Category: Ethics

10
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 10, 2012

Scooter, Lilac, and Ozzie are puppies who are available for adoption from Walton County Animal Services. Scooter is 2-3 months old and weighs 10 pounds. Lilac is about two months old and 15 pounds. Ozzie is about ten months olds and weighs 15 pounds. Take your pick for $40, which includes a voucher for a discounted spay/neuter, up-to-date shots and de-worming.

Brewster is 8-10 months old and weighs 15 pounds; Mama Dog is 2 years and 15 pounds; Jack is a seven-year old black lab mix who is neutered and whose owners have been notified but have not picked him up from the shelter. Old dogs have great value and great hearts, but are not as adoptable as puppies. Please consider adopting one of these old souls or fostering.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Advance voting begins on Monday for the August 21 runoff elections, as far as we know. Check your county’s voting information on Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s website. Current information on advance voting for the runoffs is limited, so if you have any questions, please call your local elections board.

Early voting has already begun in Hall County.

Mitt Romney and Barack Obama are both whining about negative ads and blaming the other without taking any responsibility. That tactic might be embraced by other candidates.

The Republican National Convention announced yesterday that Attorney General Sam Olens will co-chair the platform sub-committee on Healthcare, Education and Crime with Idaho State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna and Oklahoma RNC National Committeewoman Carolyn McLarty.

We will be receiving updates for at least one delegate to the National Convention and will include it in our morning emails. If you’ll be in Tampa as a Delegate or guest and would like to send us reports, photos, or souvenir twenty-dollar bills with Ronald Reagan’s likeness, please email us.

My attention was directed yesterday to the fact that Democratic State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick faces Republican Tina Hoffer in house district 93′s general election.

After the recount in the 12th Congressional District Republican Primary election, Wright McLeod remains in third place. State Rep. Lee Anderson meets Rick W. Allen in the runoff.

Millard Grimes writes that the Republican Primary between Regina Quick and Doug McKillip was the worst he’s ever seen.

It was poetic justice that only 64 votes separated the totals for Regina Quick and Doug McKillip in the July 31 Republican primary that decided the occupant of the House District 117 seat in the Georgia General Assembly. They both deserved to lose. A virtual tie was next best.

As a political junkie, I’ve been following campaigns for more than 60 years. The Quick-McKillip campaign was the worst I’ve seen, and it was fought over such a minor stake — two years in the Georgia House of Representatives.

There were constant campaign mailouts, hundreds of minutes of radio ads, and even the newspapers got in on the cash flow.

In Muscogee County, Sheriff John Darr won the Democratic primary with a narrow 71-vote margin after a recount. Strangely, each candidate gained 19 votes during the recount. Doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence in the voting system, does it?

James Grogan was sworn in as Mayor of Dawsonville to fill the term of the late Mayor Joe Lane Cox.

In the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit, which comprises Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker Counties, a recount was requested in the District Attorney election, where incumbent Herbert “Buzz” Franklin received 42 more votes than his opponent, Doug Woodruff.

Catoosa County Sheriff Phil Summers endorsed Gary Sisk in the runoff election to succeed Summer. Sick will meet Larry Black in the runoff.

Former Clayton County Sheriff Victor Hill has been endorsed by two of the six candidates who did not make the runoff against incumbent Kem Kimbrough.

Runoff for Gwinnett County Superior Court

Tracey Mason Blasi was the runner-up in the election for Gwinnett Superior Court and was attacked by one opponent, Chris McClurg in the primary; she hit him back with a negative robocall. Fair enough, though both candidates lost votes from where they stood before the negativity started. McClurg actually went from a tight third-place one week out to fourth on election day according to internal polling.

Yesterday, a letter from Tracey Mason Blasi hit mailboxes, claiming that “[i]t is so important for our judicial system that elections for judge remain above those kinds of tactics using ‘attack robocalls’” and attributing them to her ‘opponent,’ which leaves open the implication that she means her opponent in the Runoff election, Kathy Schrader, who is my client.

Tracey Mason Blasi knows that is a false implication. I will state here that neither I nor Kathy Schrader had anything to do with the negative mail or robocalls that targeted Blasi during the primary. Kathy Schrader told Blasi the same thing.

In fact, I suspect that implication is the result of a poorly-written letter rather than what the writer meant to say, because I have read another letter written by Tracey Mason Blasi, addressed to Mike Bowers as head of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, and Governor Sonny Perdue, in which Blasi wrote:

It has been my experience that Mrs. Schrader is the attorney to whom the most experienced attorneys in Gwinnett County will refer cases. I believe that she has earned her impeccable reputation over the eighteen years that she has practiced law in Gwinnett County by effectively representing her clients, by treating clients and fellow attorneys alike with respect, and by doing it all with integrity.

As an eighth generation Gwinnettian, I am confident that our community will continue to be a place families want to live with the strong leadership, the good works, and the integrity of professionals like Kathryn Schrader. I support her wholeheartedly as the new addition to the Gwinnett County Superior Courts.

That last letter appears on Tracey Mason Blasi’s letterhead with a signature and was faxed from her fax machine.

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

Given Tracey Mason Blasi’s earlier assessment of Kathy Schrader’s integrity, it is unlikely that she now questions Schrader, since the only thing that’s changed is that Blasi is now seeking the Superior Court bench herself.

Ethics

The State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission website was malfunctioning yesterday and wouldn’t allow viewing of filed campaign disclosure reports on an intermittent and annoying basis throughout yesterday. As I write this it is down yet again.

Click Here

During the days leading up to the last report due date, there were extensive problems reported by candidates filing online. With the reduced number of filers for the runoff period, some of the pressure on the system may be lessened, but recent reliability problems don’t give us confidence.

Speaking of disclosures during the runoff, Rick Thompson had some tips for candidates.

“There are additional reporting requirements for candidates in a runoff election,” said Thompson, who formerly served as head of the State Ethics Commission and is currently managing partner of R. Thompson & Associates, specializing in compliance reporting and ethics strategy.

“The first report is your typical Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (CCDR) for August 15; this is referenced as the ‘6-Day Before Primary Runoff’ report,” Thompson said, “Candidates who did not win their primary bids have statutory reporting requirements that continue for the campaign through termination the end of the year.  This is something often overlooked by candidates and it can be a significant issue, especially if the candidate seeks election at a later time.”  Thompson’s firm offers a package for reporting and termination for campaigns that end before the year does.

Dariel Daniel chose to mail his disclosures rather than fight with the online filing system. I bet he wishes he had paid for a return receipts.

the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission said Wednesday that Board of Education candidate Dariel Daniel has paid his fines, but the commission did not have his campaign disclosure report.

“We do not have any report from him that are waiting to be checked in, or are in the ‘have a problem and filer has been contacted’ pile,” said Holly LaBerge, executive director of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, in an email. “This isn’t to say that the report isn’t in the mail, but if he didn’t sent it certified or overnight delivery – which is statutorily required – then there is no way to know where it is or if it will ever get here.”

Daniel, after being told about LeBerge’s response, said he had sent his disclosure through U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail “long ago.”

“When I called to ask why it wasn’t posted, (a representative) said ‘We are swamped with these forms and we will post it when we get to it,’” Daniel said.

LaBerge said there was a backlog of paper-filed reports waiting to be entered into the commission’s system due to a problem with the way they were filed, and the filers had been contacted. It is up to the filer to correct the problem.

Daniel is facing Board of Education incumbent Sheila Rowe in a runoff on Aug. 21. Rowe on Tuesday announced she had filed an ethics complaint with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission over Daniel’s late fees for not filing, which were listed owed for December, March and June for the current election, plus $65 overdue for his 2004 run for the same seat.

Jim Galloway writes for the AJC that House leaders may be considering a total ban on lobbyist spending on legislators.

We’ve gotten reliable information – and not from a single source — that House Republican leaders are considering legislation next January that would ban all lobbyist spending on lawmakers altogether. Nothing. Zip. Nada. And that Ralston is among those who have expressed interest in this path.

The impact on the culture of the state Capitol would be tremendous.

Leaders of the state Senate have signed onto the petition pushed by Common Cause Georgia and tea party groups, endorsing the $100 cap.

[Jim - see how easy it is to include a hot link?]

Events

On August 15th, beginning at 6 PM, Josh Romney will headline a fundraiser aimed at young professionals at the Park Tavern at Piedmont Park in Atlanta. Georgia Finance Chair Eric Tanenblatt will host with Congressmen Tom Graves, Rob Woodall, and Austin Scott expected to attend.

Host / Private Reception / Photo — 6 p.m.
$1,000 per Person (Give or Raise)

Photo Opportunity — 6:30 p.m.
$250 per Person

General Reception — 7:00 p.m.
$100 per Person

Governor Nathan Deal and First Lady Sandra Deal will host Governor Mike Huckabee at a reception and dinner supporting the Romney Victory Committee on August 16th at 5:30  (Photo Op) & 6:15 PM (Reception) at the Robson Event Center, located at 310 Broad Street in Gainesville, GA 30501. The full invite is available here.

5:30 PM Photo Op – ($5,000 PER PERSON/ $10,000 PER COUPLE)

6:15 PM General Reception – ($1,000 PER PERSON)

To RSVP for either of these events, please contact Dabney Hollis at (404) 791-7179 or DabneyH@me.com, or Stephanie Jones at (404) 849-7211 or StephanieGJones@me.com.

9
Aug

State Campaign Finance Commission system down…again.

Apparently the fact that it’s raining, or maybe simply that it’s a Thursday was enough to cause the Georgia Ethics Campaign Finance Commission servers to take off early for the weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I haven’t tried the filing side, but currently, you can’t use the part of the site where you look up campaign contribution disclosures.

If you’re in a runoff election, you will have another filing due between now and the election, as well as your two-business day reports. I’ll have some tips on how to deal with this in tomorrow’s morning email, but be warned: make plans now for how you will ensure a timely filing.

9
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for August 9, 2012

This good-looking puppy is on his way to becoming a tragic statistic unless someone steps up to adopt or foster him. A large, friendly, playful little guy, the volunteers with Gwinnett County Animal Shelter write that he’ll be the first to be put down if the puppy section fills up. If you want to adopt him, Call the shelter for more information 770-339-3200 and refer to his number 26296.

These little hound or lab puppies apparently get along pretty well and would make a nice pair of friends.They were found stray and are apparently littermates or at least very good buddies. 26437 is male, and 26436 is female, and both are available for adoption today from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens will speak to the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa later this month. I suspect this is related to his role at the top elected supporter of Mitt Romney in Georgia. Congratulations to Sam.

Congressional candidate Wright McLeod has asked for a recount in the twelfth district Republican Primary, where he currently is narrowly out of the runoff.

But no one — apparently including McLeod — expects the recount, due to be finished by noon today, to change the result.

“He’s got basically two chances, slim and none,” said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. “Put the emphasis on none.”

The reason: All but about 2,400 of 60,000-plus ballots in the primary were cast on computerized touch-screen voting machines.

They’ll be retabulated by the district’s 19 counties, said Jared Thomas, spokesman for Secretary of State Brian Kemp, in charge of Georgia elections.

Thomas said he doubts that will change the total very much, if at all.

Experts compare the retabulation process to using a calculator to tally up — yet again — the sum of two plus two.

“It may not change at all unless they find some voting machines had totals that somehow got left out,” Bullock said.

That recount should be finished by noon today. I wonder if any recounts in Georgia have changed election results since the implementation of computerized voting. Email me if you know of any.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s spokeperson isn’t aware of any such cases, according to the Macon Telegraph.

Recounts are “overseen by us and done by the counties just like election night,” said Jared Thomas, a spokesman for the Secretary of State’s office.

“They will re-scan all the absentee ballots and re-tabulate results” from voting machines, he said.

In a written statement after Georgia verified the first count, Staton said the certification made his “campaign victory official.”

Thomas said he was not aware of any case of a recount changing an outcome.

Since 2002, all Georgia voters have used electronic voting machines.

Potentially more interesting are Senator Cecil Staton’s comments about his role in the Senate Republican Caucus.

But it’s not clear if the tepid endorsement from voters in the district will be followed by a struggle for Staton to remain Senate majority whip. The Senate GOP caucus will vote on leadership after the November general election.

“I have not decided about whether I will run for (majority whip), some other office or return to being a committee chair. You can’t be whip and a full committee chair at the same time,” Staton wrote in an e-mail.

Staton led the Senate Science and Technology Committee before being voted whip two years ago.

There likely will be 36 to 38 Republicans in the state Senate by late November and some of them, wrote Staton, are undecided about who they will support for leadership.

“Conversations at this point about caucus positions invite premature speculation,” he said.

This could lead to an extended conversation about the role of the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC, which is thought to have funded incumbent protection mailpieces for several Senate Republicans.

One might wonder how efficient and effective an operation the Senate Caucus Promotion PAC was when the organization appears to have poured seven mailpieces into the lopsided victory by Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers while spending considerably less in the very close campaigns for Senators Murphy and Staton, who barely won, and Senator Johnny Grant, who was defeated.

Republican Senators may be in for extended discussion of the legality and independence of the Republican Caucus Promotion PAC:

some members of the Republican Caucus in the Senate are wondering exactly who made the decision to donate money that they helped raise to an brand-new independent committee that hired a previously unknown company to assist in the re-election efforts of six of their colleagues.
Publicly, they are saying nothing. Privately, they are furious. “None of us knew anything about” the donation or the mailings, said one Senator.
Another Senate veteran has also denied knowledge of the decision behind the donations, and said he was “surprised embarrassed, mortified and angry,” to learn of them.
Another Senator claimed the donations were “inherently illegal,” not for the lack of disclosure, but because the donation appears to have violated the campaign contribution limits.
And while Republican Senators may be ducking calls and avoiding questions from the press, they’re also getting calls from the people who wrote the big checks to the Republican Senatorial Trust. Those donors want to know why their money is being spent this way, and whether or not their donations were used illegally.

The Savannah Morning News headline, “John Barrow hits prospective foes Lee Anderson and Rick Allen; they hit back — and each other” makes the General Election sound like a Three Stooges move.

Why did U.S. Rep. John Barrow attack two prospective foes this week without knowing which one he’ll run against?

People wondered out loud about that when the Augusta Democrat teed off on Republicans Lee Anderson and Rick Allen.

One possible answer surfaced quickly: Anderson and Allen responded by blasting each other almost as much as Barrow.

“It’s probably what Barrow wanted,” said Kennesaw State University political science professor Kerwin Swint. “He drew them out and got them to beat each other up.

David R. Werner has been promoted by Governor Nathan Deal to Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative and External Affairs. According to the press release,

Werner previously served as deputy executive counsel and the policy adviser on public safety. He also held staff positions in both the state House and state Senate. He is the co-chairman of the Governor’s Special Council on Criminal Justice Reform, co-chairman of the Legislative Affairs Committee of the Young Lawyers Division of the State Bar of Georgia and a member of the Federalist Society. He and his wife, Suzanne, reside in Atlanta and are members of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church.

Kathy Schrader for Judge Banner

Springfield will elect a new Mayor after the resignation of Mayor Joe Quimby Jeff Northway.

Qualifying will cost $35 and will be held from 8:30 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 27, through 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 29, at Springfield City Hall, 130 S. Laurel St.

City officials said they recently discovered that Northway was convicted of three felonies in Texas in the 1980s. They said he lied and said he was not a convicted felon when he applied to run for mayor.

Northway resigned July 12 and has declined to comment.

The city said Northway was convicted of two felonies — theft by receiving and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 1983 in Harris County, Texas. He received a three-year sentence on those charges.

After serving the sentence, he was convicted in 1989 of a third felony for unauthorized use of a vehicle.

Lesli Messinger won the Democratic Primary to take on Republican Congressman Jack Kingston. Apparently, her “Midwestern values” are one of the reasons Georgians will vote for her. Hmmm, blonde hair and midwestern values. Sounds like another candidate named “Leslie”.

Among the recounts that affirmed election night figures was the reelection of Senator Jack Murphy in Forsyth County and Geoff Duncan’s win over former State Rep. Tom Knox.

Incumbent Sen. Jack Murphy received 13,290 votes to challenger Steve Voshall’s 13,176. Murphy’s total was unchanged. Voshall’s final tally represents a loss of one vote.

There was no change in the election night totals in the House District 26 race. Former major league pitcher Geoff Duncan defeated former State Rep. Tom Knox by a count of 4,507 to 4,452.

More than 30 percent of Forsyth County’s registered voters voted in the election.

“I was very happy with that turnout,” [County elections supervisor Barbara] Luth said. “Usually we have a lower turnout in the primary elections.”

Fulton County is doing its usual efficient job of recounting votes in the Sheriff’s race; originally expected to take two days, they finished early by taking some shortcuts.

The law mandated a recount of the sheriff’s Democratic primary because the July 31 results had Jackson winning without a runoff by less than 1 percent. The counting took place in a drab warehouse in northwest Atlanta, where about 20 election workers re-fed absentee and qualified provisional ballots into the computer.

But instead of feeding precinct voting machine results directly from memory cards to the computer, Fulton reused master memory cards of the votes from each precinct created by election workers on election night, which may again cloud the result.

[Sheriff candidate Richard] Lankford asked officials to feed each voting machine’s card separately into the computer. At the very least, officials should have re-created new master memory cards rather than using the old ones, he said.

“Any manual process is not a tamper-proof system,” he said. “You’re almost at a point that it is not worth running for office in Fulton County because you can’t trust the vote counting.”

Serious policy proposal here: the legislature should consider giving the Secretary of State greater authority to supervise elections, including possibly replacing local officials,  where the locals have a record of fumbling procedures.

House District 66 runoff candidates Bob Snelling and Mike Miller answered some questions by the Douglasville Patch. Both candidates agree that Snelling previously served eight years in the State House, but they disagree on what it means.

Bob Snelling: “I have eight years of experience in the Georgia House of Representatives. I learned about the many intricacies of our legislative system. But, more importantly, I built relationships with community leaders throughout the state. That was my strong suit during my years of service, meeting and working with people. Many of those relationships remain to this day. These relationships will be invaluable a I seek to bring local legislative ideas to the process.”

Mike Miller: “My opponent has served in the Georgia Legislature before for some eight years in office. He seeks to return to office to reunite with friends at the State Capitol. We are running for very different reasons and have very different records in elected office. I am running to bring change and conservative principled leadership to the State Capitol.”

“I have been speaking up about the need to improve our ethics laws to include restrictions on lobbyist gifts for bureaucrats and to require candidates to disclose anonymous mailers and robocalls. My opponent has been silent on these matters.”

According to Democratic State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick, who cruised to reelection, Snellville has the highest foreclosure rate in Gwinnett County.

One in every 300 homes in Georgia is in foreclosure, according to the AJC.  That’s double the national average.

In Snellville, (including unincorporated), it’s even worse: 1 in 127 homes are in foreclosure (as of June 2012).

Last month, around 40 percent of home sales in Snellville were foreclosures.

Foreclosure reform is something that is high on Kendrick’s list of priorities.  She has attempted to have bills passed, including HB 781, that would revolutionize the foreclosure process, according to Kendrick, but so far they have all been shut down.

“Next year,” she said, “I want to break down the bill into separate components.  If they won’t pass the whole thing, maybe parts of it will pass.”

One thing she wants to do is change Georgia from a non-judicial foreclosure state to a judicial one.  Every other legal procedure requires a person to hand you the papers, according to Kendrick, but that is not the case with foreclosures.

“Under our current system,” she said, “you get a certified letter and they sell your house on the courthouse step.  It doesn’t go through a judge.”

This one reminds me of a bawdy old rugby song: “Woman says she went to court for a warrant, left with proposition from the judge”.

The alleged incident occurred April 9 after Angela Garmley says she was assaulted by three people who once rented a trailer from her and her husband in Murray County. Garmley said when she went to take out the warrant, Chief Magistrate Judge Bryant Cochran propositioned her for sex when she was alone with him in his chambers.

“He asked me if I cheated on my husband,” Garmley, 36, of Chatsworth, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He said he wanted to have a mistress he could trust.”

Cochran says that never happened.

“We’re denying all allegations,” Cochran, who was reelected last month, said Wednesday. “The truth will come out. Right now, I’m not exactly sure what’s going on.”

Cochran did not sign the warrant on April 9. Instead, Garmley said, he asked her to return to court a few days later and to wear a dress but no underwear.

“He said if I did that I would be very satisfied with the decision he’d make on my case,” she said.

27
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 27, 2012

Pen 231 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter holds this cute Lab mix, who has been misclassified as a “Pibble.” She’s accurately described as playful and friendly.

Tomorrow, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs ProgramThe event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Owners of convenience stores tied to illegal gambling have contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Muscogee County District Attorney Julia Slater, Muscogee County Sheriff John T. Darr, Marshal Greg Countryman and Municipal Court Judge Steven D. Smith among other candidates.

The contributions have raised questions as employees and relatives of campaign supporters — and at least one contributor himself — have been ensnared in a broadening Columbus police crackdown on illegal cash payouts from electronic gaming machines.

Businesses raided for alleged gambling since 2008 have given at least $28,000 to local candidates over the past four years, including nearly $10,000 to Slater and about $6,000 to Darr, according to an analysis by the Ledger-Enquirer.

The officeholders said they had not considered returning any contributions after the gambling raids, noting the defendants haven’t been convicted. They insisted they have never given or been asked for preferential treatment in exchange for the contributions.

Atlanta Unfiltered writes that Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers is accused of working on mailings for casinos and phone-handicapping services after he was elected to the General Assembly.

Chris McClurg, soon to be unsuccessful candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge has been named as the biggest offender for political campaign signs in the rights-of-way.

Gwinnett code enforcement officers said the “biggest offender award” goes to Chris McClurg who is running for superior court judge.

Police said of the 150 illegal signs they picked up, 90 belonged to McClurg.

McClurg also has a voting record that includes 2004 Democratic Primary and Primary Runoff elections, and the 2008 Democratic Presidential Preference Primary.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Augusta Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders is eligible to run for Superior Court.

A formal challenge to Saunders’ candidacy was filed in May by Augusta attorney Jack Long. Long claimed that Saunders should not be allowed to challenge Chief Superior Court Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet for his seat in the Augusta Circuit because state law bars anyone who has defaulted on tax obligations from holding office.

Kemp, who has the final say in such election challenges, decided to adopt Judge Michael M. Malihi’s July 16 ruling, which said although Saunders owes federal taxes, his plan to pay the IRS under a Chapter 13 bankruptcy settlement meets the standard for a payment plan required by state law.

SOS Kemp also announced that his agency’s website will feature a new elections return tool for the primary elections.

“Our Agency’s new ENR system is a great resource for Georgia voters,” said Kemp.  “Information will be distributed efficiently, be interactive, and be able to be broken down to the precinct level.”

Would-be state Senate candidate Garry Guan has dropped out of the race after his residency challenge. Senator Curt Thompson is now unopposed.

Kemp rejected residency challenges against Republican Carla Roberts in HD 81 and Brooke Siskin in HD 95, in both cases adopting the recommendations of the Administrative Law Judge who took evidence.

Ashley Fielding of the Gainesville Times writes about the Republican Primary in the Ninth Congressional District.

One calls herself a “firebrand.” Another repeats that he’s the only “consistent conservative.” And the third rarely sits down without mentioning the U.S. Constitution.

A seven-month campaign for the Republican nomination to run for the newest U.S. House seat in Georgia, which once drew five Republicans from three counties, culminates Tuesday with just three candidates on the Republican ballot.

Those left are a former state representative from Hall County, a retired principal from White County and a former conservative radio talk show host, also from Hall.

If neither Doug Collins, Roger Fitzpatrick nor Martha Zoller is able to garner more than 50 percent of the votes cast, the two with the most support will face off in an Aug. 21 runoff.

The winner of the election will face Democrat Jody Cooley of Gainesville in November’s general election to represent all or parts of 20 counties in Northeast Georgia in Congress.

Former Governor Zell Miller has endorsed the reelection of state Senator Cecil Staton, according to a website owned by Cecil Staton

Senator Miller said, “Shirley and I have known Catherine and Cecil Staton for many years. I don’t do this frequently, but I feel so strongly about this race that I wanted to let you know that I’m supporting Cecil Staton for re-­‐election. I know a conservative champion when I see one.

Don’t let anyone fool you. Senator Staton is pro-­‐life, pro-­‐family, and pro-­‐business. He is a tax-­‐cutter, a budget-­‐balancer, and a job-­‐creator. We need him to keep fighting for our conservative values under the gold dome. I encourage everyone in the six counties of the 18th district to join me in supporting your Senator-­‐-­‐Cecil Staton.

An ethics campaign finance complaint has been filed against Fulton Magistrate Judge Melynee Leftridge over campaign expenditures. According to the filer of the complain,

“The most troubling of these allegations is an apparent elaborate scheme to funnel campaign contributions to a company responsible for maintaining a website www.pirouettesexy.com … the Pirouette Dance Company, whose name was changed to Pirouette Company with the Secretary of State in February 2012, currently maintains a website featuring pictures of scantly clad women and a current schedule of dates and fees,” [complainant Charlie] Statdlander said in a statement.

Other clients of Pirouette include DeKalb CEO Burrell Ellis, Democratic State Rep. Pat Gardner, State House candidate Ronnie Mabra, Gail Davenport, DeKalb County State Court Judge Dax Lopez, and Citizens for Transportation Mobility. Sound like a legitimate political consulting practice to me, but that does give me some ideas for my website.

Chuck Eaton, running for reelection to the Public Service Commission, is supported by Charlie Harper, editor of Peach Pundit.

Much of the decisions that the PSC makes are handcuffed by Georgia law and an increasing appetite for  the General Assembly to regulate utilities via every more friendly regulations codified as state law.  Senate Bill 31 continues to resonate as an example, with the legislature, not the PSC, deciding to pre-fund Georgia Power’s return on investment for two new nuclear reactors at plant Vogtle.

One of Chuck Eaton’s strong points is that he is intellectually curious.  He is a person who is willing to admit he doesn’t have all of the answers, and solicits opinions regularly on topics that interest him.

He has a keen grasp on the various risks associated with coal as the EPA continues to push coal powered electric plants toward extinction.  He understands that while natural gas prices are at historic lows right now, the history of the fuel is one of price volatility which could lead to wide variances in power costs.  He understands that nuclear is cheap once the power plants are operational, but getting a plant built after 30 years since the last plant was built will present unique challenges.

Eaton prefers a balanced approach, with Georgia not putting all eggs in one basket.  He’s generally pragmatic about the needs of the state, and balances the needs of Georgians with the requirements that those the PSC regulates are entitled to earn a profit as defined in state law.

While not someone I always agree with, Eaton is someone who can explain and is willing to defend his positions based on fact and underlying law.  That’s a rarity in politics.

In short, I trust him.  That’s also rare.  He’s an incumbent that gets my vote.  That’s getting more rare.

Eaton is also supported by Governor Nathan Deal, Congressman Tom Graves, Attorney General Sam Olens, and numerous other Republicans.

T-SPLOST opponents outnumbered supporters at a debate over the sales tax hike last night at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center.

Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, said her displeasure with the proposal came last year when the toll lanes were activated along Interstate 85. She said her inquiries into the issue, which actually increased congestion, caused her to realize the problem with the bureaucracy.

And, as far as the project list is concerned, she added that a proposal to convert Gravel Springs Road to an interchange angered her Buford constituents.

While debates in the Legislature lingered for years before the current Transportation Investment Act was adopted, Unterman said leaders would be anxious to take on the issue again in January if voters say no to the proposal.

“That’s the risk,” she said of politics intervening in the Legislature, “but I still say that risk is better than dumping billions of dollars into a system that is not working.”

Also in Gwinnett, T-SPLOST opponents are questioning whether county funds are being used to support the T-SPLOST.

Partnership Gwinnett, funded by businesses and government agencies, has won national acclaim for efforts to attract jobs to metro Atlanta. But on Thursday citizens groups questioned whether taxpayers are getting their money’s worth.

They also were skeptical of claims the Chamber of Commerce hasn’t used public money to support the transportation sales tax measure on Tuesday’s ballot.

Some Hispanic leaders joined Mayor Kasim Reed in supporting the T-SPLOST; a group called “Georgia Hispanic Republicans” are unanimously opposed to T-SPLOST. Make of it what you will.

The American Communist Lawyers Civil Liberties Union seeks to intervene in a lawsuit over Sumter County Board of Education district lines.

The Georgia Ports Authority is seeking to intervene in the federal lawsuit challenging the dredging of the Savannah River to improve access to the Port of Savannah.

The Georgia Ports Authority wants to intervene in a federal lawsuit challenging the $650 million deepening of the Savannah River shipping channel saying its contractual and economic interests are at risk.

The authority also asked a judge to block South Carolina’s Savannah River Maritime Commission from entering the suit, saying that would expand the action and simply bring in extraneous issues.

The authority wants the river shipping channel deepened to handle larger ships that will be routinely calling when the Panama Canal is deepened in 2014. It filed the motions on Wednesday and U.S. District Judge Richard Gergel on Thursday gave the other parties in the case until Aug. 6 to respond.

The lawsuit filed by environmental groups contends the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needs a South Carolina pollution permit before the deepening work can begin. The suit alleges toxic cadmium from river silt will be dumped in a dredge spoils area on the South Carolina side of the river.

The suit was brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Savannah Riverkeeper, based in Augusta, Ga., as well as the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the South Carolina Wildlife Federation.

Forsyth County Elections

Senate district 27 pits Republican Senator Jack Murphy against Forsyth County Tea Party  founder Steve Voshall.

House district 26 is a contest between formers: former State Rep. Tom Knox and former Florida Marlins pitcher Geoff Duncan.

Walker Bramblett, the incumbent Chief Magistrate Judge meets former Chief Magistrate Barbara Cole. In 2008, Cole stepped down as she did not meet then-new requirements for years as a member of the State bar, but she now has enough time as a lawyer to mount a comeback.

The race for County Coroner features a retired medical examiner, a funeral director and a nurse, seeking to succeed Lauren McDonald, who is running for Sheriff.

The Republican primary for County Commission District 2 will decide whether incumbent Brian Tam or one of his challengers, Dennis Brown and Scott Padis, take a seat on the Commission, as no Democrat is running.

County Commission District 4 will also be decided in the Republican primary between incumbent Patrick Bell, and challengers Tim Hubbard, Charles Meagher, Cindy J. Mills and Bill Mulrooney.

One of those candidates for District 4, Cindy Mills, had an ethics complaint filed against her because she failed to list her role as an officer in the Forsyth County Parks Foundation on her Personal Financial Disclosure. She amended her PFD that day.

Holly LaBerge, spokeswoman for the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, said the complaint will not be pursued until after the July 31 election.

“If it was filed within 30 days of an election, we can’t do anything with it until the election is over by law,” LaBerge said.

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State Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Forsyth) was appointed chair of the Jekyll Island State Park Oversight Committee, on which he currently serves as a member. Tough duty.

A former Forsyth County deputy who was terminated during his probationary period claims his firing was because he posted on Facebook that he supports Duane Piper, who is challenging Sheriff Ted Paxton in the Republican Primary.

Ends & Pieces

Rocky Creek Solar Farm in Upson County is the first facility of its type in Georgia, and is now producing up to 1 megawatt, enough to power 300 homes. Georgia Power purchases electricity produced at the facility, with an additional 18 megawatts under development.

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office took second place in its division in a national law enforcement highway safety challenge.

Rome-based Bubba will compete in dock diving at the Summer at the Rocks event in Stone Mountain this weekend. The event runs today through Sunday. Bubba is a four-year old chocolate Lab who enjoys food, licking himself, and belly rubs.

Model High School in Rome is holding it’s annual band camp. This is not a one time occurence, but annual.

26
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 26, 2012

Pen 107 at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter houses this young, male Shepherd mix. Shepherd mix is what the shelter calls him, I’d say he looks like the other parent was a Golden Retriever. He’ll be available for adoption beginning Sunday.

On Saturday, a fundraiser will be held for the Society of Humane Friends, who run the spay/neuter clinic at the Gwinnett Animal Shelter and support the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Operation Second Chance Jail Dogs Program. The event is Saturday, July 28th from 10 AM to 3 PM at Gwinnett County Animal Control, located at 884 Winder Highway in Lawrenceville, and will feature a raffle, bouncy house for kids, hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks. Saturday is also the last day for discounted adoptions at the Gwinnett Shelter.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Today, we start with congratulations to Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge Billy Ray and Atlanta lawyer Lisa Branch, who have been named to the Georgia Court of Appeals by Governor Nathan Deal.

Judge Ray will join the Court on July 30th and Branch on September 1st. Judge Ray previously served as a Republican member of the State Senate and was the founder and presiding judge of the Gwinnett County Drug Treatment Court.

Speaking of Gwinnett County Superior Court, two of the candidates out there have gotten involved in a knife fight involving mail, robocalls, and allegations of ongoing corruption.

Harsh to be sure, but the assertions of fact appear to be true. Then there’s the robocall, which states:

“This is an important alert for Gwinnett voters.”

“Superior Court Judge candidate Tracey Mason Blasi was appointed to be a zoning judge by Shirley Lasseter, who has pled guilty to bribery charges.”

“Today it was announced that Lasseter’s sentencing for bribery has been delayed to allow the investigation to continue into corrupt public officials.”

“It would be irresponsible to elect a candidate such as Tracey Mason Blasi to a judgeship in Gwinnett, especially considering the connection to corrupt public officials”

“We don’t know where this investigation will go, and we don’t need to risk letting Miss Mason Blasi be elected as a judge.”
Please remember to vote No to Gwinnett corruption and vote No to Tracey Mason Blasi on July 31st.”

That call may just violate Canon 7 of the Code of Judicial Conduct promulgated by the Judicial Qualifications Commission if it was paid for by a candidate for Superior Court. I’d give 50/50 odds that a complaint is filed.

Canon 7(c) states that candidates for judicial office

“shall not use or participate in the publication of a false statement of fact concerning themselves or their candidacies, or concerning any opposing candidate of candidacy, with knowledge of the statement’s falsity or with reckless disregard for the statement’s truth or falsity.”

Tracey Mason Blasi fired back with her own Robocall, using the voice of Gerald Davidson,

“Chris McClurg chose to mail false statements about one of the most reputable attorneys in this county, Tracey Mason Blasi.”

“Mr. McClurg knows his comments are untrue and misleading but sent them anyway.”

Here’s where it gets interesting: I think that robocall by Gerald Davidson might also violate Canon 7 if it was done by the Blasi campaign, unless she can point to a statement of fact on Chris McClurg’s mailer that is untrue. Odds on a JQC complaint being filed concerning this call are also 50/50.

Blasi also sent out an email blast in which she writes:

Some of my opponents have stooped to unfounded personal attacks on me but they cannot attack my proven record of service in Gwinnett County.

Seriously, Tracey, you shouldn’t be slinging mud at all of your opponents, when you know (a) that Chris McClurg or his candidates did the mail and robocall; (b) that one of those other candidates will be the next Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett County; and (c) that Governor Deal will soon be appointing another Superior Court Judge in Gwinnett and the Judicial Nominating Commission is unlikely to look kindly upon this.

DeKalb County Commissioner Stan Watson has apologized for an alcohol-and-grief induced tirade at the Tanqueray Lounge.

“I was a little despondent and upset over my wallet,” Watson said in a phone interview with the AJC. “I have apologized to the constituents and I will apologize to the officer.”

Watson admitted he was in no shape to drive.

“I had a moment where I was trying to console myself and I had a few drinks. I at least had enough sense not to drive myself home,” he said. “Hopefully voters will forgive me that.”

Before leaving the club, the incident report states, Watson engaged in a profanity-laced tirade directed at two women he believed had pilfered his wallet, which contained $200. He acknowledged he did not witness them steal it.

“I’m going to act a [expletive deleted] fool in the morning,” said Watson, as quoted in the report. “One of those two [expletive deleted] stole my wallet.”

Parker wrote that he encouraged Watson to “behave like a public official,” but the commissioner continued to direct slurs toward the two women.

One of them, Sheneeka Latessa Bradsher, of Hampton, Va., was briefly arrested for disorderly conduct after ignoring Parker’s warnings to calm down, according to the report.

But the officer chose to give her a warning because, “I did not feel I would be justified in arresting Ms. Bradsher for disorderly conduct and not arrest Mr. Watson.”

In Forsyth County, a supporter of Sheriff Ted Paxton is being investigated for a roadside beautification program sign-stealing spree.

Channel 2 News reports that one of Forsyth County Sheriff Ted Paxton’s campaign workers is being investigated for stealing more than 30 campaign signs belonging to Paxton’s opponents.

Authorities said they responded to a domestic dispute at Joni Owens’ home and saw a stack of signs outside her garage. Paxton’s campaign manager said Owens has since been fired from the campaign.

This is the same person who had earlier been accused of stealing signs for Senator Jack Murphy’s opponent. Senator Murphy emailed me to say he had no idea about the sign-stealing and I believe him. The fact that the person accused of sign-stealing was found with the signs of ten different candidates looks more like a crazy person and less like a campaign tactic.

Some of the specific allegations in the ethics Campaign Finance Commission complaint against Senator Chip Rogers include:

that Rogers “masterminded a scheme to violate the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Act by causing the transfer of $140,000 from the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust to a political action committee (PAC) he caused to be created.” Manuel claims those funds were then used “primarily for his own benefit in the form of in-kind contributions to his campaign.”

[Complainant Colleen] Manuel also alleges that Rogers violated an additional campaign finance rule by soliciting a vendor, “instructing that vendor to mail on behalf of candidates including himself, suggested specific messaging and then funded this vendor’s operation.” She said the value of the mailing is alleged to exceed $2,500, violating the Section 21-5-41 of the state Campaign Finance Act, which limits maximum allowable contributions. “The Rogers PAC filed disclosures showing that $72,552 was spent to benefit Rogers,” she said, referring to the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion (GRSCP) PAC.

Manuel said in the complaint that Rogers hired Michael Luethy, who registered the GRSCP PAC (an independent committee) on May 18. The Senate Caucus trust then transferred a total of $140,000 to the GRSCP, she said.

Manuel said the GRSCP PAC then paid for at least six mailings expressly advocating the re-election of Rogers.

Rogers’ only response was to say the complaint was not newsworthy.

“Surely a last-minute bogus ethics complaint from a member of my opponent’s campaign is not worthy of news coverage,” he said.

Senator Cecil Staton has also drawn a complaint.

The complaint has been filed by State Senate candidate Dr. Spencer Price.

Price says the senator got an illegal campaign donation in the form of mailed campaign material. Price reported the alleged violation to Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

The complaint says that Staton received a contribution from the a group allegedly funded by the Georgia Republican Senatorial Trust, which wasn’t reported on his campaign disclosure. Staton says his campaign wasn’t responsible for the mailings, it was not from the trust, and that he properly reported campaign contributions.

“The Supreme Court ruled a long time ago that third party organizations can spend what they want to that’s their first amendment right, the only problem would be if there had been any cooperation between our campaign and that organization and their has been none, absolutely none,” says Staton.

Staton called the complaint frivolous, and a distraction from the real issues surrounding the senate race. The senator maintains there’s no merit to Price’s allegations.

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Obama for America must not like gay people or they wouldn’t have spent $62 at an Atlanta Chick-fil-A, right?

Jane Morrison is running for Fulton County State Court, hoping to become one of the first openly-lesbian judges in Georgia.

Morrison has her own civil practice where she works full-time, but she is also a part-time solicitor for the cities of Sandy Springs and Johns Creek. She’s also served as a judge on a part time basis for Atlanta Municipal Court as well as a part-time Fulton Magistrate judge.

Morrison said she also has experience with criminal defense when early in her career she represented defendants in Atlanta Traffic Court.

“What I bring is a broad base of experience,” said Morrison, who is endorsed by Georgia Equality and the Atlanta Stonewall Democrats.

Wait, I guess she actually is an openly-lesbian judge already.

Michael Caldwell drew 45% of the vote against State Rep. Charlice Byrd in 2010 and is back for a second bite at the apple. The winner of the Republican primary faces Lillian Burnaman, the only Democrat running against an incumbent in Cherokee County.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp ruled that Ronald Mabra is a resident of House District 63 and can stay on the ballot, rejecting the findings of an Administrative Law Judge that Mabra was not a resident and therefore not qualified to run for State House.

 

Ends & Pieces

Willie Nelson will headline a concert at the Southeastern Railway Museum in Duluth on October 20th, 2012 as part of the Railroad Revival Tour.

Performers will arrive in a vintage train for the Oct. 20 concert at the museum located at 3595 Buford Hwy. About 8,000 to 10,000 fans are expected to attend the Saturday concert.

“The Railroad Revival Tour is a concert tour which seeks to focus attention on the importance of railroads to our nation’s past, present and future by holding concerts at railroad-affiliated locations and touring by train rather than by the more familiar bus,” acording to Jeffrey Hildebrand, marketing manager for the museum. “The Southeastern Railway Museum is pleased to have been selected as the kickoff location for the 2012 concert series.”

Concert attendees will be able to tour the museum and see the special train assembled for the tour, Hildebrand said. “The museum will gain considerable publicity, and we hope to be able to turn many of the music fans into repeat visitors to the museum,” he said.

The Duluth City Council in a called meeting Monday (July 23) approved a special-use permit request by David Conway representing the Dripping Springs, TX-based tour to allow loudspeakers to operate within 1,000 feet of residential areas near the railroad museum from 2 to 11 p.m. for the one-day concert.

There is no way I’m missing this show. Hope to see you there. Early bird discount $55 tickets go on sale at 11 today.

Canon has announced a great new camera called the EOS M, which takes the innards of an 18 Megapixel DSLR and puts them in what is essentially a point-and-shoot body with interchangeable lenses.


The EOS M is expected to be available in October and will sell for $800 in a kit that includes a 22mm f2 lens. It will also mount existing Canon EOS lenses with an available adapter. When yours arrives, let me know, because I’d like to see and play with one of these.

25
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 25, 2012

Pen 236 houses a Lab mix puppy and Pen 221 a Rottie mix, at the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. The Gwinnett Animal Shelter is offering discounted adoptions through July 28th.

Lawrenceville Pit Bull Terrier (pronounced “pibble”) Titan was awarded third place in the Humane Society’s national Dog of Valor contest for saving his owner’s life twice.

“I think he won because he saved her life, which is just amazing,” DuBois said. “There is so much negative press about these dogs and there are incidents where unfortunate circumstances happen, but overall, the breed is an amazing breed. They are made not to be gentle by humans. (HSUS) thinks he deserves all the credit that he gets because he is an example of what the breed really is.”

Titan, a 5-year-old pit bull, saved owner Gloria’s life last July. Her husband, John, was set to leave for work when Titan got between him and the door and began whining, then running up and down the stairs.

John finally walked upstairs and discovered Gloria lying on the ground bleeding from her head. Doctors later said she had suffered an aneurysm and a fractured skull.

Just recently Titan came to the rescue again when he barked to wake John up at 4:30 a.m. When John went downstairs he found that Gloria had fallen in the bathroom, breaking her hip and another bone.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 25, 2012

A complaint has been filed with the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission alleging that mailings by the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC aimed at reelecting Senator Chip Rogers violates campaign rulesManuel alleges Rogers, along with other incumbent Republican state legislators, benefited from the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion Political Action Committee.

The PAC has come under scrutiny as it is actually registered as an independent committee, but has been raising money to promote incumbent senate Republicans faced with primary challengers.

Manuel did not return repeated phone calls and emails by press time.

Rogers said he hasn’t received any notice from the commission about Manuel’s complaint and criticized the complaint as not factual.

[Rogers's opponent Brandon] Beach has also been slapped with an ethics complaint.

Macedonia resident Jeff Whitmire filed the complaint with the state on Monday, alleging Beach has not accounted for advertising he’s done on Facebook and in the My Woodstock Monthly magazine.

Whitmire alleges the magazine was printed and distributed before the June 30 campaign disclosure deadline.

He also alleges Beach’s Facebook advertising began in May, and those disclosures were not reported for the June 30 reporting deadline.

“To be honest, I’m fed up with Washington and I’m fed up with crony politicians,” [Whitmire] said. “And I don’t like this Chicago style politics. I’m looking to see if there’s something bigger behind this.”

But that’s not all: apparently, you can’t trust political direct mail in that race either.

Both campaigns are also accused of engaging in mudslinging.

Rogers’ campaign has been accused of attacking Beach on his role in the Georgia 400 tolls.

A mailer produced by the anti-TSPLOST organization Traffic Truth is utilizing false newspaper headlines, noting the North Fulton Chamber of Commerce CEO has “failed to stop the Georgia 400 tolls” and “Beach sponsors party for largest tax increase in Georgia history.”

The first made-up headline refers to the upcoming regional transportation sales tax referendum voters across the state will consider on July 31.

One mailer criticizes Rogers for his involvement in the controversial loan he received to remodel the Oglethorpe Inn in Calhoun.

It also slams Rogers for his alleged connections to John Letcher Edens, the man Rogers and Graves transferred the loan to.

Edens, along with his son Jonathon Edward Edens, were both arrested and charged with theft in Cartersville last July.

Rogers referred to the mailer as “Chicago-style gutter politics” that “shows the desperation of my opponents and the lack of any positive ideas for Georgia.”

Rogers also said he believed the flyer contains false accusations and plans to “consider all potential legal action after the conclusion of the political campaign.”

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.

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.

Laurens added that “deductive reasoning” led him to believe the calls were the work of Beach and his campaign.

He noted he believed he received well over 100 phone calls.

“I’m sorry this type of dirty politics and shenanigans have entered into the electoral process of Cherokee County,” he added.

Laurens has regularly done campaign consulting work for Rogers.

I read elsewhere that the number of return calls Laurens received was in the range of 700-800. Maybe I’m confused.

In the race for Gwinnett County Superior Court, Republican Senator David Shafer has endorsed Duluth attorney Kathy Schrader, who currently serves as a Municipal Court Judge for Duluth and Sugar Hill, and previously was appointed by both Governor Sonny Perdue and Governor Nathan Deal to the board of the Governor’s Office for Children and Families. Shafer said:

“Kathy Schrader will make an outstanding addition to the Gwinnett Superior Court. Her qualifications are second to none, and she is the best choice for protecting our children and families.”

“That’s why I’m asking you to join me in voting to elect Kathy Schrader as our next Superior Court Judge.”

The race for Ninth Congressional District continued to be the other nastiest one out there. Martha Zoller received the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

“If you agree that it’s time our elected officials stopped talking at us and started listening to us, then I hope you will join me in supporting Martha Zoller….

“Martha is running against the establishment, which, as we know, is an uphill battle; but with all of our support she can win. In Congress, she’ll vote to cut spending, lower taxes, and repeal Obamacare. In addition to being pro-life and a firm defender of our Constitution, including our Second Amendment rights, Martha is a strong fiscal conservative….”

On Facebook, the Collins campaign reacted:

“While we admire and respect Governor Palin, Martha’s liberal talk threatens our conservative values. But don’t take my word for it, go to www.seemarthasayit.com and you can see and listen to her yourself. Whether it’s her pro-abortion, pro-civil unions or other liberal views, Martha Zoller would be wrong in Congress. Better to have a true Georgia conservative like Doug Collins. The endorsements he’s received from Governor Zell Miller, Speaker Ralston and the NRA, along with the faith shown in him by Governor Deal show he shares the values of people who know and love North Georgia the most.Æ

The Gwinnett Daily Post profiles the races for Senate District 9, featuring Senator Don Balfour, and the District 47 challenge to Senator Frank Ginn.

Over the past 20 years, Forsyth County has gone from primarily Democratic to strongly Republican, though political leaders disagree on the root cause.

“This county used to be solid blue, blue enough to be purple,” said Sharon Gunter, chair of the Forsyth County Democratic Party. “Then the Civil Rights Act passed, and it got a little redder. And then there were some incidents in the county where the few black people who did live here left.”

From the 2010 Census, the county’s population of 175,511 consisted of 4,510 African Americans, or about 3 percent.

For the Forsyth County Tea Party Chairman, Hal Schneider, it’s the county’s demographics that have all to do with the Democratic Party’s small presence.

“Forsyth County is very rural,” Schneider said. “It is historically very white and it is an affluent county. These things add to the fact that you have a lot of Republicans, a lot of conservatives in this county.”

However, Ethan Underwood, chair of the Forsyth County Republican Party, said the political shift in Forsyth was due to the liberal stance associated nationally with Democrats.

“I think the Democratic National Party became more liberal,” he said. “I don’t think that Forsythians agreed with the views on social issues, add to that, the growth of Atlanta. Many self-employed folks who are paying taxes and paying employees are the ones who live in Forsyth County, and those folks tend to vote Republican.”

Underwood said that the Republican Party normally ranges between 79 to 86 percent of the vote during an election.

Glen Williams, a candidate who will be defeated by State Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick in the HD 93 Democratic Primary, says he was threatened for speaking at the Gwinnett County Commission hearing about a proposed rezoning.

Williams said the applicant’s attorney, Simon Blue, confronted him in the corridor outside the auditorium, threatening to sue him.

“I was accosted and verbally threatened with a lawsuit,” Williams told commissioners during a public comment period later in the meeting. Several neighbors also told the board what they witnessed, in an attempt to have a record of the altercation.

Chuck Eaton’s reelection campaign to the Public Service Commission received a boost from Congressman Tom Graves, who recorded a robocall endorsing Eaton, whom Graves has known since they both were members of the Coverdell Leadership Institute.

“Chuck is the strong conservative we need at the state level working to prevent Obama’s radical green agenda from driving up our gas and electric bills. Chuck Eaton is the only conservative in the race and just last month he voted to lower our electric rates.”

Richie Smith, who was booted from the ballot by Brian Kemp vows to appeal the ruling that tax issues made Smith ineligible to run for State House district 151.

In a statement released Tuesday through the Georgia House Democratic Caucus, the 41-year-old Smith said he would appeal the disqualification to Fulton County Superior Court.

“My opponent switched parties after promising to be a Democratic representative, and that’s not right,” said Smith, a bus driver from Lake. “I will fight to remain on the ballot and to stand for the citizens of District 151. If they want to defeat me, it will be at the ballot box.”

Lamar Brand of Blakely filed paperwork challenging Smith’s candidacy over what Brand said were back taxes owed by the candidate. Smith failed to show for a hearing on the matter.

A candidate for Terrell County Magistrate Judge says as part of his campaign that he wants to eliminate the position.

Beth Hilscher was sworn in as the newest member of Suwanee City Council, filling the seat vacated when Jace Brooks resigned to run for County Commission.

A poll shows support for video lottery terminal gambling, according to WXIA 11 Alive.

Because we don’t have enough politicians, a summer camp in Washington is training high school girls for future careers in politics.

Running Start, a nonprofit group that encourages women to get involved in politics at an early age, hosted about 50 girls recently in Washington, introducing them to female role models and instructors and teaching them the basics of networking, fundraising, public speaking and other skills essential to political success.

“It’s really important for young women to be involved in politics,” said Sophie D’Anieri, a 17-year-old high school senior from Troy, N.Y. “I think there is some discrimination against women that makes it difficult to run.”

“I’m sort of weird for my age to be this interested in politics,” said 17-year-old Rachel Hansen, of Philadelphia, who aspires to run for president. “I think girls my age aren’t thinking about the future that much. They’re just thinking about what’s going on Friday night.”

Bless her heart, that Hansen girl sounds just like Josh McKoon must have at that age. I’m voting for Tammy Metzler.

The Albany City Commission passed a property tax increase, also known as “another nail in T-SPLOST’s coffin.”

A former Minnesota Senate Aide who was fired for having an affair with his female boss is suing because he says women who do the same thing become lobbyists receive different treatment.

Brodkorb filed his lawsuit against the state of Minnesota, the Minnesota Senate and a top Senate administrative official, claiming an invasion of privacy, defamation and gender discrimination, among other things. The lawsuit seeks more than $50,000 – a standard figure in state civil lawsuits – but his attorneys have said they hope to get at least $500,000.

The lawsuit was filed after Brodkorb and his attorneys said they obtained a right-to-sue letter from the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Brodkorb’s team declined to make the document available.

The lawsuit said the episode caused him “emotional distress” and “similarly situated female legislative employees, from both parties, were not terminated from their employment positions despite intimate relationships with male legislators.” Brodkorb’s lawsuit said he should have been afforded the chance to transfer jobs.

Ethics

State House Ethics Commission Chairman Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) released a list of 49 candidate for State House who signed the “Gift Cap Pledge” but have failed to abide by existing campaign disclosure laws.

“It is disappointing, ironic and hypocritical that 49 candidates for the Georgia House of Representatives who signed a petition to impose a $100 lobbyist gift cap on lawmakers are themselves in violation of ethics and campaign finance laws.

“These candidates have failed to file, or filed late, their required Declaration of Intent (due when they first qualified to run), their Personal Financial Disclosure (due 15 days after qualifying to run), and their Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (which was due July 9),” says state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R- Sandy Springs. “All either have already been fined or expect to be fined shortly as required by Georgia law.”

“These are major violations by both Democrats and Republicans. These candidates should pay their fines and file the required reports immediately if they truly believe in full, open and immediate transparency,” the chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Ethics Committee says. “On the one hand they seek to promote so-called ‘ethics’ by endorsing a meaningless ‘gift ban’ yet on the other hand are behaving unethically by flouting current laws.”

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“They should certainly pay the fines mandated by law before the July 31 primaries,” Wilkinson continues. “I would remind them that the fines cannot be paid with campaign funds and that the first $25.00 of each fine goes to fund the state’s Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.”

“These current laws are tough and, unlike the proposed $100 lobbyist expense cap, actually work. Unfortunately, caps lead to non-reporting and underground lobbying. We’ve seen this in other states. If they worked and were not merely a public relations gimmick, they would have been put in place years ago,” Wilkinson says.

Reacting to the AJC story about legislative candidates who face tax issues, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer opines that candidates should first follow the law before seeking to write new ones.

when more than 50 candidates for Georgia elective offices have had a total of more than $1 million in tax liens filed against them, you have to wonder whether some of the people who want to make and administer Georgia’s future laws — especially tax laws — know enough or care enough about the current ones.

24
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 24, 2012


“Joelle” is the dark brindle mixed breed shown with her best friend. She is spayed, up-to-date on her shots, house-trained and knows how to use a doggie door. She weighs about 40 pounds and sheds very little. She is available to foster or adopt through Angels Among Us Rescue.

Ethics

Yesterday, the AJC reported that Governor Deal’s 2010 campaigned settled all outstanding complaints before the Georgia Campaign Finance Commission. Their initial story reported that two major issues remained unresolved, but they eventually updated it eight hours later to reflect what actually happened – the “major” charges were dismissed including those related to private air travel, and the campaign paid administrative fees for filling out some paperwork incorrectly.

The Gainesville Times, in an AP story written by Errin Haines, correctly notes:

A commission investigation concluded that the law on the aircraft fees issue was vague, and staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein said she did not feel a violation of the rules had occurred.

Check out how the mainstream media works and fails to acknowledge its role in a witch hunt against a popular Governor. From the AJC yesterday:

But it was the complaints regarding the campaign’s air travel and Deal’s legal bills that had brought the most attention over the past several years.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in September 2010 that Deal’s campaign had paid a company that he partly owned $135,000 for the use of an airplane. Rome-based ethics watchdog George Anderson later filed an ethics complaint that accused Deal of financially benefiting from campaign expenditures.

But the ethics commission unanimously said Monday that there was no probable cause to believe Deal violated the law that prohibits such a personal benefit.

Ten months ago yesterday, I wrote 2500 words that analyzed the law applicable to Georgia campaign finance and concluded that the laws the AJC cited in its article did not apply, and even if they did there was no violation.

Richard Halicks, an editor with the AJC then came onto the website where I originally published my analysis and claimed that I got some of my facts wrong. Pot, kettle. I refuted point-by-point that editor’s claims and he never replied again.

Now the Campaign Finance Commission has dismissed the charges related to aircraft, and the AJC’s initial reporting was wrong. Is anyone really surprised anymore?

So let’s review the AJC’s behavior on this issue:

  1. Run a story claiming some nefarious misdeeds because you don’t understand what’s going on.
  2. Report on some subpoenas that were supposedly prepared but never issued and that no one but the reporter and the staff who allegedly prepared them have seen and do not release copies of the alleged subpoenas.
  3. Whitewash any criticism on blogs.
  4. Report yet another baseless complaint by George Anderson of Rome as though he doesn’t have a history of filing baseless ethics complaints and refer to Anderson as a “government watchdog.”
  5. Leverage the unconfirmed subpoenas into allegations that the staff members who allegedly prepared them were fired over the content of the subpoenas.
  6. Misstate for hours the outcome of the case when the complaints are dismissed and take no responsibility for the year-and-a-half witch hunt you prompted.

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From Lori Geary at WSB-TV, we now have an idea where the millions of dollars of wasted money being spent on the T-SPLOST campaign are coming from: corporate coffers.

Documents show Stockert’s group has raised $6.5 million so far, including $250,000 each from the Georgia Association of Realtors, Georgia Highway Contractors Association, Georgia Power, The Coca-Cola Company, Yancey Brothers and Cox Enterprises, the parent company of WSB-TV.  Clear Channel donated $300,000 in billboard space.

Opponents of the sales tax claim big business and contractor who stand to gain from the road and transit projects are pumping money into the campaign.

Stockert told Geary about 20 percent of the money raised came from contractors who would benefit directly from the projects, but he disagrees about their motives.

“They’ve been decimated along with the rest of the construction business in this region with the financial downturn. They’d like to put people back to work,” Stockert said.

Take note: Cox Media, which owns the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, gave a quarter-million dollars to pass the T-SPLOST.

But you won’t learn where all the pro-T-SPLOST money comes from because the “education” component of the tax hike campaign doesn’t have to disclose that:

While the pro-T-SPLOST advocacy effort revealed its 685 donations on Monday, some donors to a separate education effort may remain secret.

Organized as a 501(c)(3) under federal tax laws, the Metro Atlanta Voter Education Network is not legally required to disclose its contributors. Under federal law, the group — called MAVEN — cannot specifically call for residents to vote for the T-SPLOST. Instead they have called it “one solution” to metro Atlanta’s traffic woes.

MAVEN is funding education efforts as well as some get-out-the vote activities, Atlanta Regional Commission Chairman Tad Leithead said.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has ordered the removal of two state house candidates from the ballot for failing to meet qualification requirements.

Kemp’s office announced Monday that Anne Taylor, a Democrat from Mableton, does not meet the residency requirement to run for the District 39 seat in the House of Representatives. That means Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan will be unopposed in the July 31 primary election.

Kemp also decided that Richie Smith, a Democrat from Lake, is ineligible to run for the District 151 seat in the House. Smith failed to appear at a legal hearing after he was accused of owing taxes.

The City of Blythe will vote on Sunday sales next Tuesday.

The owner of Mack’s Country Store on Georgia Highway 88 said he’s losing $1,500 to $2,000 each Sunday to the competition only a mile and a half away.

Because customers want to buy their gas, cigarettes, beer, wine and other items at one time, they’ve been taking their business to the nearby CITGO station, which lies outside the Blythe city limits in Richmond County and can sell alcohol on Sundays.

“It would mean a whole lot for my business. I need it approved,” Rose said. “Good customers of mine tell me that is exactly what they’re doing on Sundays. I hope that the people in the city of Blythe will understand and vote yes when it comes time to vote it in.”

Mark Hatfield released a YouTube video asking:

In the race for the 7th state senate district, Tyler Harper tells voters that he can be trusted to protect our “Christian, Conservative values” in South Georgia. But given Tyler’s close association and involvement with a company that has received multi-millions of taxpayer dollars in AFFIRMATIVE ACTION contracts from the federal government over the years, how conservative can Tyler really be?

Jim Galloway writes of the video:

the video ties [Hatfield's opponent] Harper to a Bloomberg report, published last February, on white businesses that tapped more than $1 billion in preferential federal contracts by creating minority fronts. Among the individuals cited were “two Ocilla, Ga., modular-building sales companies that had different minority owners with the same white managers:”

Speaking of Jim Galloway, he also noted some shenanigans involving robocalls.

Earlier this month, a Republican candidate for chairman of the Cherokee County school board found herself the object of some underhandedness. From Rebecca Johnston and the Cherokee Tribune:

For School Board chair candidate and current School Board Vice Chair Janet Read, a couple of robo-calls that went out to voters have her calling for answers.

The first, which is said to have gone out from a phone number identified as one belonging to Grassroots Conservatives of Cherokee leader Bill Dewrell, told those receiving the call to contact Read at the Cherokee County School District offices.

The latest, though, not only gave Read’s home phone number for those who might want to contact her, but also appeared to originate from Read’s home phone. The call was so inflammatory that Read called for extra patrols at her home.

However, the political signs in Read’s front yard and that of her neighbor were torn down, neighbors said, and thrown in the street where they were run over repeatedly.

Somebody apparently thinks turnabout is fair play. Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers on Sunday posted the following on via Facebook:

Today, my opponent’s campaign sunk to a new low. We have received calls this afternoon confirming that my opponent’s campaign is making robo-calls against me and claiming to be from Grassroots Conservatives. They have even pirated the cell phone number of innocent 3rd party to make these calls. Bill Dewrell is now taking the extraordinary step to call voters and alert them to the Brandon Beach phone call scam.

It’s not an election season until folks in politics are throwing around threats of defamation suits, this time in Cherokee County.

Cherokee County politics continued to heat up Friday when a political consultant sent a scathing email to a local political action committee and its chairman, which was subsequently published on the group’s website.

Robert Trim, whose clients include Sen. Majority Leader Chip Rogers (R-Woodstock), wrote the email to Board of Education Chairman Mike Chapman, who is also chair for Neighbors for A Better Cherokee, a PAC working for pro-public education candidates in Cherokee County.

In Thursday’s email, Trim writes: “I’m pretty busy these days as a professional in my field, and although I thoroughly enjoy crushing amateurs as a hobby… right now I’m busy enough that paying attention to you will be more annoying that you are worth (sic). For that reason, and that reason alone, I’m giving you a warning shot across the bow instead of grinding you into concrete like a bug.”

Chapman said Trim sent the email to the Neighbors for A Better Cherokee Gmail account Thursday morning.

He said the webmaster for the group then responded with an apology explaining that it had been removed. Trim responded with the final email, making threats directed toward Chapman.

“The bottom line is, we immediately did what he asked and we apologized,” Chapman said. “My beef is not with Robert Trim, it’s about getting the facts out. We changed the verbiage he requested we change immediately.”

Trim goes on in the email to say that if Chapman plans to accuse him of law breaking, Chapman “better be sure” he has committed a crime.

“In my case, I haven’t…and your site is defamation per se,” Trim wrote. “Check with your lawyers…you aren’t protected by NYT v. Sullivan and can no more accuse me of crimes than I can set up a website and start identifying you as anything other than a failed candidate.”

Trim’s reference to the New York Times v. Sullivan case is referencing the 1964 lawsuit that established actual malice must be proven to be considered defamation and libel in regard to press reports about public officials and public figures.

Other silliness related to campaign season? More questionable robocalls.

Robo calls over the weekend claiming to be associated with the Oconee County GOP are not related to the organization in any way, Chairman Jay Hanley said in a news release Monday.

The news release came in response to “numerous reports from citizens” saying they had received calls regarding the Georgia House District 117 race.

Callers were told the polling came from “Elaine from Watkinsville Republicans” and it asked them to respond to a question about the primary race between incumbent Doug McKillip and challenger Regina Quick, the release noted.

Respondents who chose McKillip’s name heard negative information about him, but if they selected Quick’s name, the caller was reminded to vote in the primary election on July 31.

The following post on Regina Quick’s Facebook page states the campaign is not responsible for the calls.

“There is someone making autocalls from a 719 exchange saying they are a ‘Watkinsville Republican.’ Let me assure you, its not our campaign. If you hear about it, please let your friends know.”

The Cherokee Tribune profiles four candidates in the election for House District 23.

Those vying to be the first state representative from the new district include Mandi Ballinger, Dean Sheridan, Alan Shinall and Harold Welchel.

and covers the contest between State Rep. Sean Jerguson and his challenger Scot Turner.

US Attorneys have asked to delay the sentencing of Shirley Fanning-Lasseter for accepting cash in exchange for zoning votes so that the government can “facilitate matters related to the defendant’s cooperation.” I suspect that last phrase means that more arrests will follow based on SFL’s cooperation.

That might make it difficult for Tracey Mason Blasi, a candidate for Gwinnett County Superior Court to explain how she was Shirley Fanning-Lasseter’s personal “zoning judge” when Lasseter was Mayor of Duluth.

Tracey Mason Blasi, an attorney practicing in Lawrenceville, has been appointed assistant municipal judge for Duluth.

Duluth has established a zoning court, and Blasi will hande strictly zoning issues.

“This is really her forte,” said Mayor Shirley Lasseter.

Two candidates for Hall County Board of Education peg the system’s problems as related to budgets that continue to shrink while student numbers swell.

Ends & Pieces

The story doesn’t mention whether he said, “hold my beer, y’all watch this,” but a Richmond County man has been hospitalized after a bet.

Video surveillance from Alley Katz, off Washington Road, shows two men approaching William Bonner Jr., throwing a shot of alcohol on his head and lighting it around 1:30 a.m. Friday.

Richmond County sheriff’s Lt. Blaise Dresser said no criminal charges will be filed because Bonner admitted to investigators that he had agreed to the act.

If her dad was the “Godfather of Soul,” his eldest daughter appears to be a lost soul.

James Brown’s oldest daughter is wanted by North Augusta Public Safety after she was accused of stealing a car from St. Stephen Ministries in Augusta and injuring her boss outside a bank in North Augusta when the boss tried to get the car back, authorities said.

[a witness] reached into the car to try to take the keys, but Brown quickly accelerated, dragging Campbell into and over the hood of another vehicle parked in front of the Suburban, according to Thornton. The extent of her injuries was not released.

Brown drove away and was last seen headed into Georgia across the 13th Street Bridge.Brown is charged in warrants with possession of a stolen vehicle, leaving the scene of an accident and first degree assault and battery.

19
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 19, 2012

Patsy (F) and Parker (M) are 2-3 month old puppies weighing in at about 11 pounds each. The are available for adoption for $40 each from Walton County Animal Services and have been vaccinated and de-wormed and will come with vouchers for discounted spay/neuter.

Gwinnett Urgent Care and Suwanee Station Dentistry in Gwinnett County have a therapy dog named Ruckus.

Ruckus, who will be 7 in July, is a chocolate spaniel who serves as a therapy dog for both sides of the office. The Perrys believe having Ruckus around fosters a more comfortable and family atmosphere that calms the nerves of anxious patients.

“When people come in they don’t feel well, that’s why they’re here, they’re sick,” Ron said. “If Ruckus will come in the room, their whole face just lightens up. They suddenly just start feeling a bit better.”

Gift, and her mother, Ashley, agree.

“He probably helps them feel better because they have somebody to talk to,” Myla said. “It makes it more fun that there’s an animal friend.”

Ashley Gift said Ruckus makes it easier for her daughter to visit the doctor’s office.

“She doesn’t dread coming here, she knows she gets to see him,” Ashley said. “It makes it more fun. She asks for him every time we come.”

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Beginning next week, satellite early voting stations open in some jurisdictions, and this Saturday is the only Saturday early voting for the July 31st elections.

The Secretary of State’s website has “My Voter Page” where you can sign in and find advanced and early voting information, as well as your new districts for State House, Senate, County Commission and other offices. This page will help you find contact information for your county board of elections if you have questions.

Governor Nathan Deal stated his support for Chuck Eaton in his reelection to the Public Service Commission. Deal said:

“During his tenure on the Public Service Commission, Chuck Eaton has assisted my efforts  for economic development and job creation in Georgia. Chuck Eaton shares my top priority to make Georgia the No. 1 state in which to do business. By working to repeal of the tax on energy used for manufacturing, Chuck’s strong, conservative record helps make this goal a reality.”

Attorney General Sam Olens and Congressmen Phil Gingrey and Tom Price discussed the aftermath of the US Supreme Court’s ObamaCare ruling with the Cobb Chamber of Commerce Chairman’s Club.

In Senate District 21, direct mail purportedly paid for by TrafficTruth.net is targeting Brandon Beach, the challenger to Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers, while signs that say “Boot Chip – Are you better off than you were eight years ago” appear to have been paid for by Neighbors for A Better Cherokee.

Also in Cherokee County, the anonymous robocalls against Janet Read have continued, obviously paid for by a coward.

Pro-tip: putting flyers of any kind on mailboxes is illegal.

A group circulating a flier against Cherokee County District 2 Commissioner Jim Hubbard is in violation of U.S. Postal Service rules, postal officials say.

The flier was found taped onto mailboxes in the communities, which violates U.S. Postal Service rules, according to postal officials.

Postal Service spokesperson Michael Miles said it’s against postal policy to place anything on or inside mailboxes.

U.S. Code Section 1725 prohibits the distribution or mailing of items without paying postage.

“Many people are not aware that it is a violation of USPS policy and law to place items on or in a mailbox,” Miles said. “When this is brought to their attention, they usually refrain from this behavior and there is no need for further USPS action.”

If the violations persist, Miles said the postal service can then collect the mailers and determine how much postage is due to the service.

Once they are able to determine a cost, Miles said they can actually bill the originator for the postage.

Democrat Lesli Messinger, who is running for Congress from the First District issued a press release stating that she is “The only woman running for a national office this election season in Georgia, she’s a lone  coastal Democrat amid the state’s Congressional candidates.” Maria Sheffield (R-12) and Martha Zoller (R-9) might take issue with that, but I can see how the names “Maria” and “Martha” might be confusing on that point.

The Republican candidates in the Twelfth Congressional District met in a debate last night.

UGA Political Scientist Charles Bullock appears to be predicting defeat for the T-SPLOST.

“So although tons of money is being spent to encourage voting for the T-SPLOST and thesupport of the Chamber of Commerce, it looks like it will go down to defeat,” Bullock said in an analysis emailed to Patch. “We have the interesting phenomenon of disagreement between many GOP leaders and a group usually closely associated with the GOP (the Chamber).”

Bullock concluded: “With GOP leadership unwilling to step forward and reassure conservative, anti-tax voters that the projects to be funded with the T-SPLOST are meritorious, there is scant prospect for approval.”

Gun store owners might start lobbying for elections every year, as gun sales appear to be rising in advance of this year’s elections.

Gun sales are soaring nationwide and retailers say that’s not unusual to see during a presidential election year. “Basically the situation you have now is 2008 all over again,” said Steven B. Drew, Owner of Georgia Gun and Loan.

Analysts say the 2008 spike came from fear that new gun control legislation would make it more difficult to acquire firearms. “People were uncertain what the new President and the new administration was going to do so there tends to be a upsurge in fire arm sales in general,” said Drew.

Four seats on the DeKalb County School Board are up for election this year, and all seats will be up in 2014. All twelve candidates for those seats will be at a forum tonight from 6:45 to 8:30 PM in the  Arabia Mountain High School auditorium, at 6610 Browns Mill Road in Lithonia. RSVP to ptsa@arabiaptsa.org or 770-875-0213.

In Cobb County, school board candidate Linda Hanson has accused incumbent David Banks of invading her childrens’ privacy.

Banks distributed his e-newsletter, David’s Grapevine, in which he wrote: “This week one of my opponents made it known through the Marietta Daily Journal that the Cobb County Associations (sic) of Educators had given their endorsement based on my opponents ‘activity’ in education. To determine the validity of this claim, I personally contacted the schools where their children had either attended or were presently attending and in no instance could I validate or substantiate any participation in school activities or organizations by either of my opponents.”

Hanson said she was “very concerned and most disturbed” by the newsletter.

“For him to go to my children’s schools for information for political gain is highly unethical and way beyond the realm of what a board member should be doing,” she said. “The parents in Cobb County Schools deserve better than to feel like their information, privacy is being encroached upon, regardless if it’s a board member or just someone off the street.”

Banks, meanwhile, called her concerns “silly” and insisted he did nothing inappropriate. Banks said he did not receive any records about Hanson’s children.

Gwinnett County developer Dan O’Leary still believes the casino gambling ballot question on Republican ballots will fail, and continues trying to distance his proposal for “video lottery terminals” in a casino-gambling style setting.

O’Leary believes the vote is destined to fail because of the ballot’s wording, and he’s been quietly working business crowds and boardrooms to uncouple his proposal with the outcome of the vote. His plan, he tells them, doesn’t involve a casino but video lottery terminals, which resemble a slot machine but would be operated by the lottery board.

“God as my witness, I had nothing to do with that question,” he said, arms held aloft, at a recent meeting of Gwinnett County business leaders in a cramped office across the street from the proposed site of the gambling resort.

Republican chairwoman Sue Everhart, who said she put the question on the ballot after years of urging from some GOP heavyweights, said the vote will measure the appetite for expanded gambling among Republicans.

If it passes by a clear margin, she said, it will force lawmakers to “seriously” consider the prospect of video lottery terminals. But if it fails, an outcome she expects, “it would send the message that Georgians don’t want gambling.”

“At some point the question has to be answered, and I think this will answer it,” Everhart said. “This will settle it so we can move forward.”

Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle would like to appoint Clark Howard to the citizen review panel if T-SPLOST passes, but Howard has said he might not have time for the commitment.

Cagle had hoped Howard’s membership on the panel would assuage worries about the money being spent properly. The state is divided into 12 regions for the referendum; each has its own project list for voters to consider, and each would have its own citizen review panel.

“Voters should have as much information as possible, and the citizen oversight committee is a key part of this process,” Cagle said.

Former Cobb County Commission Chair Bill Byrne picked up the endorsement of D.A. King and the Cobb Taxpayers Association in his quest to unseat incumbent Tim Lee.

D.A. King says he’s backing Bill Byrne for county chairman. King said his original intention was to remain neutral in the chairman’s race.

“When it became clear to me that the BOC was not going to move forward on saving jobs for American workers on taxpayer funded projects by taking the next logical step with the IMAGE certification, I voted for Bill Byrne for chairman by absentee ballot and proudly support him,” King said. “Bill, an old friend, was the only candidate to reach out to me and promise, without condition, to require all public contractors and subcontractors to become IMAGE certified. I believe him when he says that he understands that illegal immigration is not a separate issue from jobs, taxes, health care and education.

“Frankly, I haven’t heard anything from the other challengers. The current chairman, who I like very much, has been dealing with the IMAGE certification issue for at least 18 months and pronounced it a great move for Cobb when he signed the IMAGE agreement. The concept that the same requirement for public contractors needs more study time strikes me as absurd and transparent. State legislation, much of which I have worked on myself over the years is written, vetted and signed into law in a three month window.”

In House District 66 (Douglas and Paulding counties), Republican Mike Miller has out-raised and out-spent both his opponents.

Bryant Cochran, the third-term incumbent Murray County Chief Magistrate Judge, and challenger Dwayne Hooper, are profiled in the Dalton Daily News.

Dr. Bernice Brooks is back on the ballot, running for reelection to the Carroll County Board of Education.

Coweta Circuit Superior Court Judge Jack Kirby signed the order, saying it would be “unjust” to leave the 12-year school board member off the ballot.

“Clearly this was an error, simply a mistake that was made,” Kirby said. “It would be incredibly unjust for Ms. Brooks to be knocked off the ballot.”

Kirby called the error a “scrivener’s error,” a clerical error made in legal documents. The hearing to address Brooks’ writ of certiorari, or appeal, was Tuesday afternoon at the Coweta County Justice Center.

Brooks was unanimously disqualified by the Board of Elections and Registration in a special hearing last Tuesday after it was discovered her house is in a different district that the district she is running to represent. While the majority of Brooks’ Villa Rica property can be found in District 1, her home and street address are actually in District 3 because of a technical error.

Computer problems aren’t the only problem facing the State Campaign Finance Commission and voters seeking to learn where candidates raised money.

whereas statewide candidates are required to file electronically, local candidates are allowed to file paper reports, and a processing backlog means they can be delayed indefinitely.

Kennesaw State University political science professor and former secretary of state advisory board member David Shock said it all spells out a “huge disservice” to voters with many contributing factors.

“The biggest reason is that, a year or so ago, a new state law kicked in that requires candidates to file with the state ethics commission. I think there’s still a lot of confusion among local candidates on what they need to do,” he said.

Many of the candidates who hadn’t filed their PFD as of last week said they thought the report had already been filed.

Before 2011, local candidates filed reports with their local election board. Shock said he believes the change was made to standardize the process, however, the increased workload on the ethics commission has stretched its resources and caused the backlog.

Other causes in the high number of late filers may be a lack of drive in collecting fines. Initial late fees have increased from $25 to $125, but may go uncollected for long periods of time.

“Voters deserve to know who is funding their candidates,” Shock said. “I don’t know what the solution is. There needs to be more people reviewing the reports. There is probably a need for more education as well for candidates on what needs to be done.”

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President Obama announced the administration’s commitment to completing federal reviews for the Savannah Harbor Deepening Project, intended to increase river access to the Port of Savannah by dredging portions of the Savannah River. In fact, the commitment is that federal review will be finished by November 2012, just in time for Congressman John Barrow to take credit for it.

14
Jul

Allow me to clarify re: ethics, Senate Trust, and Promotion PAC

On Friday, I wrote:

Is there a problem with the Senate Republican Trust transferring that much money to a new entity that spends it to reelect members of Senate leadership? Apparently not.

“Georgia has some of the weakest PAC and independent committee laws in the country,” said Rick Thompson, managing partner of R. Thompson & Associates who spent five years as the Ethic Commission’s executive director.

“If we want to get serious about reform and transparency, we need to abandon the ridiculous $100 limits and ideas being pushed around this election cycle by special interest groups and focus on the reporting requirements of PACs and independent committees.”

Thompson, whose firm specializes in ethics and compliance consultation, said, “to truly be an expenditure of an independent committee, the candidate cannot have any coordination or control of the expenditure. Otherwise it is an in kind contribution.”

I failed to make clear that Thompson’s quote was a general statement on the laxity of PAC regulation in the state Act governing campaign finance, but was not meant to state a position on whether the transfer from the Senate Trust to the Promotion PAC was in compliance with the Act.

I’ll discuss this more at length on Monday morning.

12
Jul

Here’s the mail that’s causing all the fuss

Some anonymous direct mail in several state Senate districts has drawn at least one ethics transparency complaint by Steve Voshall, who is running against Senator Jack Murphy. Peach Pundit reports that similar mail is being seen in the districts of Senator Chip Rogers and Senator Bill Heath.

The mail is not exactly anonymous. More like undocumented. It purports to have been paid for by the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC.

Here’s the State Ethics Commission’s filings for the Georgia Republican Senate Caucus Promotion PAC. Not a whole lot there. It’s registered by Michael Luethy, who appears to be a Republican Political Consultant from North Carolina.

Luethy’s company is called Oak Grove Campaigns. There’s more below.

Oak Grove Campaigns appears to have some familiarity with Georgia-based Stoneridge Group.

As does Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers.

As do Senator Jack Murphy and Senator Bill Heath.

Part of the complaint is that the anonymous pieces use some of the same photos as have been used in printed mailers known to have been sent by Murphy. Let’s take a look.

The picture of Senator Murphy standing in front of the Capitol does appear identical on the anonymous mailers and on the known-Murphy mailers. But the difference in scale makes it possible that someone could have gotten their hands on a printed copy of the Murphy mailer, scanned or photographed it, then dropped it into another mailpiece. It would be easier to tell if I could see high-resolution color copies of the anonymous pieces.

Make of it what you will.