Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 1, 2015


Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for October 1, 2015

Original Communist (O.C.) Karl Marx published Das Kapital on October 1, 1867.

Voters in the state of Washington adopted the state constitution on October 1, 1889.

The first World Series of baseball opened on October 1, 1903.

On October 1, 1908, Ford introduced the Model T.

Former President Jimmy Carter was born on October 1, 1924 at Wise Sanitarium in Plains, Georgia, the first American President to be born in a hospital.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt visited Warm Springs, Georgia for the 21st time beginning on October 1, 1931.

In a Special Election October 1, 1940, Florence Gibbs became the first woman elected to Congress from Georgia, completing her late husband’s term and serving through January 3, 1941, but no standing for a full term of her own.

Chinese Communist leader Mao Zedong proclaimed the Communist People’s Republic of China on October 1, 1949.

The Carter Center in Atlanta was dedicated on October 1, 1986.

Mikhail Gorbachev named himself Chairman of the USSR’s Supreme Soviet on October 1, 1988.

President George H.W. Bush condemned Iraq’s takeover of Kuwait in a speech to the United Nations on October 1, 1990.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The lobbying public policy juggernaut that is Dentons, formerly McKenna Long & Aldridge, began a road tour inaugurating their new practice in Washington, DC last night.

Howard Dean and Newt Gingrich, settling into their new roles at the global law firm Dentons, took the mike on Tuesday evening at a private reception in Washington, D.C., where colleagues and business contacts gathered for a night of celebration to inaugurate the firm’s new public policy team formed by the July 1 merger with McKenna Long & Aldridge.

“We are going to Cairo!… and then London!… and then we are going to those places and a lot more!” Dean said in a tongue-and-cheek speech before the crowd at the Zaytinya restaurant in Penn Quarter, imitating his famous rally cry during his 2004 presidential run.

Dean joined McKenna Long & Aldridge in 2009 after serving as chairman of the Democratic National Committee and this year teamed up with Gingrich once the former Republican speaker of the House joined his newly-merged firm, now known as Dentons, in May.

“I’m a futurist, and this is the world’s largest law firm — I’m going to have 3,700 Chinese colleagues — it can’t get any better than this,” said Gingrich, white wine in hand, grabbing a quick minute with Big Law Business at the event.

And as it turns out, there may have been more behind Dean’s playful rallying words: Eric Tanenblatt, the co-practice leader of Dentons’ U.S. public policy and regulation practice, said that the firm intends to take Dean and Gingrich “on a road show,” from New York to Los Angeles and more cities where they will speak their views on the latest policy issues.

The Dentons Public Policy Practice road show will pull into Atlanta on October 27, 2015.

Government to Stay Open

Yesterday, every Congressional Democrat and 91 Republican voted to pass a Continuing Resolution by a 277-151 margin. For Conservaatives who thought Boehner leaving office would lead to more conservative policy, it was a disappointment.

The Senate passed a Continuing Resolution by a 78-20 margin, with all 20 no votes coming from Republicans.

Roll Call notes that Rep. Tom Price voted against the spending measure, while his opponent in the Majority Leader race, Steve Scalise, voted in favor.

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, who is the favorite to succeed Boehner as speaker, voted for the bill, along with Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who wants to be the majority leader, and Chief Deputy Whip Patrick T. McHenry of North Carolina, who wants to be whip. Rep. Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, who is also said to be eyeing a bid for whip, voted “yes” as well.

Those who voted “no” included Budget Chairman Tom Price of Georgia, who is running for majority leader, and Rules Chairman Pete Sessions of Texas, who also running for whip. Rep. Dennis A. Ross of Florida might also be running for whip, and he, too, voted against the CR.

AJC Political Insider Daniel Malloy has the vote breakdown of Georgia’s Senators and Representatives:

Senate — Yes: David Perdue (R) and Johnny Isakson (R)

House — Yes: Sanford Bishop (D-Albany), Hank Johnson (D-Lithonia), John Lewis (D-Atlanta), Austin Scott (R-Tifton), David Scott (D-Atlanta) and Rob Woodall (R-Lawrenceville).

No: Rick Allen (R-Evans), Buddy Carter (R-Pooler), Doug Collins (R-Gainesville), Tom Graves (R-Ranger), Jody Hice (R-Monroe), Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville), Tom Price (R-Roswell) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Coweta County).

Daniel Malloy also brings news that Democratic Congressman John Lewis (Atlanta) will seek reelection next year to a 16th term.

DeKalb County Corruption Report Released

DeKalb BOC sign

Yesterday, independent investigator and former Georgia Attorney General Mike Bowers released a 40-page report on his findings with Investigator Richard Hyde in the DeKalb County corruption probe. Click here to pick up your own copy.

Channel 2 News discussed the report:

Bowers and Hyde call the misspending and mismanagement they uncovered in DeKalb appalling corruption caused by a complete absence of leadership.

The report recommended that interim CEO Lee May resign immediately.

“He needs to resign because there is a total absence of leadership in that county,” Bowers told Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher.

[Interim CEO Lee] May calls the investigation absurd.

“The content of this report is at best laughable. At worst it’s pitiful. And I can’t be any stronger than that. And that has absolutely nothing to do with asking me to resign. If that’s the thought, so be it. And I’ll answer that question for you right now, I’m not resigning,” May said during a late-afternoon news conference.

“The giving of money to charities becomes sort of a campaign slush fund for folks. That’s what it becomes,” Bowers said.

Here’s what Channel 2 chose to focus their 11 PM coverage on last night:

They questioned $36 that May spent on an in-room movie and $222 on a massage at a hotel in Hawaii — paid for by taxpayers.

May was asked if the movie was adult in nature and he denied that it was.

“Absolutely it was not an adult movie. I watched a litany of movies and I believe that’s the totality of movies,” May said.

But Channel 2 Action News confirmed with the hotel that it was in fact a purchase for adult movies.

“Mr. Hyde asked him about those. He said that he would give us the documentation showing that he had paid that back, but he never did,” Bowers said.

Here’s why this issue isn’t going away. Two of the dominant media outlets in Atlanta – the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and WSB – get to take credit for the investigation every time they run a story, ensuring that neither of them will get tired of running stories on the investigation any time soon.

Much of what was spotlighted in Wednesday’s report was first exposed by a series of Channel 2 Action News/Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigations last year.

We questioned tens of thousands of dollars in retail purchases without receipts, the buying of gift cards that were given away with no documentation and tens of thousands of dollars that commissioners donated to various charities.

We also exposed numerous purchases that appeared to be for personal use, including some commissioners’ legal bills.

Also coming under fire in the report is District Attorney Robert James.

The report also accuses DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James of refusing to cooperate with the investigation. James says the report is false. If anyone were to face corruption charges, James would be the one that would announce them.

Where the report becomes more troubling to the District Attorney is the allegations of Open Records Act violations on page 5 of the report:

the district attorney, Robert James, in clear violation of the Georgia Open Records Act, flatly refused to even respond to our letters requesting documents that could have explained his questionable spending. Instead, he complained to Mr. May about our request. Mr. May then wrote a letter to James stating that our request was “beyond the scope of the Executive Order.”

Whatever confidence we had in Mr. May ended when we received, through the news media, his “Dear Robert” apology written to the district attorney. That letter also gave the appearance that Mr. May was attempting to help Mr. James cover-up misconduct. The law requires these public records, indicating how funds were spent by Mr. James, to be available for inspection at all times to anyone. As a result of Mr. May’s interference, and Mr. James’ refusal to follow the law, we were unable to determine if expenses incurred by the district attorney were appropriate or legal.

At some point, a complaint will be filed with Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens about alleged violations of the Open Records Act. If Olens finds that violations occurred, the District Attorney’s office will be fighting on two fronts against the current AG and a former one.

Scoring on the Bowers Report

Lee May comes out as a loser in this report. The investigators suggestion that he resign captured the headlines, and the “movie” expenditure would embarrass any human being with a sense of shame. I’m guessing that the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney will do more than simply file these charges away. As Bowers noted, the indictment of former DeKalb County employee Bob Lundsten sets the bar for prosecutions on misuse of county funds. One of the charges against Lundsten appears to have been over a $22 expenditure and there will be many that meet that level or worse.

District Attorney Robert James also takes a hit with allegations that he stonewalled the investigation and violated the Open Records Act. James is already opposed for reelection next year by the very able Sherry Boston and this is a major hit to his chances at the ballot box.

Commissioner Sharon Barnes Sutton is the BOC member who faces the worst prospects, with payments of more than $34k to her then-boyfriend from county taxpayer dollars.

Three winners emerge from the report. As CBS46 notes,

The report calls for five of DeKalb County’s seven commissioners to resign. Commissioners Nancy Jester and Mereda Davis Johnson were not named as corrupt.

Also emerging as a winner is John Ernst, who is currently running for Mayor of Brookhaven and during the period under investigation was Chairman of the DeKalb County Board of Ethics. From pages 34-35

the [county Board of Ethics] was inactive from 2003 until late 2013. During this decade, there was a total of $36,000 budgeted for the ethics board. According to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports for that period only $3,000 was spent.

According to former Director John Ernst, the Ethics Board became active in late 2013, after the indictment of CEO Burrell Ellis. For 2014, the budget was $215,000, but only $71,000 was spent. Recently, the board imposed a public reprimand on a county commissioner, which is the first such action the board has taken in over a decade.

As a disclaimer, I will note that I am supporting Ernst for Mayor of Brookhaven, where Mrs. GaPundit and I make our home.

Also a net winner is DeKalb County Solicitor Sherry Boston. Her office was dinged over a single $175 payment that the investigators questioned, but the additional ammunition her campaign for DA picks up against her opponent, incumbent District Attorney Robert James far outweighs that small negative.

While it would be premature for the LaVista Hills and Tucker cityhood movements to take a victory lap, their prospects of passage have been enhanced by the widespread corruption uncovered at the county.

In closing for today, let me say this. Some of the allegations in the report include truly small change – a $6 charge by the Fleet Management Department stands out. But corruption is like termites in your home. No single insect does much damage, as a $6 charge is tiny compared to a county operations budget that exceeds $1 billion per year. But the cumulative damages of thousands of insects doing a little damage can undermine your home’s foundation. The cumulative effect of many tiny acts of corruption and incompetence similarly undermines public trust in their government, especially elected leaders.

In this context, the $800k cost of the investigation is less than one-tenth of one percent of the current year’s county budget of $1.33 billion. That’s like paying $120 to have a termite inspection on a $200,000 house. If you suspect something’s going on, better to find out now and start treatment than to continue burying your head in the sand.

Brookhaven Mayoral Race

Yesterday, the AJC Political Insider profiled Dale Boone, the professional competitive eater who is also running for Mayor of Brookhaven.

Donald Trump has shown us how celebrity can vault you into the upper reaches of American politics. Boone may be about to learn how fickle that power can be.

“I’m not a competitive eater. I’m the defending world champion. There’s a huge difference. I’m the top one,” the 49-year-old Boone said.

Over Labor Day weekend, Boone won a hotdog-eating contest on Tybee Island. “That was a good-bye wave. Everyone was upset and crying,” the big man said. Boone has promised to give up his profession should he win on Nov. 3.

“I can be your full-time mayor at part-time pay. I’ll get this thing straightened out,” Boone said. Fighting crime and establishing an independent city school system are on his agenda.


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