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


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


These two puppies will be available for adoption from Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. 25864 is said to be a Rottweiler, but in the Shelter breed identification system, that may mean only that it’s a black dog with brown eyebrows. He is said to be friendly and will be available tomorrow. 25939 is a black lab mix who will be available on Saturday.

Gwinnett is offering $30 adoptions through July 28th, which include microchip, first round of shots, and spay/neuter. That’s less than the average cost of microchipping alone in a veterinarian’s office. $30 for your new best friend. Also, I’m pretty sure adopting a dog is good luck for you candidates out there.

The City of Johns Creek Police Department swore in Kyra, a canine officer, last week.

Kyra, a Dutch Shepherd from the Netherlands, completed the initial six weeks of training required to join the K-9 division in Johns Creek. She is the fourth and final member of the unit, which will not take any additional dogs until one leaves the team.

Kyra and her police handler, Beth McGinn, are the first female duo on the force. Kyra is also unique because the other three dogs in her division are all German Shepherds.

On Monday night, officers were heard giving Kyra instructions in German, a reminder of her international roots.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

United States Senator Paul Coverdell died on July 18, 2000. GPB and the Georgia Historical Society have a short feature on Senator Coverdell. There is an historical error in the video. If you know what the error is, go on over to the comments section and post it.

Having denied Warren Lee Hill, Jr’s petition for clemency, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles has rescheduled Hill’s execution because of changes in the execution protocol to use a single drug instead of the previously-used three-drug combination.

In the Chattahoochee Judicial Circuit, Judge Art Smith, who was appointed last year by Governor Deal, is the only incumbent facing opposition this year. Judge Smith and his opponent, LaRae Dixon Moore, are profiled in the Ledger-Enquirer. Not mentioned in the article is that Judge Smith has been endorsed by Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus).

Attorney General Sam Olens released this statement supporting Chuck Eaton’s reelection to the Public Service Commission:

Chuck Eaton is a strong conservative leader on the Public Service Commission. Because of his steadfast commitment to Georgia’s future, our state leads the country with a clean energy policy that stresses lower rates and energy independence.  As President Obama proposes more job-killing EPA mandates, Georgia needs commissioners like Chuck Eaton on the PSC to help me fight them. Vote on July 31st for Chuck Eaton for PSC and he will continue to make us proud.

Georgia may start using the federal immigration database to check whether people registering to vote are citizens.

Georgia officials do not plan to use the database to check for noncitizens on the state’s voter rolls, according to the Secretary of State’s office. Rather, they want to use it to verify whether people registering to vote are U.S. citizens. Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp issued a prepared statement Tuesday, saying he was “cautiously optimistic” about this week’s news from the federal government.

“Georgia should have access to this critical database,” Kemp said.

Asked if there is any evidence of noncitizens registering to vote in Georgia, a spokesman for Kemp’s office said: “Our charge is to provide the most safe and secure elections as possible and the SAVE database certainly would be a piece of that puzzle and would help us get further down the road.”

The author of SB 86 — state Sen. Cecil Staton, R-Macon — said he has heard reports of noncitizens registering to vote in Georgia, though he referred the AJC to the Secretary of State’s office for specifics.

Democrat Ronnie Mabra insists he is still running for State House District 63 after an Administrative Law Judge recommended his removal from the ballot.

“The Administrative Law Judge made the wrong decision, but I’m confident that the Secretary of State will side with me,” Mabra said in a press release.  “The Secretary of State has not ruled on my case, and I’ll continue running until the voters of District 63 have an opportunity to elect their representative.”

“I’ve always maintained that these charges were baseless and politically motivated efforts by my opponents to distract the voters,” Mabra said.

Mabra’s law firm represented Georgia Democratic Party Political Director Rashad Richey in his lawsuit against Georgia Unfiltered and Blog for Democracy, so he knows all about “baseless and politically motivated efforts.”

Anne Taylor, would-be State House District 39 candidate, was also found to live outside the district she seeks to represent, and her removal from the ballot recommended by an ALJ to Secretary of State Brian Kemp.

Michael Rothenberg, who is running for DeKalb County Superior Court, has not been removed from the ballot, but he has been indicted on six felony counts of theft related to an investment scheme plan gone bad.

Rothenberg is running to unseat Superior Court Judge Gail Flake in the non-partisan race to be decided July 31. A DeKalb grand jury formally charged Rothenberg with six felony counts of theft by taking.

“I’m shocked,” Rothenberg, 34, said Tuesday. “I’m talking to my representatives to see what to do next.”

DeKalb District Attorney Robert James said the charges stem from money collected by Rothenberg’s investment firm, Four Five LLC.

Court records say the company traded sophisticated international bank instruments and offered risk-free returns of 300 percent every 14 days. The firm also said the majority of the investment money would remain in Rothenberg’s attorney trust account.

Instead, James said, Rothenberg diverted $440,000 to his own use, including his campaign.

“He would frequent local DeKalb County spots such as Farm Burger, J. Christopher’s and Walmart on other people’s dimes,” James said. “This isn’t just a clear violation of the law, but also a violation of the trust of the investors of this development corporation.”

James said the next step will be to obtain a warrant for Rothenberg’s arrest. He also can turn himself in.

“It’s baffling and it’s troubling,” James said of the case.

James added that the timing of the indictment had nothing to do with the upcoming election.

“I was looking at it before he was a candidate,” he said. “This is just us doing our job. We’ve been working on this for quite some time.”

During the runoff in a 2010 election for DeKalb Superior Court, the victim in the alleged scam filed suit against Rothenberg, and the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in 2011, both stemming from the same transaction. Maybe election time just isn’t lucky for Rothenberg.

The election for Troup County Sheriff has gotten nasty, with accusations that Sheriff Donny Turner tried to intimidate a former employee who was campaigning for challenger James Woodruff.

Former sheriff’s investigator John Whitney, who know is head of safety and security at West Georgia Health, said he was out campaigning for James Woodruff, Turner’s opponent, on July 5 when he was approached by Turner in a Troup County neighborhood. Turner contacted Whitney later that night and threatened his job if Whitney continued campaigning for Woodruff.

“I just want to let you know up front, tomorrow I’ll be talking to Jerry Fulks tomorrow and I’m going to do all I can to get rid of your ass the next time, OK?” Turner is heard saying, in part, on the tape.

In an email to LaGrange Daily News, Turner blamed his actions on being hurt seeing his former colleague campaign for someone else.

“It deeply hurt and saddens me that someone whom I had considered to be my friend. A person whom I have given endless support to, would be trying to remove me from my job!” the message said, in part.

District Attorney Pete Skandalakis said Monday afternoon he has recused himself from deciding whether Turner’s intimidation was illegal but did ask the attorney general to appoint another prosecutor.

“I have recused myself and this office from answering or interpreting the question regarding Sheriff Turner and if his actions violated OCGA 21-2-567,” the district attorney said. “The basis of my recusal is due to my close personal and professional relationship with Sheriff Turner and, therefore, I feel it would be inappropriate for me to weigh in on this matter. I have asked the Attorney General to appoint another prosecutor to answer the question.”

On Sunday, candidates for Public Service Commission and contested Congressional primaries will tape debates to be aired that night on GPB.

Georgia Senate District 21 candidates raised more than $100,000 during the last filing period, with Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers bringing in $58k and challenger Brandon Beach raising $50k.

Most of Rogers’ monetary support came from outside of Cherokee County, such as corporate donors from Connecticut, Virginia, Illinois, Missouri, the District of Columbia and North Carolina.

Some include Wellcare of Georgia Inc. at $2,500; cable channel TBS at $1,000; United HealthCare Services Inc. at $1,750; the Coca-Cola Co. at $1,000; Georgia Bankers Association at $1,000; Georgia Association of Realtors PAC at $1,000; DirectTV at $1,000; Cable Television association of Georgia PAC Inc. at $1,000; Comcast Corp. at $1,000; Coalition of Franchisee Associations PAC at $1,000; Coventry Health Care of Georgia at $1,000; Aetna at $1,000; Amerigroup Corp. at $1,000; and AT&T Georgia, PAC at $2,500.

Beach’s contributors reside mainly in Alpharetta and in other metro Atlanta cities.

One notable Beach contributor includes a $2,500 contribution from Marietta-based C.W. Mathews Contracting Co.

The company was hired by the Georgia Department of Transportation to perform the new Interstate 575 interchange at Ridgewalk Parkway as well as widening the Sixes Road bridge over the interstate.

Other notable donors include Anderson, Tate & Carr P.C. at $1,000; Millard Choate, the CEO of Choate Construction, at $1,000; E.R. Snell Contractor Inc. at $1,000; E2E Benefits Services, Inc. at $1,000; Greenstone Properties at $1,000.

The Cherokee County Board of Education District 1 race appears to be a battle of the full-time moms.

Two full-time moms active in their children’s schools are facing off in the Republican Primary July 31 for the newly created Post 1 seat on the Cherokee County Board of Education.

Political newcomers Kyla Cromer, 48, and Kelly Marlow, 45, may be new to campaigning, but are both old hands at being involved on the education scene.

Cromer, who taught for nine years, worked as a director of education for Sylvan Learning Center and volunteered as a PTA president and chairperson, calls herself a consensus builder and listener who possesses the knowledge to help Cherokee County schools.

Marlow, a proponent of Cherokee Charter Academy, has volunteered as room mom, PTA board member and PTO leader and calls herself a lifetime advocate for children. Before she became a mother, she worked as a professional in the health care industry and later as a preschool and substitute teacher.

Cherokee County’s Superior Court candidates both reported spending more than their campaigns have taken in.

Mark Shriver and David Cannon Jr. have both filed their campaign disclosure reports with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s office.

According to his report, Cannon has raised $10,400 in total contributions for the reporting period, but reported total expenditures of $11,613.33, leaving his campaign with a deficit of $1,213.33 on hand.

Shriver reported $12,575 in contributions for the reporting period, with $15,355.56 in total expenditures, leaving his campaign with a deficit of $2,780.56.

And people wonder why political consultants insist on being paid upfront.

Pro-tip: don’t steal campaign signs from your opponents. And if you do, don’t take them to your home. An individual in Forsyth County was found to have stockpiled signs she stole from the Steve Voshall campaign against Senator Jack Murphy.

Voshall has called on Senator Murphy to release his campaign account’s bank statements:

State Senate candidate Steve Voshall called on Senator Jack Murphy to release his campaign bank records after an influx of mail landed in Forsyth County on Murphy’s behalf.  The mail was paid for by an independent committee that is fully funded by the Senate Trust PAC.

“If Sen. Murphy has over $145,000 in cash in his bank account, why is this group sending mail on his behalf,” asked Voshall.  “I also want to know why his campaign staffer was caught  with my campaign signs in her back yard?”

That comes days after Brandon Beach challenged Chip Rogers to do the same.

Another pro-tip: don’t take a picture of your ballot with your cameraphone and post it to Facebook. It’s against the law.

There could be possible criminal charges for a Columbia County candidate because of what he calls an honest mistake.

The Sheriff’s Office is now investigating allegations that two voters took pictures inside the voting booth, which is illegal.

It’s posted as soon as you walk into the board of elections, “no cameras and no phones,” but at least two voters didn’t see the harm in a quick point and click.

The Columbia County Board of Elections met Tuesday morning to discuss the next step after two voters were caught breaking the rules and maybe even breaking the law.

“Two voters who have utilized photographic devices to photograph their voting ballot,” explained Columbia County Board of Elections Chairman Larry Long.

Advanced voting began last week and already the office has received two complaints.

“In these incidents, a voter, while voting on a touch screen unit, took a picture of the voter ballot and then posted it to a Facebook page,” Long said.

Cherokee Superior Court candidate David Cannon, Jr. has noted that fellow challenger Mark Shriver has supported President Obama in the past.

Cannon brought forth allegations that Shriver in 2008 voted for then-Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in the general election.

Cannon, who said he has “consistent conservative credentials,” also noted Shriver contributed to then-Sen. Obama’s campaign and only moved to Cherokee County last year to run for the office.

Cannon also accused Shriver of being reprimanded by the State Bar of Georgia for making false statements in court.

Shriver said he’s running for the judgeship because he “cares about Cherokee County.”

He noted he believed changes is needed at the Cherokee County Superior Court.

“Things need to be a little bit more flexible than they have been in the past,” he said.

Shriver did admit voting for Obama four years ago.

“We were where we were and I thought a new perspective was needed,” he said.

He noted he exercised his right to vote just like he hoped the crowd would do on July 31.

In House District 118, incumbent Keith Heard and challenger Spencer Frye are each accusing the other of lying.

State Rep. Steve Davis and his opponent, Dale Rutledge, are swapping ethics allegations in the Republican Primary.

Rutledge has come out swinging against Davis, since he first announced his bid for election, alleging that Davis made $25,000 off federal bailout money with “special real estate deals” and that he collected “thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from lobbyists, deposited those contributions into his campaign fund and then paid family members thousands of dollars in salaries from it. As your new representative, I will sponsor legislation making that behavior illegal.”

Davis called those allegations “flatly false,” saying those are attacks that have been regurgitated from an opponent two years ago.

“It’s a shame this person, with this do and say anything attitude he has is making false and libelous statements. He knows that my firm nor I received any stimulus money,” Davis said.

Meanwhile, Davis has alleged and Rutledge has admitted to violating ethics laws by taking out loans and spending more than $7,000 in campaign funds before he registered to run for office. Rutledge filed an ethics complaint against himself after he became aware of the violation.

Emphasis added on that last line. Read it again.

Georgia Ethics

Yesterday, I wrote, “Can anyone point me to where Georgia law requires “Paid for by” disclaimers on robocalls or direct mail?”

Click Here

Here’s what former State Ethics Commission Executive Director Rick Thompson sent:

Robo calls fall under the FCC – so whatever requirement they have is what the campaigns have to adhere to.

Ballot committees are required to “identify the principal officer of such campaign committee by listing or stating the name and title of the principal officer” on all advertising pertaining to the referendum (see O.C.G.A. 21-5-24(a)(2)(A).

Independent committees making expenditures for the “purpose of financing any communication intended to affect the outcome of an election, such communication shall clearly state that it has been financed by such independent committee” (see O.C.G.A. 21-5-34(f)(3)).

Candidates used to be required to have a “paid for by” but when the jurisdiction of the statute was being moved from the SOS to the Ethics Commission – then Senator Wiles removed the language from the bill during a committee meeting stating it was “unconstitutional”. Since then there has been no requirement for candidates on printed matter to state “paid for by.”

Speaking of robocalls, Librarian Libertarian Candidate for Public Service Commission David Staples is questioning whether robocalls should be protected free speech under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Dude, I think they’re going to revoke your library Libertarian Party card for suggesting that the state should infringe upon the First Amendment.

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