Category: Ethics

6
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 6, 2012

Welcome to our new “Black Thursdays,” where we will feature black or majority-black dogs and cats from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter in advance of the greatest “Black Friday” sale ever. Because of the difficulty in adopting out black animals, known as “Black Dog Syndrome,” the shelter is selling these guys for 67% off – dogs and cats that normally cost $30 adoption fee plus $60 vet fee can be had for $30. Can’t think of a better bargain on a new best friend.

27064 is a female lab mix puppy. $30 out the door!

27044 is a young terrier mix.

27014 is a gorgeous baby female who is described as a hound, but I’d call her a likely lab mix.

 




People often email to ask me why I don’t post cats more often, and the answer is simply that I don’t have time to do it all. I spend about two hours a day on this newsletter and it’s unpaid time. But today, in honor of Gwinnett County’s Black Friday sale, I’m posting these guys and girls. In honor of Shadow, a black cat that was a great companion to my mother for about sixteen years, I’ll pay the $30 fee for the first person to adopt a black or majority black cat from Gwinnett County tomorrow who can provide me proof of purchase.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

While some cats and dogs are hopefully leaving their cells over the weekend, another Gwinnett denizen is headed to a new cell. Former Duluth Mayor and Gwinnett County Commissioner Shirley Fanning Lasseter was sentenced to 33 months in a minumum-level federal prison, followed by three years on probation. According to the Gwinnett Daily Post, “[s]he will be in custody for all 33 months, as there is no parole in the federal system. She will remain free on bond for the next four to six weeks until she’s notified by federal prison officials.”

Also in federal court yesterday, Gwinnett County developer and former Planning Commissioner Mark Gary was charged with attempting to bribe Lasseter with $30,000 worth of poker chips.
Continue Reading..

30
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 30, 2012

27005 is your typical suburban yellow labrador retriever, and she is available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. She was given up by her family, which generally means a dog will be one of the first to be euthanized, as there is no waiting period as there is with a stray brought in.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens made his debut on the national political scene last night, sharing a stage with Florida AG Pam Bondi at the Republican National Convention.

Arguably, wearing a pink tie on your national television debut is as courageous as doing it next to a six-foot blonde without the benefit of a step behind the podium. The text of their tag team speech is available here.

Getting fitted for a green jacket is sufficient to give former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice a connection to Georgia politics, and she also gave a major speech last night at the RNC.

Catherine McDonald a leader with Atlanta 912 wrote the excellent notes from the address of Frank Luntz to the Georgia delegation that we excerpted yesterday. Here’s the rest of her write-up, with her permission:

The 5 most powerful sentences you can use to describe what Conservatives/the Republican Party Stand for:

1. We are: Fighting for hardworking taxpayers. (NOT the ‘middle class’, or any class designation)
2. We are Fighting for Economic Freedom. (Main Street!) (NOT ‘defending capitalism’-as most folks connect capitalism with Wall Street)
3. We bring leaders (Romney/Ryan) who will give it you you straight – NO MORE budget tricks, empty promises, or gimmicks.
4. It’s all about being REAL, GENUINE, AND AUTHENTIC. Real jobs, genuine committment to the American idea, with an authentic plan for the budget.
5. Our Leaders are getting OFF the Stage-and into the audience, among the citizens. (think Paul Ryan) (R’s tend to look too much like lawyers, behind the podium, in suits. We must relate better to the common man, still be ‘official’ when required-but respectful of all.

The Differences between how the average voter perceives Obama & Romney right now:
Romney: See him as a great “Fixer” who doesn’t understand peoples’ problems
Obama: See him as understanding peoples’ problems, but having NO idea of how to fix anything.

-Mitt Romney is a man of great Substance, not Style-Obama is a man of ‘style’, with NO substance.

Our challenge & job is to help people understand WHO Mitt Romney is; (below are my personal descriptors:)
-a decent, honest family man,
-a committed problem solver, who cares about YOU,
-a smart, successful business man who knows how to create jobs and wants every American to succeed,
-a man of great faith who loves his country and it’s Founding principles.

Finally-We must me HAPPY WARRIORS- don’t be angry or get angry when you engage!! Think Ronald Reagan!

Speaking of Sam Olens, he received a letter this week from Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), the only member of the Senate Ethics Committee to dissent from the settlement of ethics charges against Senator Don Balfour (R-Snellville or Atlanta). In his letter, McKoon writes, “I am requesting that your office investigate the allegations made in the Amended Complaint of Deborah Dooley regarding violation of certain criminal statutes by Senator Balfour so that this matter may be concluded.”

Out of curiosity, I ran a poll last night in Senate District 30, the district in which State Rep. Bill Hembree is likely to meet former Speaker of the Georgia House Glenn Richardson. The ballot test question included only Hembree, Richardson, and James Camp, omitting candidates who said they are “considering” the race.

Bill Hembree  36.6%
Glenn Richardson  13.1%
James Camp 12.1%

Those results represent several things, in my not-so-humble opinion. First, Hembree has high name recognition, and Richardson probably has high name ID but also high negatives. I didn’t test favorable/unfavorable on the candidates, so that’s just my opinion. The likely-high negatives make it difficult for Richardson to attack Hembree.

Second, I predict that Bill Hembree will win this election without a runoff unless another top-caliber candidate enters the race. There may yet be a second act in Glenn Richardson’s political career, but it is highly unlikely to involve representing the new 30th District in the State Senate next year.

The sample size was 505 respondents for the ballot test, which gives a margin of sampling error of +/- 4.34 points at the 95% confidence level. I’ll be releasing more information through the website and tomorrow’s email.

Ellijay’s Colonel Oscar Poole continued his moment in the national press with a photo in USA Today. According to the accompanying article:

Oscar Poole — the Georgian in the yellow suit (with red epaulets) — was dressed to promote his business, Colonel Poole’s Bar-B-Q. Similarly, Dan Daub, mayor of Tower City, Pa., wore a cowboy hat crafted from a box of his hometown beer, Yuengling.

The Albany Herald spoke with State Rep. Ed Rynders, who is attending the National Convention.

The Georgia delegation was fired up Monday from a surprise visit from Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus on Sunday, one that Rynders said was energizing. “He gave a great speech that got the Georgia delegation going on Sunday,” Rynders said, noting that Priebus referred to encouraging children and grandchildren to work to be successful.

“Sometimes we lose sight of earning success,” he said. “I think that really struck a chord with folks.”

David Oedel, a professor at Mercer Law School, writes his analysis of Miriam Paris’s loss of her Senate seat to fellow Democrat David Lucas.

While Paris put up a nice website for her constituents to visit, Lucas was out talking to the district’s voters face to face. Lucas also charged Paris with being a Republican pawn. That’s an overstatement, but there was enough truth in the charge to stick. Paris’s ears seemed tuned to people such as state Sen. Cecil Staton, Rep. Allen Peake and Erick Erickson in north Macon, Lynn Westmoreland in west Georgia, and plenty of Atlanta gold-domers — all outside the 26th District.

Outsiders fronted by a Republican Atlanta lawyer who formerly worked for Westmoreland issued fancy and “funny” fliers trying to paint Lucas as a lazy Negro, asleep at the political switch. That’s an odd way to spend PAC money in the 26th District, where people understandably resent racial taunting.

Another interesting angle was that Paris supported Macon-Bibb consolidation, which did prevail in July, while Lucas expressed skepticism about some aspects of the particular consolidation plan. It therefore appears probable that a critical number of Bibb voters who approved consolidation also voted for Lucas. If so, that would mean Bibb’s black Democratic voters are more nuanced than some people give them credit for.

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that Latino voters will comprise 9.8 percent of the November electorate in the states that solidly favor one Presidential candidate, which is the category in which they place Georgia.

29
Aug

Sen. Josh McKoon to AG Olens “Please investigate Don Balfour”

29
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 29, 2012

26982 is a Corgi/Golden Retriever mix puppy who will be available for adoption beginning Sunday from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. What a great looking dog!

Adopt A Golden Atlanta is the second largest Golden Retriever rescue organization in the country and sets the gold standard in caring for dogs. Because of their extensive experience with the breed and their network of vets, they are able to take dogs with medical issues that would usually end up in euthanasia.

Because they have had a spate of dogs recently with extensive veterinary needs, they are asking for donations.

Krystal, pictured at left, had a skin condition that wound up costing nearly $5000 to cure, but has been saved and is ready to go to a new home.

Barney came to AGA after his owner died and the estate’s executor said that his medical care was to be paid for our of the estate. $9000 in vet care later, the late owner’s family prevented the payment from being made. Barney was taken care of an is in a new home, but the financial toll on AGA is mounting.

They expect ten new dogs into the program next week, including a puppy who will need cataract surgery. Please take a moment to read about what they are doing to save these wonderful dogs and consider making a donation today. I’ll be donating in memory of Henry, the Golden we adopted from AGA, who spent five great years in our home.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are the Republican nominees for President and Vice President, whether Ron Paul supporters like it or not.

The headline “Flake wins GOP Senate nomination” is not about Todd Akin, but about Arizona nominee for the US Senate Jeff Flake.

A member of the Georgia delegation to the Republican National Convention forwarded this recap of pollster Frank Luntz’s talk. I will credit it when I figure out who wrote the original and get permission to use their name.

Here are ‘Cliff’s Notes’ of Frank Luntz’s talk to us today-let’s use these to guide our conversations with folks over the next 71 days!!:

The 5 Attributes that Republicans/conservatives will bring to the country when voted into office:
1. More Money $$$ (Will lower taxes)
2. More Choices (on healthcare, education, jobs)
3. More Time (don’t have to work 2 jobs, less compliance burdens)
4. Fewer hassles (fewer burdensome/stupid regulations)
5. No worries! (more certainty about business conditions, ability to hire or to find a job)

*Use QUESTIONS with people – “Do you want:_____________?” Fill in the blank with items 1-5 above, emphasizing that with the Romney/
Ryan team, you will be able to count on having all of these. (The Democrats/Obama have no plans to accomplish any of them.)

Numbers to repeat:
23 Million – Americans out of Work (The MOST since Great Depression)
8.3% Unemployment – AND over 16% adding those who’ve stopped looking (MANY now on Welfare/Disability) or only work Part-time.

The most powerful sentences you can use to describe what Conservatives/the Republican Party Stand for:
1. We are: Fighting for hardworking taxpayers. (NOT the ‘middle class’, or any class designation)
2. We are Fighting for Economic Freedom. (Main Street!) (NOT ‘defending capitalism’-as most folks connect capitalism with Wall Street)
3. We bring leaders (Romney/Ryan)

Layla Shipman (R-Upper Left Hand Corner) reports in on the GOP Convention in an interview with the Rome News-Tribune. Gwinnett’s Kathy Hildebrand checked in with the Snellville Patch.

Colonel Oscar Poole got some coverage in the Durham Herald Sun while at the Republican National Convention.

“I feel this is the most critical election in my lifetime of 82 years,” said Colonel Poole, decked out in a bright yellow suit and a Stars and Stripes top hat.

“I fear this country is headed towards socialism and, I’m afraid, communism.”

Of course they ran a photo of the Colonel.

It’s now eight days after the primary runoff election and the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission has not yet posted the reports due six days before the runoff. Maybe candidates should be able to fine the Commission for late filing.

Click Here

Governor Nathan Deal told the AJC that Georgia will not expand Medicaid under Obamacare because the state cannot afford the estimated $4 billion increase it would cost, despite some promised federal funding.

“No, I do not have any intentions of expanding Medicaid,” Deal said. “I think that is something our state cannot afford. And even though the federal government promises to pay 100 percent for the first three years and 90 percent thereafter, I think it is probably unrealistic to expect that promise to be fulfilled in the long term, simply because of the financial status that the federal government is in.”

State officials estimated that the Medicaid expansion would cost Georgia $4.5 billion over 10 years, and the state already is facing a $300 million shortfall this year for the program.

State House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican, agreed with Deal’s fiscal reasoning.

“The costs are enormous and there is little faith that the federal government will live up to the funding requirements of Obamacare as it stands now,” Ralston said in a statement, using a term Republicans employ derisively to describe the health care law.

Former Speaker of the Georgia House Glenn Richardson spoke to Jaye Watson of 11Alive about his decision to run for State Senate.

 

 

Richardson also apparently spoke to Governor Deal about his decision to run for the Senate.

The Douglas County Sentinel writes that five potential candidates have expressed interest in running for the Senate seat vacated by Sen. Bill Hamrick. In addition to Richardson, State Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Douglas County), and Libertarian James Camp are:

[Jim] Naughton, 52, of Carrollton, was an executive with Milliken and Company for 22 years. He is currently a business consultant and married to Laura Richards.

“I think this is a great opportunity to make a difference in a more significant way,” Naughton commented Monday about his candidacy. “I want to try to do something to help the economic well-being of Carroll, Douglas and Paulding counties. We have to figure a way to recreate manufacturing and unshackle smaller business owners.”

[and Allen] Trapp, 59, of Carrollton, is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and earned his law degree from Georgia State University. He has lived more than 24 years in Carrollton and has served as chairman, vice-chairman and treasurer of the Carroll County Republican Party. He is a Kiwanis Club member and a frequent speaker at legal seminars.

“I believe we need an effective advocate, and I have a proven track record for hard work,” Trapp said Monday. “We need someone to protect Second Amendment and other rights and to seek out legislation to help economic growth in West Georgia.”

Stacii Jae Johnson resigned as Special Events Director in Mayor Kasim Reed’s office after being arrested last week for DUI.

Johnson was arrested late Thursday night and charged with DUI, reckless driving, speeding and failure to maintain her lane after an Atlanta police officer saw her driving a white Porsche at 82 mph in a 55 mile zone near the I-75/I-85 split. She refused to submit to a field sobriety test, according to a police report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Johnson, 41, has worked as a political fundraiser and managed a small staff of about six people in the special events office. That office is responsible for overseeing the permitting process for outdoor festivals and large events such as movie shoots.

Johnson previously raised money for the Obama campaign, and starred in a video called  “I Want To Strip For My Man, But I Don’t Know How….” Sounds like she unleashed the naughty last Thursday.

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-2d) kicked off his reelection campaign in Macon.

Incumbent Democrat Sanford Bishop was at Francar’s Buffalo Wings on the Mercer University campus Tuesday night to rally support for his re-election to the 2nd congressional district.

This year’s election will be the first since the 2010 census, when the district was re-drawn to include much of Bibb County and, once again, part of Macon.

Many of the city’s leaders spoke of Bishop’s long tenure in Washington, and how well he’s represented southwest Georgia since he was elected in 1992.

Sanford says if elected, he’ll continue to improve the quality of life of his constituents.

“We’ve got some of the best, some of the brightest, and some of the most creative people anywhere in the world right here in our area,” says Rep. Bishop.  “All they need is the opportunity to realize that potential.  I want to do my darndest to make sure that we utilize all of the resources to do that here in this congressional district.”

Sanford will face Republican John House in the November 6th general election.

Gloria Tinubu, the Democratic candidate for South Carolina’s 7th Congressional District was called a “carpetbagger” by her primary opponent.

As in the primary, Tinubu didn’t shy away from her past, telling supporters she only agreed to fill the Georgia house seat after its sitting member decided to run for state senate and made the decision in November to resign in order to run for the 7th District in South Carolina.

Her move to Georgia came in the 1970s after marrying her husband, Soji, after they graduated from Clemson University when he couldn’t find civil engineering work in South Carolina.

Rock the Vote will visit Georgia State University on Friday to try to get students registered to vote and interested in politics.

Laptop kiosks will help citizens register to vote and provide information about Georgia election laws. That includes identification requirements and polling locations. The event also features music, games and free swag for students.

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has changed its position on the Charter School Amendment on the November ballot from “oppose” to “meh”.

The recount for the Republican primary runoff in Gwinnett County Commission District Three produced no change in the vote total, meaning Tommy Hunter will serve as the next Commissioner.

Pro-tip for corrections officers: wait at least two weeks before sending a Facebook friend request to that hottie you saw in the lockup over the weekend.

27
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 27, 2012

This is Riley, a black lab who was featured here last week. I met him and took these photos on Friday when I drove him from his old home in Clayton County, where he would otherwise have ended up at Clayton County Animal Shelter, to Forgotten Paws Pet Rescue, where he’ll receive medical attention he lacked before going to a private home. It cost me about an hour-and-a-half, but saved Riley’s life.

Riley is a big boy, probably weighing in at 80-90 pounds, and he has that large, blocky head that is prized among some lab afficianados, but would probably have gotten him classified as a Pit Bull mix at some shelters, and virtually doomed him to being euthanized.

The bad news is that Riley, who is being neutered today, has heartworms, which puts Forgotten Paws on the hook for about $1000 in treatment and will probably delay his adoption. He is also mostly blind, but when I picked him up, he was getting around like a champ, and you wouldn’t know of his blindness except that he bumped into that guardrail behind him a few times.

In addition to needing a foster or permanent home, Riley could use your donations to offset his medical expenses. To apply to foster or adopt Riley or to donate for his medical care, visit Forgotten Paws’ website.

While we’re talking about Labs, 26724 is a young, lab mix puppy who has a scrape on her head but is healing. She’s currently available from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter, and you can call the shelter at 770-339-3200 for more information. Because there are so many puppies in the puppy pod at Gwinnett, her days are severely numbered and she is likely to be euthanized if she isn’t adopted today or tomorrow. Gwinnett also has about seven adult black or chocolate labs if that’s what you’re looking for.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Walter Jones writes that Congress has banned gifts by lobbyists to legislators, as Speaker David Ralston proposes doing for Georgia.

Polls show that only about 15 percent of the public considers Congress to be doing a good job. Dozens of well-publicized scandals over the years reinforce the idea that politicians are often corrupt.

Generally, public support for members of the Georgia General Assembly has been markedly higher than regard for Congress. But voters still called for a gift ban as at least one of the ethics reforms they want.

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, had taken the heat for his colleagues. Ralston’s most frequent warning was that the gift-ban proposal amounted to a gimmick that wouldn’t stop the practice but merely drive it underground. He has also warned that ever-increasing ethics provisions simultaneously expand the opportunities for honest officials to trip over technicalities and “gotcha” allegations by political opponents.

The federal rules prohibit accepting gifts of any value from registered lobbyists and up to $50 in value from anyone else, even other members of Congress.

“Saxby and I used to give Vidalia onions from Georgia to all of the senators, and they stopped that,” he said, referring to the state’s senior senator, Saxby Chambliss, who is also a Republican.

Speaking of food, the ban applies to meals, too. The only exception is “anything on a toothpick,” according to the rule of thumb.

So you’re saying that enacting a ban on gifts from lobbyists to legislators will clean up Georgia politics the way it’s done for Congress? And you call that an improvement? Tell me more.

Click Here

Melanie Crozier is a Georgia delegate to the Republican National Convention, and she’s writing about her experience in Tampa on her blog, GaGirlPolitics. It’s a good read if you’re interested in a delegate-level viewpoint that you might not see elsewhere.

Patch.com has an interview with State Rep. Lynne Riley (R-Johns Creek), before she headed to Tampa for the RNC as a delegate.

Tea party activists held a unity rally in Tampa to celebrate their role in the primary selection process and ensure that we’re all on the same page heading toward the General Election in November.

Today’s session of the Republican National Convention will be very short, consisting of a motion to adjourn until Tuesday over hurricane concerns. No word yet on whether that will cause a change in time for the speech by Attorney General Sam Olens.

Late this week, Olens still could not disclose precise details on the topic or length of his speech.

“Obviously it will relate to the role of attorneys general and activities we’ve been involved in, and federalism, the role of the federal government compared to the states,” said Olens, who lives in east Cobb.

Translation: The 2010 health care law championed by President Barack Obama that Republicans and other critics call Obamacare.

Olens also chaired the health and education subcommittee for the national party’s platform. The Republican national party took input on its proposed platform via a website.

“We received several thousand proposals,” he said. “It wasn’t even limited to Republicans.

“Some of the bigger differences with this year’s platform compared to ’04 and ’08 relate to the economy. We heard a strong desire that we get our debt and deficit under control. There was a lot of discussion in regard to our fiscal house,” he said.

Sue Everhart, the state party chair, said Olens was selected to speak to a national audience for several reasons.

“He’s a well-respected attorney general,” Everhart said. “He’s been with Mitt Romney since Day 1. He was the Georgia state chairman for Romney, honorary chairman for Romney, and of course he’s gone after Obama against Obamacare and some of those. We’re the sister state, kind of, with Florida, and Florida’s attorney general is going to be speaking.

WTVM in Columbus has some numbers on the Republican National Convention, including:

2,286 - Number of delegates represented, plus 2,125 alternate delegates. This is nearly quadruple the 600 voting delegates represented at the first Republican convention.

15,000 - Number of credentialed journalists in attendance. That’s 6.56 media outlets per delegate.

Georgia delegates who are wondering where Alec Poitevint is, the AJC tells us that if you don’t see him, it’s a sign the Convention is on track.

An invisible Poitevint is good news.

It means that buses are moving 2,286 delegates to the convention hall on time, that air conditioning at hundreds of locales has been properly cranked to “high” so another 50,000 hangers-on can party in comfort, and that 15,000 or so journalists on hand to witness the formal anointing of Mitt Romney as the GOP presidential nominee have been cooed into submission.

A visible Poitevint means trouble is afoot.

The 64-year-old Poitevint, is already the ultimate insider in Georgia’s Republican Party. For the next six days — festivities begin Monday — he will be the ultimate stage manager. Romney is the unquestioned star of the Republican National Convention, but Poitevint and his crew have spent the past 18 months, and $18 million in federal cash, making sure the nominee will have everything he needs for his close-up: lights, stage, audience, cameras and everything in between.

“It’s delegates, it’s message, it’s press, it’s transportation,” Poitevint said in a recent and rare interview — before Tropical Storm Isaac made its debut in the Caribbean. But already, hurricane season and the geography of Tampa Bay had made their way into his calculations.

Also kind of a big deal in Tampa is Eric Tanenblatt, co-chair of the Romney campaign in Georgia.

Tanenblatt’s selection to represent Georgia on the convention’s Credentials Committee is just the latest example of the political influence of Atlanta-based McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, where he heads the national government affairs practice.

“Everyone in our government affairs group has served in government,” Tanenblatt said. “It gives us a unique perspective of understanding from the inside out how government interacts with the world.”

Tanenblatt has been the point man in Georgia for presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney going back to the former Massachusetts governor’s first run for the White House in 2008.

Although Tanenblatt’s official role is co-chairman of the Romney campaign’s finance committee, he cut his teeth in politics as a political adviser. After launching his career in 1988 working in the George H.W. Bush presidential campaign, Tanenblatt ran both of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Coverdell’s Senate races in 1992 and 1998.

Florida will be on Georgia Republicans’ minds this fall, as Americans for Prosperity announced this weekend an “Adopt A State” program in which Georgia activists will man the phones to turnout votes in Florida for the General Election. I’ll post more details once I get them.

Former President George W. Bush will speak tonight in Columbus, GA at Columbus State University, where he will be introduced by Governor Nathan Deal. Also appearing at the Leadership Forum will be James Carville and Mary Matalin, who speak on Tuesday morning.

On Friday, Governor Deal appointed Senator Bill Hamrick to a seat on the Superior Court for the Coweta Judicial Circuit. Because Hamrick was unopposed in the General Election, his seat will be filled by a nonpartisan Special Election held the same day as the General. Likely candidates include former Speaker Glenn Richardson, State Rep. Bill Hembree (R-Douglas County), who served briefly as House Rules Committee Chairman before being removed, and Libertarian James Camp.

Karen Huppertz wishes politicians would stop calling her. Or at least stop robo-calling her.

we’d been home a good 24 hours before I even looked at the answering machine.

To my utter delight (please note sarcasm here) I discovered 27 political messages on our machine. Granted we had returned home just before the July 31st TSPLOST vote, but seriously? The ratio of calls to actual decisions I needed to make at the polls was grossly disproportionate. On my Gwinnett ballot I only had three decisions to make. Most names on the ballot were incumbent candidates running unopposed.

So I conducted my own tiny survey. Do voters listen to these messages? Or like me, do they either hang up immediately if they happen to answer the phone, or do they delete them within 3.2 seconds as soon as the message is clearly a robocall? Do these calls sway anyone’s vote?

Every single person I asked hates them as much or more than I do.

Politicians, please read our lips. We delete them. We don’t listen to them. We are annoyed by them.

While voters say they hate them, most political professionals believe they still work, and we’ll keep using them until they stop working.

Former Suwanee Mayor Dave Williams, who works as vice president for transportation with the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, discusses the aftermath of the T-SPLOST failure.

Charles Gregory, who beat State Rep. Judy Manning in the Republican Primary this year, also works as state director for the Ron Paul campaign.

Manning, who has served in the state house since 1997, said she and her husband, Aymar, were ill after the Fourth of July.

“We just couldn’t get out in that heat and walk. He (Gregory) had some of his Ron Paul folks that walked neighborhoods and didn’t represent me as I would have thought was a fair representation,” she said. “He didn’t exactly tell the truth. I’m not bad-mouthing him. All’s fair in love and war. You can say anything.”

Gregory views things differently.

“To be honest, regarding Judy, we didn’t even bring her up,” Gregory said. “The only time we brought her up was when they said, ‘who are you running against?’ I wasn’t running against Judy. I was running against the system.”

When voters asked why they should vote for him instead of Manning, he told them they simply have a different philosophy of government.

“I believe that government should be protecting the life, liberty and property of individuals, and following the Constitution and that’s it,” Gregory said. “Not managing people’s money or their lives or all these other things that the government tends to get into doing. That’s it.”

Sabrina Smith has filed an ethics complaint alleging that payments by Gwinnett County to the Gwinnett County Chamber of Commerce eventually were used to lobby for passage of the T-SPLOST. The County and Chamber denied it. I have the documents and will post more about it later this morning.

 Ends & Pieces

Surely one of the most important economic development announcements was the unveiling of the 2013 Porsche Carrera 4 and 4S models by Porsche Cars North America, which is headquartered in Atlanta.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is accepting nominations for its 2013 Preservation awards through September 22d.

Collins Hill High School graduate Maya Moore won a gold medal on the women’s basketball team in London’s 2012 Olympics.

In slightly more than 10 months, the former Collins Hill High School star won her first WNBA title with the Minnesota Lynx, earned the league’s rookie of the year honor, won Spanish and Euroleague titles with Ros Casares and won an Olympic gold medal with the U.S. Women’s Basketball National Team. Those victories came after a University of Connecticut career that saw the four-time All-American win more games than any player in college basketball history.

“It’s been an amazing year,” said Moore, in town Saturday for a nationally televised ESPN game against the Atlanta Dream. “I couldn’t have dreamed how awesome it’s been, having so many great opportunities within the last year. To do some history-making things, breaking records. It’s just been a whirlwind of a year.”

21
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 21, 2012 — Primary Runoff Election Day

Timothy is the tan-colored puppy above (the black one is adopted), he is two months old and has spent a month in the Cobb County Animal Shelter, where he lives in cage 332. If you adopt him, he will be vaccinated, chipped, and neutered.

Suri and Kimmi, the black puppies, are his sisters, and are still available from the Cobb County Animal Shelter (the tan girl has been adopted). They are right next door to Timothy in Cage 331 in the puppy are. Adoption also includes vaccinations, micro-chipping, and spaying.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today is Primary Runoff Election Day and includes runoffs in nonpartisan elections, such as most judges. You may vote today, even if you didn’t vote in the Primary, although if you voted in a partisan primary in July, you may not vote in the other party’s runoff. Polls are open from 7 AM to 7 PM. You will need to bring your photo ID and the Secretary of State’s office has information on which forms of ID are acceptable. If you do not have your ID when you arrive to vote, you may still cast a provisional ballot, as you may do in case of certain other problems. If you cast a provisional ballot, you will have three days to produce proper ID to election officials to have your ballot counted.

When you vote today, I’d be interested in hearing how it went. Relevant information includes your county and precinct, what time you voted, how crowded it was, your voter number (ask the poll workers), and any impressions you or the poll workers have about the pace of voting. Visit the website and put it in the comments or email me.

Last week, Karl Rove updated his electoral map, moving Georgia from “safe Romney” to “leans Romney” but that may reflect a dearth of publicly-released polling in the state, rather than an actual change in the electorate.

Yesterday, a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals let stand the “show your papers” provision of Georgia’s House Bill 87, an immigration reform bill.

The decision upholds an injunction against Section 7 of the law, which made it illegal to transport or harbor an illegal alien in Georgia. But it reverses an injunction against Section 8 of the law, which authorizes law enforcement officers to investigate the immigration status of criminal suspects who cannot provide particular documents to prove their status.

The opinion of the panel is available here. The next step is a decision by the litigants whether to appeal to have the case heard by the entire Eleventh Circuit.

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens said, via press release,

“I am pleased that the the 11th Circuit has reversed the lower court’s injunction and allowed Section 8 of HB 87 to stand. While I disagree with the Court’s decision on Section 7, after over a year of litigation, only one of the 23 sections of HB 87 has been invalidated. We are currently reviewing the 11th Circuit’s ruling to determine whether further appeal would be appropriate at this stage of the case.”

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee and a leader in the movement to adopt limitations on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. He released yesterday his Minority Report in which he dissents from the negotiated settlement of ethics charges against Senator Don Balfour.

The Minority agreed that Respondent had violated Senate Rules by failing to maintain accurate records and submitting false expense reports; however, dissented from the negotiated sanction.

It is clear to the Minority that both the Christian and Dooley complaint meet the jurisdictional threshold of Title 45 and should have been handled under Title 45. Both complaints alleged that the Respondent used his position as State Senator to file false expense reports which provided for a direct, unique, pecuniary and personal benefit, namely the monies wrongfully disbursed to Respondent. The amended Dooley complaint went a step further, alleging that by failing to authorize the Audit Subcommittee as required by O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 that the Respondent was able to insure that the false expense reports would never be reviewed.

Instead of proceeding under Title 45 with the complaints presented which would have necessitated a public hearing of these matters, the Committee chose to proceed under the other route available which did not require a public hearing. The opinion of the Minority is that this decision was made in error and that the public, including the complainants, were entitled to be present for the proceedings held by the Committee.

In addition to the charges of filing false expense reports in this case, the Respondent also admitted to violation of O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 which provides for the Audit Subcommittee to review the expense reports of all Senators.

In the view of the Minority, this compounds the other offense as by the Respondent’s failure to appoint the Audit Subcommittee he removed the safeguard against false filings, not just in his case but in the case of any Senator that might have done so over the last decade he has been charged with the responsibility of chairing the Senate Rules Committee.

[I]t is the opinion of the Minority that a recommendation should issue for a Censure Resolution to be introduced with a do pass recommendation regarding the conduct of the Respondent, that the Committee recommend to the Committee on Assignments that Respondent be removed as Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and that a fine equivalent to the cost of the proceedings of the Senate Ethics Committee be imposed on Respondent.

The Minority is of the opinion that to fully conclude this matter, that an appropriate authority should investigate these matters and determine finally if any violation of these statutes has taken place. The Minority will transmit this report to the Attorney General with its recommendation that his office conduct such an investigation.

I apologize for such a long pull quote, but here’s the tl;dr version:

1. McKoon believes that a public process was authorized and appropriate here and that the Ethics Committee erred in proceeding in the manner it did;

2. The failure by Balfour to appoint an audit subcommittee kept improper expenditures from being detected;

3. The negotiated penalty was inadequate and Senator Balfour should be Censured by the Senate as a body;

4. The case should be referred for consideration of possible criminal sanctions.

Also failing to do their job is the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

Runoff candidates are required to file a campaign contributions disclosure six days before the runoff so that voters know where their funding comes from. The Commission’s website, while accepting such filings from candidates does not appear to be displaying them when they are searched for. Nor does it appear to be properly displaying two-business day reports in some cases. This is unacceptable.

Georgia’s current campaign finance regime is premised on timely disclosure, and the biggest impediment to voters learning how campaigns are financed in a timely manner is the Commission charged with collecting and distributing disclosures.

Ultimately, I believe that this reflects in part a misconception about what the Campaign Finance Commission is. It is no longer primarily an enforcement agency. Its statutory charges makes it primarily an IT agency charged with maintaining a campaign and lobbyist disclosure database. It should be putting most of its resources into IT infrastructure and services, and its most-highly paid staffer should be a database administrator. Its continuing failure to do its job negatively affects public confidence in the Commission and in our elected officials.

Click Here

In Cobb County, the runoff election for Commission Chairman between incumbent Tim Lee and former Chair Bill Byrne may be a battle between old Cobb and new, if the Marietta Daily Journal is correct.

“In some ways it’s a battle of old Cobb versus new Cobb,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint, who specializes in campaigns and elections.

It’s also a battle between old-style campaign tactics and new.

“I know Bill Byrne has friends in Cobb County, and I think he’s depending on people he and his wife know getting out the troops, and where Tim Lee is concerned, I think it’s a matter of using his financial edge to make phone calls, beat the bushes and get his voters to come back out for him again,” [said Swint].

In Gwinnett County, Sheriff Butch Conway has endorsed Tommy Hunter, who is challenging incumbent Mike Beaudreau for Commission District 3 in the GOP runoff.

Conway, who is unopposed for his fifth term, has been involved in county commission races before. He campaigned for challenger Lorraine Green, when the commissioner mounted an unsuccessful challenge to then-Chairman Charles Bannister in 2008.

Conway might be the most popular politician in Gwinnett County, but his endorsement may not be very valuable after today. The Conway-endorsed candidate for one of the open judicial seats will be defeated soundly. Will a Beaudreau win make it 0 for 3?

Republican delegates to the Republican National Convention will be given free copies of  Georgia Tech grad Mark Rogers’s self-published fiction book, “Smeared.”

“SMEARED” is a political fiction story about a man from the days of America’s founding fathers who suddenly appears in modern-day America. The self-published political novel answers the question of what a man from early American history would think, say and do when confronted by today’s politicians and shows the fallout of their interactions.

The Savannah Morning News writes about QR codes linking smartphones to campaign videos. Pure BS. Nobody uses QR codes except marketing firms with gullible clients, and then the real use of the QR codes is to extract money from the client for useless gewgaws. If some marketing expert tries to get you to spend money on QR codes, escort them out immediately.

In 2008, said a recent article in Campaigns and Elections magazine, just 10 percent of the population had a smartphone.

Now, it added, more than half do, and a third of them use their phones to scan such codes to access advertising.

“We’re going to see a lot more of them in politics,” said marketing specialist Rick Monroe, who is helping DeLoach.

Monroe said his candidate’s application is an improvement over Gaster’s.

Gaster’s codes were on his campaign signs, and unless you were within 3 feet, you couldn’t scan them with your smartphone, Monroe said.

In contrast, DeLoach’s mailer went directly to the addressees.

I’m open to hearing differently about my skepticism about QR codes, but unless you have analytics, don’t bother.

Georgia First Lady Sandra Deal reminds you that “Stop means stop” when it comes to school buses with their stop signs and lights deployed.

Georgia’s First Lady came to Dougherty County Monday to discuss the importance of the “Stop Means Stop” program. She’s teaming up with several state groups to keep children safe.

Thousands of drivers in Georgia illegally pass school buses every day. In fact, a statewide survey showed bus drivers saw more than 4,000 violators in one day.

“We had had several children killed and more in the last two years and probably three years. We’re afraid that we may get the record for it again, to have the most children killed in school bus accidents,” said Mrs. Deal.

Now the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety and the Department of Education are teaming up to educate drivers with the help from Georgia’s first lady, Sandra Deal.

“When you see a stop arm on a school bus, unless you’re on a highway with a divided median, you have to stop in either direction. That’s the law. It will cost you about $1,000 fine and up to six points on your driver’s license,” said Harris Blackwood, the Director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety.

Listen to Mrs. Deal and pay attention on the roads, please.

Grayson voters will vote in November on whether to allow Sunday sales of packaged beer, wine and liquor. In a particular brand of goofiness, the city, which already allows beer and wine sales, will vote on adding liquor, but if adding Sunday sales of liquor fails, it will also end beer and wine sales on the Sabbath.

20
Aug

The loneliness of being right – Senator Josh McKoon’s Minority Report

Here it is in .pdf format.

As close as I can do quickly, here’s the text of Senator McKoon’s Minority Report, which dissents from the negotiated settlement between Senator Don Balfour and the Georgia Senate Committee on Ethics. All mistakes are mine, I’m certain:

IN THE MATTER OF THE GEORGIA SENATE ETHICS COMMITTEE COMPLAINT AGAINST SENATOR DON K. BALFOUR

REPORT OF THE MINORITY

Pursuant to Senate Rule 2-1.6(a), this report succinctly sets forth the reasons for the dissent of the Minority to the Report of the Senate Ethics Committee filed with the Secretary of the Senate regarding this matter on August 16, 2012.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

On April 2, 2012, Stephen Michael Christian (hereinafter “Christian”) filed a complaint against Senator Don K. Balfour (hereinafter “Respondent”) pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 45-10-91 alleging violations of Georgia law relating to improper per diem and mileage expense requests.

Following the report of a subcommittee on May 2, 2012 to the full Senate Ethics Committee, a majority of the committee determined that it could not exercise jurisdiction under Title 45 of the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated. The minority dissented from that vote and for reasons that will be set forth in detail below agreed with Christian that. jurisdiction did lie under Title 45.

A subcommittee was then appointed which reviewed information relevant to the Christian complaint and determine whether Respondent had violated Senate Rules. The subcommittee gave its report to the full Senate Ethics Committee on June 1,2012 and on that same date the full Committee voted unanimously to initiate an Ethics Complaint against the Respondent which alleged that he had filed false expense reports. He was served with the complaint that day.

On May 17, 2012 Deborah Dooley (hereinafter “Dooley”) filed a complaint against Respondent pursuant to O.C.G.A. Section 45-10-91 alleging improper per diem and mileage expense requests, and later amended the complaint to also allege that Respondent had failed to establish an Audit Subcommittee of the Senate Rules Committee, of which Respondent has served as Chairman for approximately the last ten (10) years. The same subcommittee which had reviewed the Christian complaint was charged with reviewing the Dooley complaint so as to report to the full committee on how to proceed with respect to this new complaint.

On July 12,2012 the subcommittee issued its report on the Dooley complaint to the full Senate Ethics Committee. Following the report, a majority of the committee determined it could not exercise jurisdiction under Title 45 of the Official Code of Georgia, Annotated. The minority dissented from that vote and for reasons that will he set forth in detail below agreed with Dooley that jurisdiction did lie under Title 45.

The full committee voted unanimously to amend the existing complaint that had been initiated against Respondent to include the allegation regarding the failure of Respondent to comply with O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 requiring the Senate Rules Committee to establish an Audit Subcommittee to review expense reports filed by members of the Senate

On August 16, 2012 the Committee discussed and reviewed the evidence. The Respondent and his legal counsel were present and offered unsworn testimony regarding the allegations. Following this colloquy, the Senate Ethics Committee concluded that Senator Balfour failed to maintain accurate records of his travel and consequently submitted inaccurate vouchers to the Legislative Fiscal Office.

The Committee then voted to issue its report and, following negotiation with Respondent and his attorney, agreed to the sanctions, a $5,000.00 fine, restitution of $366.96 and that an audit subcommittee be established and perform as required by O.C.G.A. 28-1-8(e).

The Minority agreed that Respondent had violated Senate Rules by failing to maintain accurate records and submitting false expense reports; however, dissented from the negotiated sanction.

RATIONALE FOR AREAS OF DISSENT

Jurisdiction

There are two bases under which the Senate Ethics Committee may exercise jurisdiction over an ethics complaint. The first is when a citizen files a complaint which meets the requirements of O.C.G.A. 45-10-90 el sou. The second is when the Committee on its own authority or other authorized party under Senate Rule 14.10 initiates a complaint. As noted above, the Senate Ethics Committee chose to dismiss both the Christian and Dooley complaints due to lack of jurisdiction under Title 45.

Since neither Christian nor Dooley qualified as authorized persons under Senate Rule 1-4.10 the only way to further investigate whether the claims made were meritorious was for the Committee lo initiate its own complaint, which it did.

O.C.G.A. 45-10-91 provides that any citizen may file a complaint charging a member with “improper conduct”. The definition of “improper conduct” embraces conduct where “an individual has multiple interests and uses his or her official position to exploit, in some way, his or her position for his or her own direct, unique, pecuniary, and personal benefit.” O.C.G.A. 45-10-90(4).

It is clear to the Minority that both the Christian and Dooley complaint meet the jurisdictional threshold of Title 45 and should have been handled under Title 45. Both complaints alleged that the Respondent used his position as State Senator to file false expense reports which provided for a direct, unique, pecuniary and personal benefit, namely the monies wrongfully disbursed to Respondent. The amended Dooley complaint went a step further, alleging that by failing to authorize the Audit Subcommittee as required by O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 that the Respondent was able to insure that the false expense reports would never be reviewed. In this case, O.C.G.A. 45-10-92(b) governs how proceedings are to be conducted:

The committee shall conduct a preliminary investigation of the merits of such complaint. If a complaint alleges a violation by one of the members of the committee, such member shall recuse himself or herself. If there are found no reasonable grounds to believe that improper conduct or sexual harassment has occurred, the complaint shall be dismissed, subject to being reopened upon discovery of additional evidence or relevant material. The committee shall not be required to conduct: a hearing if there are no reasonable grounds  to believe that improper conduct or sexual harassment has occurred. If the committee determines that there are such reasonable grounds to believe that improper conduct or sexual harassment has occurred, it shall give notice by hearing. The rules of the committee shall be invoked if a hearing occurs. The committee may report suspected violations of law to the appropriate law enforcement authority.

Instead of proceeding under Title 45 with the complaints presented which would have necessitated a public hearing of these matters, the Committee chose to proceed under the other route available which did not require a public hearing. The opinion of the Minority is that this decision was made in error and that the public, including the complainants, were entitled to be present for the proceedings held by the Committee.

Sanctions

Without getting into the question of intent on the part of the Respondent, the facts are that false reports were filed with the Legislative Fiscal Office by Respondent and that Respondent received monies he was not entitled to under the law. The Committee decided it was sufficient to fine the Respondent, ask for further restitution to be paid and that the Audit Subcommittee be appointed and begin meeting.

The Minority reviewed the case of State Senator Roscoe Dean, who was censured by the State Senate in 1976 for similar offenses, namely filing false expense reports, including claiming trips from his home in Jesup, Georgia to Atlanta on dates when in fact he was registered at a hotel in the Bahamas. Senator Dean was prosecuted on theft charges, and while those charges ended in a mistrial he was still censured by the Georgia State Senate on February 5, 1976.

In addition to the charges of filing false expense reports in this case, the Respondent also admitted to violation of O.C.G.A. 28-1-8 which provides for the Audit Subcommittee to review the expense reports of all Senators.

In the view of the Minority, this compounds the other offense as by the Respondent’s failure to appoint the Audit Subcommittee he removed the safeguard against false filings, not just in his case but in the case of any Senator that might have done so over the last decade he has been charged with the responsibility of chairing the Senate Rules Committee.

It is for these reasons therefore that it is the opinion of the Minority that a recommendation should issue for a Censure Resolution to be introduced with a do pass recommendation regarding the conduct of the Respondent, that the Committee recommend to the Committee on Assignments that Respondent be removed as Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee and that a fine equivalent to the cost of the proceedings of the Senate Ethics Committee be imposed on Respondent.

FURTHER CORRECTIVE ACTION RECOMMENDED

Referral for Investigation

The amended Dooley complaint lodged several allegations which were, without question, beyond the scope of the Committee’s jurisdiction. These allegations included that Respondent’s conduct constitutes a violation of his oath of office and is punishable under O.C.G.A. 16-10-1; that Respondent’s conduct constitutes false swearing and is punishable under O.C.G.A. 16-10-71 and that respondent’s conduct constitutes theft by deception and is punishable under O.C.G.A. 16-8-3.

The Minority is of the opinion that to fully conclude this matter, that an appropriate authority should investigate these matters and determine finally if any violation of these statutes has taken place. The Minority will transmit this report to the Attorney General with its recommendation that his office conduct such an investigation.

Changes to Senate Rules

It is the opinion of the Minority that Senate Rules should be changed so that regardless of the channel an ethics complaint travels that, upon a showing of probable cause, that subsequent proceedings be open to the public. The taxpayers have a right to know about these proceedings and going forward the Senate should ensure its rules allow for proceedings of the nature that occurred on August 16, 2012 to be made public.

RESPECTFULLY SUBMITTED, this 20th day of August, 2012.

Senator Joshua R. McKoon

20
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 20, 2012

26397 is a young male lab; he looks out of pen 114 waiting for his family to come get him and save him from being euthanized. They aren’t coming. During a recent four month period, 744 cats and dogs were euthanized at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. This young male lab can go home with you for $30 adoption fee and a $60 vet fee. Citizens 55 and older adopt for free and pay half the vet fee for a total of $30. Gwinnett County employees adopt for free and pay only the vet fee. Adopt this dog and email me and I’ll reimburse the adoption fee.

Georgia Politics, Campagins, and Elections for August 201, 2012

Tomorrow is the primary and nonpartisan judicial runoff election. Polls will be open from  7 AM to 7 PM.

A warning to campaigns who are considering a last minute attack based on your opponent’s apparent failure to file a campaign contribution report that was due six days before the runoff — the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission website appears to be lagging in making timely-filed reports available when searched for.

The best story about runoff craziness comes to us from Glynn County, where a magistrate judge had to tell a preacher to behave.

The Rev. Ken Adkins became the only person in Glynn County Friday who can’t call a school board member a fool.

In issuing two good behavior warrants against Adkins, Magistrate Steven Morgan forbade him from using Facebook and other means to call school board member Venus Holmes “a fool” or a “runaway slave” or tow truck driver Robbie Tucker a “child molester” in his work for two local campaigns. It was, however, a mutual good behavior warrant, which forbids Holmes and Tucker from doing anything to harm Adkins.

“Political discourse or not, this has crossed the line,’’ Morgan said before issuing the warrants.

Adkins’ lawyer Robert Crowe argued that he was just expressing his political opinion.

But Morgan stuck with his ruling saying, “You are not to call [Tucker] a child molester unless you’ve got proof of it. You can’t call [Holmes] a runaway slave or a fool.”

But as a result of Morgan’s order, Tucker’s and Holmes’ election opponents both said they are withdrawing from the races.

Republican Darlynne Rogers was running against Holmes for the District 5 seat on the county school board. Tashawnta Wells is in Tuesday’s Republican runoff against Tucker for the District 5 seat on the County Commission. Adkins was advising both in their campaigns.

Also gone off the rails is Loree Anne Thompson, spokesperson for the Doug Collins campaign for the Republican nomination for Ninth Congressional District. At a forum held by the South Hall Republican Club,

The setup of Tuesday night’s forum was different than in the past. Candidates were not asked questions; instead, they were allowed to speak for a set amount of time and follow up with a shorter statement after their opponents had their say.

With or without the format, signs the campaign season is beginning to wear on the candidates’ composure were visible early in the meeting.

The first surfaced when Martha Zoller, candidate for the U.S. House 9th District seat, addressing the video- and audio-recorded statements opponent Doug Collins’ campaign has used against her, said she felt “sorry for the poor little intern” who Zoller said had to sit and watch her talk for “hours and hours.”

Then, Zoller said that the intern only found “two minutes” of ammunition for the campaign. The statement prompted Collins’ campaign spokeswoman Loree Anne Thompson to interrupt Zoller’s speech.

“It was a lot more than two minutes, Martha, I can promise you,” Thompson said.

Thompson’s interjection was immediately followed by a shout from a woman in the front of the room, “Why don’t you shut up?”

As Zoller made her closing statements, Collins’ himself interrupted, saying statements Zoller was making about a vote of his were “not true.”

Earlier in the week, Loree Anne Thompson had emailed out Martha Zoller’s cell phone number asking recipients to call Martha and ask her loaded questions. I consider this a cheap, unprofessional attempt to harass the opponent.

So then, Loree Anne Thompson turned to harassing me because I had the audacity to notice what she did. Thompson sent me a self-serving “response” that I declined to publish or write about. Then after calling me three times, she emailed me this:

Todd, I’ve called you 3 times today with no response. This doesn’t take into account the multiple number of times I’ve called you on this campaign with – wait for it - no response. I’ll be HAPPY to talk with your editor about your inability to communicate with anyone on the Collins campaign, and by the looks of it you probably speak with Martha pretty regularly.
How dare you try to throw me under the bus, and then refuse to update a comment I freely offered you regarding the subject.
When you want to be a responsible journalist and include both sides of the story – give me a call.

The manure spreader and what the Augusta Chronicle calls “a cartoonish splatter of mud” certainly deserve dishonorable mention in any discussion of runoff craziness.

Maybe the runoff fever is understandable when candidates put so much time, money and effort into it.

Dennis Reese was one of three men mired in a contentious Tift County Sheriff election. He says there is a lot of work that goes into it.

“It can be very overwhelming financially, mentally, even physically. A lot of people don’t even realize that it can be very overwhelming,” Reese said.
Between speaking engagements, knocking on doors, and waving from the street, many sacrifices had to be made including a good night’s sleep.
“I probably got anywhere from five to six hours,” Reese said. “I was always constantly going, constantly thinking, preparing the next day if I had a speech, going down my list of who I am going to see tomorrow and the next day. So, it’s really never ending.”
That never ending schedule has kept many candidates with their feet planted on Tift Avenue for long hours.
For seemingly months, candidates have occupied  street corners during their campaigns- so much so that tax commissioner candidates have joked that they should start charging property taxes there.
Dennis Reese lost to Steve Wood and Gene Scarbrough who are in Tuesday’s run-off.

If Cobb County Commissioner Woody Thompson meant to suggest that moms won’t have time to serve in elected office, he might just find out whether they have time to vote in runoff elections.

In recent Marietta Daily Journal article, entitled “Thompson touts experience on job,” Thompson pointed out that Cupid is 35 and he is 65.

The paper stated, “Thompson also questioned whether Cupid, a married mother of two young children, would have time to dedicate to the job.”

Cupid, who graduated with an engineering degree from the Georgia Institute of Technology and will graduate with graduate degrees in law and public administration from Georgia State University in December, has two sons and is married to her college sweetheart, Craig Cupid.

Cupid responded to Thompson’s claim of experience as a commissioner, saying “Having a lot of years on the commission board does not equate to having a lot of results or being effective. I think that people want to see more results.”

She called Thompson’s comments that a mother of two young children may not have time to dedicate to the job of commissioner “a slap in the face.”

And she was quoted in the article saying, “While I was in school, I worked, I had children, I was very involved in my community and was more visible than he was. So what was Woody’s excuse?”

On Friday, Cupid’s campaign sent out an e-blast encouraging South Cobb residents to go vote and adding remarks about Thompson’s mother comments.

Governor Nathan Deal recorded a robocall for Doug Collins that has been sent to likely runoff voters. In Hall County, Deal received more votes in the 2010 primary runoff election than were cast for all candidates in the primary itself. I’m not aware of another example of that ever happening.

In the Second Congressional District Republican Primary Runoff between Rick Allen and John House, Dougherty County reports only 29 ballots cast during early voting. Chatham and Effingham County elections officials also report little voter interest.

The Augusta Chronicle examines the voting records of the candidates in runoff elections this year.

Only two – District 5 incumbent Commissioner Bill Lockett and school board member Patsy Scott – made it to the polls every time.

Lockett, retired from careers in the military, U.S. government and board of education, said he was stationed overseas during much of the civil rights era but recalled the sacrifices his parents and others made as a reason to always vote.

“We knew people that lost their jobs because they chose to vote, and there were even people that made the ultimate sacrifice … I don’t want their work to go down in vain,” said Lockett, who – like Scott – is unopposed for re-election and voted in 31 of the 31 opportunities he had.

A strong work ethic also sent him to the polls every time, Lockett added.

“In too many instances we choose not to vote, then complain about the decisions made by elected officials,” he said.

All four runoff slots in Gwinnett County judicial election belong to women, with Emily Brantley and Pam Britt facing off for State Court and Kathy Schrader coming in with a healthy 2-1 margin over Tracey Mason Blasi in the runoff for Superior Court.

My predictions for Gwinnett County: Emily Brantley for State Court and Kathy Schrader will open up her 2:1 margin to win the Superior Court race. Schrader is my client, so there’s that, but watch the margin and see if it doesn’t actually increase.

Gwinnett County Commissioner Mike Beaudreau faces perennial candidate Tommy Hunter in the runoff election for District 3.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer calls Senator Don Balfour the poster boy for the ethically-challenged and misquotes Senate President Pro Tem Tommie Williams saying that proponents of limiting lobbyist gifts to legislators were limited to “media elites and liberal interest groups.” I’m pretty sure it was Speaker David Ralston who is credited with that last statement.

The seven-candidate Republican Primary for Jackson County Sheriff has been winnowed to  Janis Mangum, a 23 year-veteran of the Sheriff’s office, and Ramone Gilbert, who worked in the Hall County Sheriff’s Office for 24 years before he retired.

Madison County voters will choose between incumbent sheriff Kip Thomas and former sheriff Clayton Lowe; Julie Phillips and John Sartain meet in a runoff for Coroner.

Murray County voters return to the polls on Tuesday for the Republican primary runoff for Sheriff between Gary Langford, a 38-year law enforcement veteran who served with the Chatsworth Police Department, Murray County Sheriff’s Office and Georgia State Patrol and Wyle Keith Pritchett, a patrol officer for the Eton Police Department who also worked at the Resaca Police Department and Murray County Sheriff’s Office. Democrat incumbent Howard Ensley will meet the winner in November’s general election.

In Whitfield, incumbent Clerk of the Superior Court Melica Kendrick was forced into a GOP primary runoff against Susan Miller; no Democrat qualified for the office. More information on that Clerk’s race is available here.

Political Science

Dalton State College President Emeritus Jim Burran will give talks about “Southern Politics” twice this week.

He will speak at a Coffee & Conversation program in Chatsworth on Thursday, Aug. 30, and at a Lunch & Learn program at DSC on Friday, Sept. 7. Both programs are hosted by the Dalton State Foundation.

“Georgia’s 1966 campaign for governor proved one of the most interesting in the state’s history,” Burran said. “This was the first time since Reconstruction that a Republican candidate emerged as a legitimate contender. It was this campaign that thrust future President Jimmy Carter into the limelight. And it was this election that put restaurant owner Lester Maddox into the governor’s chair.”

Apparently, the South is no longer solidly Democratic. Who knew?

The “Solid South” was a political fact, benefiting Democrats for generations and then Republicans, with Bible Belt and racial politics ruling the day.

But demographic changes and recent election results reveal a more nuanced landscape now as the two major parties prepare for their national conventions.

Southern strategists and politicians say results will turn again this year on which party and candidates understand changing demographics and voter priorities.

New citizens, birth rates, and migration patterns of native-born Americans make high-growth areas less white, less conservative or both. There is increasing urban concentration in many areas. African-American families are moving back to the South after generations in Chicago, New York or other northern cities.

Young religious voters are less likely than their parents to align with Republicans on abortion and same-sex unions. Younger voters generally are up for grabs on fundamental questions like the role of the federal government in the marketplace.

Virginia grew from 7 million people to 8 million from 2000 to 2010, according to the census. North Carolina went from 8 million to 9.5 million. Both states were 65 percent white, a drop from 72 percent in each state. Native North Carolinians made up 58.6 percent of the population, a proportion that topped 70 percent two decades ago. Virginia is now half transient or immigrant.

“The North Carolina that Sen. (Jesse) Helms ran in was certainly different than today,” said GOP campaign strategist Brian Nick, referring to the cantankerous five-term Republican senator. Nick worked for Helms’ successor, Republican Elizabeth Dole.

My own mentor, Dr. Merle Black at Emory, discusses negative campaigning and changes in technological delivery of campaign manure.

17
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 17, 2012

This young female English Setter mix might be a great bird dog. She might also be a couch potato. Either way, she’s available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Her ID is 26571 and she is located in pen 139.

This puppy is described as a baby lab, but I’ve never seen a lab with markings like those. She is a large, playful and friendly puppy with ID #26454 and is in pen 214, waiting at Gwinnett County Animal Shelter for her new home and family.

I’d already compiled this morning’s featured dogs when I saw this photo and couldn’t resist. She is a young Siberian Husky available for adoption today from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. Large and friendly, she was surrendered by her owner and does not like cats.

GPB has the first of a three-part series of advice and stories about adopting dogs.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Former State Rep. Johnny Floyd of Cordele, who switched parties to become a Republican in 2006, has been elected Chairman of the Georgia Department of Transportation Board. Former State Rep. Jay Shaw was elected Vice Chair.

State Senator Don Balfour settled a complaint by the Senate Ethics Committee alleging the Rules Committee Chairman submitted inaccurate reimbursement claims.

The committee concluded that “Sen. Balfour failed to maintain accurate records of his travel and consequently submitted inaccurate vouchers to the Legislative Fiscal Office,” according to its report, which was released late Thursday afternoon.

Veteran lawmakers said it was the first time the Senate Ethics Committee voted to punish one of the chamber’s members.

Balfour, chairman of the Rules Committee, was accused of billing the state for mileage while out of town on lobbyist-funded trips, and for failing to create a subcommittee to audit all senators’ reimbursement vouchers.

On Thursday, Balfour acknowledged making “some inadvertent mistakes and I’ve said that all along” and admitted he had not created an audit subcommittee — but neither had previous chairmen. He did not speak to reporters after the report was released.

Balfour has subsequently amended his reimbursements and will repay $350 to the state plus a $5000 fine. His chairmanship presumably will be subject to the Committee on Assignments.

Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus) was not amused.

“While I strongly agree with the Committee’s determination of guilt, I disagree with the penalty, which will not deter future serious breaches of Georgia law and is not as strong as penalties imposed when similar offenses have been committed in the past.”

“I will be preparing a minority report in the days to come which I will forward on to appropriate parties for consideration which will address these matters in much greater detail. Suffice it to say that the action taken today, in my opinion, further undermines public confidence in state government and reinforces the anything goes culture at the Capitol.”

Also not amused? Debbie Dooley, who I would argue is the most influential woman in Georgia politics at the moment.

Dooley called the penalties “a slap on the wrist” agreed to in a “backroom deal.”

“The attitude of the voters and the grass roots is that the Senate chamber is a good old boy network that actually takes care of their own and covers for their own,” she said.

The committee, Dooley said, is “rubber-stamping unethical behavior from Sen. Balfour.”

Dooley vowed to press Attorney General Sam Olens and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard to investigate Balfour’s actions.

She said her organization also will pressure Senate leaders to strip Balfour of his committee chairmanship. The Rules Committee decides which bills make it to the Senate floor, and as chairman, Balfour has great power to influence those decisions.

Richmond County Sheriff’s Department Capt. Scott Peebles and County School System Public Safety Lt. Richard Roundtree will meet in the runoff for Sheriff on Tuesday.

Manure has become the metaphor of choice in the 12th Congressional District Republican Primary Runoff between State Rep. Lee Anderson and Rick Allen. Lee Anderson hit the air with an ad accusing Rick Allen of bringing out the manure spreader and visuals of Rick Allen getting what is presumably manure flung on his face.

Now, the Augusta Chronicle suggests that Anderson is mailing out the manure himself.

Mud – or in Grovetown state Rep. Lee Anderson’s case – manure – continues to fly in the 12th Congressional District race as Tuesday’s Republican primary runoff between Anderson and Augusta businessman Rick W. Allen grows closer.

A mailer from Lee Anderson for Congress goes too far in accusing Allen of contributing money to incumbent Democrat John Barrow, said Allen’s campaign manager, Scott Paradise.

“It’s a flat-out lie,” Paradise said. “This piece is a last-minute piece, and maybe they thought ‘let’s send it out and hope we don’t get caught.’ But they slipped up.”

I’ve got to wonder what the robocalls sound like in that campaign.

Also going negative in the runoff are State Senator Miriam Paris and her opponent David Lucas.

During a news conference Thursday, Lucas addressed a controversial campaign mailer that featured an unflattering picture of the former state representative who appears to be yawning. The mailer goes onto to say:

“We don’t need a sleeping senator. David Lucas falls asleep on the job. And when he wakes up, he’s a nightmare. David Lucas slept while thousands of jobs left Middle Georgia.”

Now Lucas is firing back. He’s says if anyone has been sleeping on the job it is Paris.

“The senator elect was asleep on the job when they did the consolidation bill that she could not explain,” Lucas said.

The ad was paid for by Georgia Forward, a group that describes itself as independent and non-partisan. Lucas believes that ad was paid for by republicans. He feels that negative campaigning is taking over the race but says he’s not the one behind it.

Both candidates deny negative campaigning.

Murray County Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran has resigned under investigation by the Judicial Qualifications Commission for pre-signing blank arrest warrants for police officers.

The commission posted on Thursday Cochran’s resignation letter, a letter from Gov. Nathan Deal accepting his resignation and a copy of a consent order signed by Cochran agreeing to resign and to not seek any other elected or appointed judicial office.

A report accompanying those documents, also signed by Cochran, says the commission was investigating whether Cochran “allowed the prestige of his office to advance his private interests” and whether he “pre-signed blank arrest warrants for completion by law enforcement officers while he was absent from the office.”

Cochran was also recently accused of making advances toward a woman before him on methamphetamine charges.

Click Here

A political consulting firm called “Pirouette Companies” continues to cause controversy in the now-settled Fulton County election for State Court Judge.

An ethics complaint filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge in the days before the July 31 primary will be investigated by the Georgia Government Transparency & Campaign Finance Commission to determine if any laws were violated.

The complaint was filed by Charlie Stadtlander, a gay voter. Leftridge faced off against open lesbian Jane Morrison in the non-partisan campaign for the open seat of Fulton State Judge. Morrison won with more than 60 percent of the vote.

Statdlander accused Leftridge in his complaint of an “apparent elaborate scheme to funnel some $18,500 to a company responsible for maintaining a websitewww.pirouettesexy.com” that features “pictures of scantly clad women.”

But here’s where the Pirouette Companies saga turns into more than just a remnant from a campaign that’s now finished:

Mitzi Bickers, a longtime political operative, said she consults for Piroutte Companies and started working for the company earlier this year.

The company has a youth program that includes teaching dance to young people, but the money Leftridge paid was to Piroutte Companies and not to a dance company, Bickers said.

“We have not done anything unethical,” she said.

Bickers, who is gay, took an unpaid leave of absence from working for Mayor Kasim Reed’s administration in May to work for Pirouette. Records show that Pirouette was paid more than $115,000 by Citizens for Transportation Mobility, which supported TSPLOST. Reed was a strong outspoken supporter of TSPLOST.

“I took an unpaid leave of absence so there would not be any conflict of interest with TSPLOST,” Bickers said.

Ends & Pieces

Atlantan Cassie Mitchell is headed to London to compete in the Paralympics in three wheelchair sports, the 100m and 200m sprint and the discus. I met Cassie when I volunteered at Shepherd Spinal Center with the Quad Rugby Program. She’s an amazing athlete and holds a Ph.D. in biomedical engineering from Georgia Tech, where she works.

Three members of the US Army marksmanship team who competed in the London Olympics have returned to Fort Benning where they are teaching junior rifle camp.

The Marksmanship Unit sent seven soldiers to the competition at the Royal Artillery Barracks, but Sgt. Vincent Hancock was the only one to strike gold in men’s skeet shooting. He’s on leave preparing for a big welcome home Saturday in Eatonton, Ga.

Sgt. 1st Class Josh Olson, the first active-duty soldier to ever qualify for a Paralympics, is the only member of the Marksmanship Unit left to compete in London. Olson, who lost his right leg after he was wounded in Iraq in 2003, will compete in the 10-meter air rifle Sept. 1 and the mixed 50-meter prone rifle Sept. 4.

As an instructor, [Sgt. 1st Class Eric] Uptagrafft said he’s teaching the 15-17-year-old shooters the basic fundamentals of firing a small bore .22-caliber rifle at a target less than the size of a dime 50 meters away.

“All the things you use to get to the Olympics are the things these kids are going to use hopefully to get there in eight or nine years,” he said.

Students had to apply to earn a spot at the five-day camp. Michael Garner, 16, of Celina, Texas, said it’s exciting to get help from world-class shooters and Olympians.

11
Aug

Ralston: I’ll see your lobbyist gift limit and raise you a total ban

The AJC reports:

House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, will propose next year a full ban on lobbyist gifts to lawmakers, delighting ethics advocates and worrying some lobbyists.

Ralston told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Friday that a simple cap on the value of those gifts would do little to stem the influence of special interests. Instead, he said, he will propose to end the practice outright.

“I have always said while I believe the current system is a good system because it does provide information and it’s open and transparent that if we didn’t have that system then a prohibition would be better than a cap, and I haven’t changed my mind,” Ralston said.

Voters “spoke on the issue in the primary,” Ralston said. “I’m committed from the House side to making sure we have real, serious ethics reform.”

Ralston’s move has been questioned by some as a ploy. With Senate leaders on record supporting a cap, Ralston could argue instead for an outright ban, and the resulting legislative scrum could scuttle any change in the current system. But Ralston said he is committed to getting it done, and his support would lend the effort a serious chance to pass.

Jet Toney, chairman of the Georgia Professional Lobbyists Association, said his 140-plus members are split on the issue.

“Some members believe that a cap or a ban would level the playing field,” he said. “Others would not like to see a cap or ban because it would, they believe, disadvantage them.”

Kay Godwin, with Georgia Conservatives in Action, said she believed Ralston was sincere and added that she was “delighted” to work with him and other leaders.

“I think we have good guys in Georgia,” Godwin said. “We respect their opinions. They respect ours. Out of both we can work together.”

Here’s a suggestion: take a look at Senator Josh McKoon’s bill and consider implementing the allowance for travel, accomodations, etc. for some limited set of expenses that currently are often reported as “gifts.”

McKoon is sponsoring an ethics bill that would cap lobbyist gifts at $100 and set a limit of $750 for travel, meals, and accommodations for conferences and speaking engagements for lawmakers.

Here’s the money quote from McKoon’s bill:

S. B. 391 LC 35 2494

 

(a)(1) No lobbyist shall make at any single event an expenditure to a public officer, an employee or a staff member of a public officer who works in support of the public office in which such officer serves, or a member of the family of a public officer in an amount exceeding $100.00 per such officer, employee, staff member, or family member; provided, however, that any reimbursement or payment of actual and reasonable expenses provided to a public officer or a family member, employee, or staff member of a public officer for transportation, travel, lodging, registration, food, beverages, and other activities related to attending a meeting or conference so as to permit a public officer’s participation in such meeting or conference shall be limited to not more than $750.00. Beginning January 1, 2013, and annually thereafter, the limitation on expenditures specified in this subsection shall be increased by .03 percent or by a percentage equal to the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less.