the anonymous robocalls. Second, it assumes that Brandon Beach’s campaign did the phone calls, and there is no evidence to that effect. Third, it assumes that Beach’s campaign would be stupid enough to pay for illegal robocalls breaking federal law, but then would comply with Georgia law in order to disclose the payment. Pretty goofy, if you ask me.

Also problematic for Brian Laurens’s claim is the fact that the payment to my company was made two months after the calls he claims went out. If Brandon Beach’s campaign were breaking federal law by transmitting fraudulent Caller ID information, they would have been required to disclose it before the date of any calls I did for them.

But let’s deal with that first issue: whether Brian Laurens can be trusted to tell the truth when it comes to politics. Or whether in fact, Brian Laurens has a documented history of lying about politics. This is really Brian’s problem: his reputation in Georgia politics.

People have asked whether Brian Laurens is truthful or a liar in the political arena before. We’ll be discussing that over the coming days.

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