Tag: Chip Rogers

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.”

Click Here

“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.

12
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 12, 2012

Tiffany (F) and Trouble (M) are six-week old puppies and weigh about eight pounds each. The $40 adoption fee for each includes vaccinations, deworming, and a voucher for a discount spay or neuter. Their owner turned them in to Walton County Animal Services, where they are available for adoption today.
These puppies are among the dogs and cats available for adoption from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. It would be nice if I could tell you that the $30 special Gwinnett County Animal Shelter is running on adoptions is because their services are no longer needed and they’re going out of business. But the sad truth is that like countless shelters across the state, they’re receiving more animals than they can care for.

Georgia Ethics

The Senate Ethics Committee meets today at 11 AM in Room 328 of the Coverdell Legislative Office Building without a publicly-announced agenda. The last time the Committee met with an announced agenda, they issued a statement that:

The Committee found that substantial cause exists to believe that Senator Balfour violated Senate Resolution 5 as it is further defined in the Senate Administrative Affairs Per Diem Policy and will seek to negotiate a settlement of the matter with Senator Balfour.

The next day, Senator Balfour wrote in a statement printed in the Gwinnett Daily Post,

“I still have not been allowed to go before the committee and defend myself.”

“When I do, I am confident the committee will understand that a senator who gave up thousands of dollars in taxpayer-funded pension benefits had no intention of doing anything wrong in a matter of a few hundred dollars,” the statement read.

In my opinion, the bigger problem is the continuing failure of the Senate to abide by state law that require the Senate Rules Committee to appoint a subcommittee to examine reimbursements periodically.

state law says that the Senate Rules Committee must have an audits subcommittee “to examine and review, not less than once every two months, legislative expenditures, including all vouchers submitted by members of the Senate, as provided for in this Code section, for which the members have received payment. The subcommittee is authorized to issue reports of its examination and review.”

That Atlanta Journal-Constitution report is nearly two years old and it doesn’t appear that any progress has been made. This is about more than alleged improprieties by a single member. A continuing failure to act on reviewing per diem and reimbursements is either an organizational dysfunction or part of an internal culture that allowed alleged improprieties to occur without any threat of discovery.

The Senate has an opportunity to ensure that the review process at least begins before the next Session. Appointing a retiring Senator as Rules Chairman with the specific task of beginning to review these expenditures would be a significant step in restoring public trust to the Senate and might remove politics from this important process. A retiring Senator also won’t have any pressure to campaign for reelection, but could devote himself to the task. And collect a per diem too.

Click Here

At 10 AM, Senator Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), who is a member of the Senate Ethics Committee, will hold a press conference in front of the Sloppy Floyd Building across from the Capitol. McKoon will join the Gift Cap Pledge Alliance, which comprises Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Georgia Conservatives in Action, and Common Cause Georgia in a bus tour beginning July 24th.

The tour will begin Tuesday, July 24 with a kick-off in Atlanta and end on Friday, July 27 in Athens. Tour stops will include Gainesville, Blue Ridge, Dalton, Macon, Columbus, Albany, Valdosta, Waycross, Brunswick, Savannah and Augusta.

The Ethics Express bus tour is open to all Georgia citizens and those in joining the tour should contact William Perry at 404-524-4598 or wperry@commoncause.org. Further details will be released at the press conference.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Governor Nathan Deal announced on Tuesday that Academy Sports + Outdoors will bring 250 new jobs to its existing distribution center in Jeffersonville, Twiggs County.

Imagine my surprise last night to read on the front page of the AJC’s website the headline  “Electric rates not falling along with fuel costs.” But I thought that Public Service Commissioner Chuck Eaton was touting his vote to lower electric rates just as our air conditioners have switched into 24-7 mode. What’s really going on? The AJC ran a goofy headline that would lead you to believe that we’ll be paying a higher rate, even though the AP story never mentions Georgia but discusses rates in other state, and though electric rates are going down in Georgia.

Democratic State Representative Scott Holcomb has $51k cash on hand to defend himself in what is likely the highest-targeted state house race for the Republican Caucus. Republican challenger Dr. Carla Roberts has $27.5k cash on hand, but I suspect a portion of that is spoken for; Roberts hired an attorney to defend against a residency challenge. The filer of that challenge to Roberts’s residency, Chris Boedeker, reported $4372 cash-on-hand. The winner of the Boedeker-Roberts Republican Primary will start at a fundraising disadvantage to Holcomb, but will likely receive air support from the GOP House Caucus in the general election.

Angela Spencer of Neighbor Newspapers writes more extensively about North Fulton Tea Party debate between Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and challenger Brandon Beach, including their positions on T-SPLOST, charter schools, vouchers, Milton County, and toll roads.

The T-SPLOST campaign is acknowledging for the first time that their pet feeding trough project is on the ropes:

Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce President Sam Williams acknowledges he and other supporters face an uphill battle with voters.

“It’s going to be a tight election, because I think the economy is such right now that people are very concerned about any kind of financing,” Williams said. “They want it proven to them that the traffic relief and the jobs are going to come out of this.”

Local lawmakers in Savannah are managing expectations in advance of the looming T-SPLOST defeat:

Some local lawmakers are concerned that these projects could be the last for a while if voters reject a proposed penny sales tax for transportation.

The state has funded the projects to the tune of about a $290 million in recent years.

Savannah State Representative Ron Stephens says, that’s led some high-ranking state officials to tell him that Savannah’s “had its turn” and not to expect much in road funds in coming years.

“Keep in mind that we’ve had a lot of coastal leadership for quite some time,” Stephens say. “So there has been mention that Savannah has had it’s major projects.”

He says, the area has lost political influence because of redistricting and the election of North Georgians to top leadership positions.

Todd Long, Deputy GDOT Commissioner, warns that federal road funds may become scarce if Congress learns to live within its means:

“If Congress lives within its means — and you know that most people running for Congress, around here at least, are saying (that) — there’s this general attitude that eventually they’re going to say, ‘Whatever the gas tax brings in is what we’re going to spend on transportation,’” he said.

If that happens, in 2015, Georgia “will probably see a 25 to 30 percent decrease” in transportation funding.

In a bright spot for advocates of raising taxes, the Augusta-Richmond County Committee for Good Government endorsed passage of T-SPLOST.

Jim Galloway has an interesting story about State Rep. Charlice Byrd and her Republican Primary opponent Michael Caldwell. It seems that Byrd has changed her vote after casting it 24 times, more than any other legislator.

The effort that Caldwell put into his research — as a salesman for a small safety equipment company, he describes himself as meticulous — went far beyond your normal opposition research. A team of six friends combed through thousands of pages of House journals.

According to their count, about one-third of 180 House members have never changed a vote once it was cast. Most others “dabble in it a little bit, but no more than two or three times on average,” Caldwell said.

He recorded every changed vote by every House member over the past six years on a spreadsheet and has begun passing the document around. “I wanted to make clear that I wasn’t just going after the one that was politically convenient to me,” Caldwell said.

Many of his statistics are stories begging to be told. For instance, in the opening days of 2008, during a furious feud between Gov. Sonny Perdue and the volatile Speaker Glenn Richardson, House members lined up behind their leader and overrode six of the governor’s vetoes. But state Rep. Gene Maddox, R-Cairo, sided with the governor. He voted against each override. And then decided he’d picked the wrong side. Maddox changed his vote six times that day, by Caldwell’s count.

But Caldwell also found that Byrd, his primary opponent, had come down with voter’s remorse 24 times in the past six years, registering more changed votes than any other member of the House. Her closest rival was state Rep. Ralph Long, D-Atlanta, who recorded 13 changed votes.

The effort Caldwell put into the research may tell you more about Caldwell than about Byrd.

Republican candidates for the 12th Congressional District will meet in a forum called “Getting Kids into the Conversation,” and sponsored by the Junior League of Augusta on Monday from 6 to 7:30 PM at Augusta-Richmond County Public Library.

The Richmond County Republican Party will co-host a televised debate next Wednesday for 12th District candidates  in the River Room at St. Paul’s Church, 605 Reynolds St.; doors open at 6 PM and the public should be seated by 6:30 PM. The debate will be broadcast live on WRDW News 12 from 7 to 8 PM.

Most of the candidates for Cherokee County School Board have filed their disclosures for the period ending June 30th.

Bernice Brooks was disqualified from the election for Carroll County Board of Education.

Brooks, the incumbent who had represented the area for more than a decade, was disqualified Tuesday.

“We will not throw out the ballots because there were several other candidate races and issues on the ballot,” said Carroll County Elections Supervisor Becky Deese. “Ms. Brooks does have a recourse she can take, but if the decision remains, votes for her will not be counted.”

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has released its survey of candidates for state and county offices.

National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund endorsements are out and you can expect to hear your local candidates touting their ratings.

Georgia Equality has released their endorsements. Interestingly, they make no pick in the State House race between State Rep. Rashad Taylor, who is gay, and State Rep. Pat Gardner, who has long supported gay issues. Also interesting, they have endorsed Ron Paul supporter Robert McClure, who is challenging State Rep. Brooks Coleman in the Republican Primary.

Matt Reeves, immediate Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association, endorsed Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court in the July 31st election.

“I am supporting Kathy Schrader because of her stellar reputation and her commitment to the our community.  I understand personally the time and energy it takes to balance family, practice law and hold the office of President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association. Under Kathy’s leadership, the GCBA won every possible award from the State Bar, including the President’s Award. Her tenure as President laid the groundwork for the strong organization we are today, and I am confident that Kathy will bring that same leadership to the Superior Court. I am pround to endorse my fellow Past President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association and fellow Duluth resident, Kathy Schrader for Gwinnett County Superior Court Judge.”

Reeves served as Counsel to Representative Wendell Willard, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, during the 2008 Georgia General Assembly. Last week, Schrader was endorsed by Sherriann Hicks, who served as President of the Gwinnett County Bar Association from 2003-2004

28
Jun

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for June 28, 2012

“25422” is a black lab mix who will be available for adoption beginning Monday, July 2d from the Gwinnett County Animal Shelter. He is a medium-sized, friendly boy.

His odds aren’t very good, as it’s the time of year when shelters are full and euthanasia may be a daily occurrence. He also suffers from “black dog syndrome,” which means that black-coated dogs are often passed over for adoption and end up euthanized.

Not everyone can adopt or foster a dog, but many of us can donate money, time, or dog items to the rescues that work every day to save dogs from public animal shelters.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

Because I have psychic abilities when it comes to Georgia politics, I can tell you that the biggest political news of today will come sometime after 10 AM and will originate in Washington, DC.

The Supreme Court is widely expected to release its opinion or opinions in the Obamacare case today. Starting around 10 AM, I’ll be hanging out at the SCOTUSblog live blog to get the news as soon as it’s available.

In anticipation of the decision, the SCOTUSblog main site has a plain English summary of the issues in the case. The Wall Street Journal has a good discussion of what’s at stake in the case.

If you have some free time this morning and want to await the decision with others, the Atlanta Tea Party will hold a “Countdown to Obamacare Decision” at the State Capitol on the Washington Street side on Thursday, June 28th from 9:30 AM to Noon. Tea party supporters are asked to join and bring signs, but signs must not have wooden or wire stakes.

Governor Deal will hold a press conference at 2 PM on Thursday to address the Supreme Court’s ruling.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling on Arizona’s immigration reform law, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals is asking parties in the lawsuit over Georgia’s House Bill 87 to submit briefs discussing the effect of the ruling on the Georgia case.

Yesterday, the United States Department of Justice made good on its threat to sue the State of Georgia and Secretary of State Brian Kemp, challenging the state’s compliance with the  Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), which requires that ballots for elections to federal office be sent 45 days in advance of the election. Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division said:

“Our uniformed service members and overseas citizens deserve a full opportunity to participate in all elections of our nation’s leaders including runoff elections for federal office in states where they are held. This suit seeks relief to ensure that Georgia’s military and overseas voters, many of whom are members of our armed forces and their families serving our country around the world, will be provided the opportunity guaranteed by UOCAVA to receive, mark and return their ballots in the upcoming primary runoff election, as well as all future federal runoff elections.”

Republican State Rep. Mark Hamilton finds the DOJ’s timing suspect.

In the fall of 2010, more than 1,900 Georgia voters serving in the military or living overseas sought applications for absentee ballots in electronic format for the first time.

Georgia’s military and overseas voters were able to access their absentee ballot electronically 45 days prior to election day. To access their ballot, these voters logged on to a secure website, printed and cast their ballot, and then mailed them back to their county election office. This saved weeks of time previously lost to delivery of blank ballots by mail. The system that delivered these blank ballots was developed in-house within the Georgia secretary of state’s office at no additional cost to Georgia’s taxpayers.

Georgia was one of the first states in the nation to be in full compliance with the federal Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act through passage of Georgia House Bill 1073, signed into law in 2010 by then-Gov. Sonny Perdue.

However, it now appears that a politically motivated U.S. Department of Justice is willing to put this system into question just one month before our state’s primary election.

I cannot believe that this is an earnest attempt to expand voting opportunities for our men and women in uniform. Georgia has an incredible track record on this issue, and even issues write-in runoff ballots with all absentee ballots to ensure that every Georgia citizen has the opportunity to vote in every election in which they choose to vote.

In fact, this system was developed with the Department of Justice in 2005 and has served our state well since then. Can anyone imagine developing a plan with a third party only to have them sue you over it years later? That’s exactly what the Department of Justice is doing with this lawsuit. It doesn’t inspire a whole lot of trust and confidence in our federal government, does it?

I am shocked by the suggestion that the United State Department of Justice would make politically-motivated decisions. Shocked.

Greg Davis is also shocked at anyone questioning Attorney General Eric Holder’s devotion to following upholding the law whether he want to or not.

I just had to find out why U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder would want to deny our soldiers and other overseas voters the right to vote.

In the first place, this is not Georgia’s first run-in with the Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act. In 2004, the U.S. government successfully challenged Georgia’s failure to provide adequate time for voters overseas to participate in runoff elections. Obama cannot be blamed for that one.

Let’s fast-forward to this year. Federal law says that all absent uniformed services and overseas voters are to have ballots 45 days before the day of the election. When Rep. Hamilton claims that Georgia follows the law, this is only partially true. For runoff elections, only 14 days would be possible. If one reads his column closely, Rep. Hamilton does not dispute this. Instead, he blames the Justice Department for not bringing up the subject earlier.

Click Here

Yet again, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers has drawn the ire of the University System of Georgia with his political signs that depict the UGA and Georgia Tech mascots.

Georgia Board of Regents Vice Chancellor for External Affairs Tom Daniel confirmed to the Ledger-News Friday that he has asked Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers’ alma mater, Georgia Tech, as well as the University of Georgia, to pen letters to Rogers asking him to quit using those schools’ patented sports team logos on campaign signs. All university system patented logos are the property of the Board of
Regents.

Rogers’ campaign spokesman Robert Trim said the senator would not have any more signs printed with the logos.

Trim said the signs with the logos were printed for a special event a few years ago, and the only ones in circulation are ones people took home with them.

“We distributed (those signs) over two years ago, and we are honored support for Sen. Rogers is consistent and long-lasting,” Trim said.  “We think the recycling of signs from former events represents conservative values.”

I note that Trim didn’t say anything about taking the questioned images down from the Dawgs for Chip Rogers or Jackets for Chip Rogers facebook pages.

Here’s a new link to a different story reporting on the trademark issue.

Speaking of yardsigns, CBS Atlanta asked the tough questions of judicial candidates in Gwinnett County about why some of their signs were in rights-of-way along roads. As we all know, the Georgia DOT doesn’t like political signs in their rights-of way.

Seriously, CBS Atlanta, you were in Gwinnett County, where a sitting County Commissioner recently pled guilty to federal bribery charges, where another former Commissioner is under indictment for allegedly taking a million dollars in cash for zoning decisions, and everyone is wondering which current or former Commissioner will be indicted next, and this is the best you could come up with?

The American Civil Liberties Union will represent the Ku Klux Klan as it seeks to adopt a highway.

The Klan was recently denied the chance to clean up part of Route 515 in Union City.  Seagroves says that the decision to exclude the group from  a purely voluntary program appears to be based on a the viewpoint of group members, which she says is a clear violation of the first amendment.

“Any decision about participating in a public program has to be content neutral, and when our department of transportation decided to close the program to a group because its views and opinions were offensive to some, we consider that a violation of the first amendment.”

Speaking of the Klan, yesterday I inadvertantly wrote that Roger Garrison, under fire for pictures showing him in a KKK robe and mask 25-30 years ago, is Sheriff of Forsyth County. That was a mistake. Garrison is Sheriff of Cherokee County.

Muscogee County Superior Court’s Chief Judge John Allen is stepping down as Chairman of the Judicial Qualifications Commission, but will remain on the Commission as a member.

“Judge Allen leaves an indelible mark on the judiciary, which he has served so honorably,” said Jeff Davis, the commission’s director. “Judge Allen has led the commission through a flurry of increased activity over the last few years, steadfastly ensuring that those who aspire to be judges respect and honor the judicial office as a public trust.”

Allen will take office as President of the Rotary Club of Columbus.

Georgia Public Broadcasting brings us the surprising news that a Democrat Wright McLeod is the front-runner in the Republican Primary for the Twelfth Congressional District. The Augusta Chronicle brings us the not-so-surprising news that the Federal Elections Commission is seeking records from McLeod’s campaign.

The Federal Election Commission is asking 12th Congressional District Republican candidate Wright McLeod to provide additional information about his campaign spending or face an audit or penalty.

In a June 18 letter to McLeod campaign treasurer Cameron Nixon, FEC Senior Campaign Finance Analyst Robin Kelly says McLeod’s April quarterly report did not state the purpose for several disbursements of campaign funds, including those characterized only as “payroll.”

“It’s time that Wright McLeod finally tells the truth by admitting he made major mistakes, including stealing our campaign’s donor list,” Paradise said Tuesday. “The FEC has confirmed what we’ve believed for some time – Wright McLeod is in clear violation of the law.”

McLeod campaign spokeswoman Holly Croft called the letter, which has a response due date of July 23, “a routine administrative request” and pointed to similar FEC requests for additional information made earlier this year to Allen and another Republican candidate, state Rep. Lee Anderson.

Both letters, posted on the FEC.gov Web site, cite the candidates’ failures to include more specific information about some donors’ employers besides “requested” or “self.”

Asked whether the letter verified Paradise’s complaint, which McLeod officials have dismissed as a frivolous “hatchet job,” Croft said “there could be some overlap” between Allen’s complaint and the FEC letter.

The dispute between Georgia Southern and a media company owned at least partially by Senator Cecil Staton is in the news again, just in time to gratuitously attempt to extort embarrass Staton by using his political position as a weapon in a business dispute.

All the correspondence from Georgia Eagle Media to Georgia Southern about this dispute has come from Staton.

Georgia Eagle’s statement calls the disagreement a “contract dispute” with Georgia Southern Athletics “not connected personally or individually with Cecil Staton.”

The company added, “Were it not the case that Mr. Staton is state senator and in a contested primary election in five weeks, we are confident this legal dispute between two business entities would not warrant the attention of Georgia Eagle Media, Inc’s media competitors.”

That last phrase refers to Georgia Eagle Media’s television and radio operation, WRWR, in Warner Robins.

Staton has previously released extensive documentation of the dispute that appear to raise legitimate issues about the amount of money owed. Also, Staton’s company attempted to make a partial payment of money that was not disputed, but the University refused.

Sock puppets appear to be making their first appearance in Middle Georgia, as a Staton supporter named Brian Zorotovich is accused of sending emails trashing Staton’s opponent from an email account bearing the name Beth Merkelson Mal Reynolds.

“Zorotovich has attempted to distort the facts of all the circumstances involving these financial challenges,” said Price.”His actions, rather than speaking negatively of my character, actually speak negatively of his own.”

For his part, Staton told the Reporter on Monday that he had no clue who Beth Merkelson Zorotovich is. He said he tries to avoid “that stuff” as much as he can. “It just raises the blood pressure,” said Staton. “I don’t have time for childishness,” said Staton. “I am the senator and I will continue to do that job. I think that’s about all they (Price) have. They haven’t been able to do anything else. They haven’t raised any money. We’re just doing we’re supposed to do.”

Grovetown City Council member Sonny McDowell was indicted in an Alabama federal court for bribery.

“Sonny” McDowell, who was arraigned June 15, is accused of offering a kickback to a former employee of the Alabama Department of Public Safety in 2007.

McDowell and James E. Potts, of Montgomery, Ala., face a four-count indictment alleging bribery related to a program receiving federal funds, according to a statement from the U.S. District Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Alabama.

Part of Potts’ job in July 2007 involved helping the Alabama Department of Human Resources solicit bids for an electronic fingerprint system. McDowell is owner of Southern Detention Technologies Inc., which sells fingerprint machines.

The indictment accuses McDowell of offering and Potts of accepting a $1,700 check and $1 for every fingerprint scan run related to the DHR, according to the statement.

23
Jun

Senator Chip Rogers and challenger Brandon Beach face off in Cherokee County

Thursday night, Senator Chip Rogers and challenger Brandon Beach clashed at the Cherokee County Republican Party debate held at Cagle Farms in Hickory Flat. Though the debate was in Cherokee County, the winner of the July 31st Republican Primary will represent a large portion of North Fulton County. Additionally, Rogers is the second-highest ranking Republican in the State Senate.

After Rogers and Beach both gave their positions on the Charter School Amendment that will appear on the November 8th General Election ballot, Rogers tried to rebut Beach’s statement in his next turn at the microphone but was heckled by the crowd and informed by the moderator that rebuttals were not allowed in the debate rules.

Charges flying back-and-forth are nothing new for this race and the question of charter schools is likely to remain a hot issue through the primary.

When he first announced his campaign in May, Beach made clear that he differed from Rogers on the issue of Charter Schools:

Beach said real educational freedom consists of allowing teachers to teach and principals to manage the schools.

“School boards and the parents that elect them know what is right for their school district, not bureaucrats in D.C. and Atlanta,” he said.

Rogers on the other hand is one of the legislature’s strongest proponents of charter schools and was the Senate sponsor of the Charter School Amendment, which would empower the state school board to grant a charter when the local board has denied one.

25
Feb

Georgia Political News for February 25, 2012 Weekend Edition

Today’s adoptable dog is “Pooky,” a female Great Pyrenees at the Walton County Animal Shelter. She’s available immediately from an owner turn-in and the previous owner said she’s very sweet with kids and other dogs. As long as you don’t keep livestock, the problem that led to her being surrendered won’t affect you. Turns out she like chasing chickens and goats.

If you think Pooky looks like a match but you need more information about the breed, head over to Great Pyrenees Rescue and learn about the big, fluffy white dogs.

Here’s the weirdest speech from the floor of a state legislature we’ve ever seen. Pray it doesn’t get reprised in the Georgia debate on abortion.

Tonight you can join me at the “Daniel Needs a Kidney Fundraiser and Mixer,” From 6-10 PM at the Georgia Democratic Party’s Headquarters. Republican attending the event have been promised partisan amnesty for the evening.

Saturday voting is in full effect today. Early voting this year has been reduced from 45 days to 21 days. Voters may request an absentee ballot for the March 6th Presidential Preference election through this Friday, Mar. 3d.

In Memoriam

Lance Cpl. Corey A. Little, who graduated from Sandy Creek High School in Fayette County and attended Southern Polytechic, gave his life in a helicopter crash during night training along the Arizona-California border. Please join us in thanking the family of Lance Cpl. Little and praying for them. He is survived by his pregnant wife, Nicole, brother Nickolas and mother Wanda.

This morning, Capt. Nicholas Whitlock who was killed a week ago in Africa in the service of the United States Air Force, returns to Coweta County, where his funeral will be held on Sunday at First Baptist Church in Newnan. His family asks that donations in his memory be made to the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, provides full scholarship grants and educational and family counseling to the surviving children of special operations personnel who die in operational or training missions and immediate financial assistance to severely wounded special operations personnel and their families. Surviving Captain Whitlock are his wife, Ashley Oddi Whitlock of Destin, Fla.; parents, Jimmy and Clare Whitlock of Newnan; brothers, James and Robert Whitlock of Newnan; grandparents, Wendell and Elva Whitlock of Newnan and Henry and Clare Schade of Florida; two nieces and a nephew. We pray for the family.

Captain Whitlock flew in surveillance and intelligence gathering operations in a plane based on the Pilatus PC-12, a popular plane among private aviators.

Legislative News

Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers‘s (R-Woodstock) Senate Bill 153, passed the Senate unanimously and will require that employees of local school systems who lose their jobs for finanancial reasons and through no fault of their own will be provided written documentation of that fact. This is a great bill, and I’d like to see the concept extended to all government employees who lose their jobs through no fault of their own.

The Senate passed SB 474 by Sen. Fran Millar (R-Pronounced “Miller”), which reduces the length of eligibility for unemployment benefits in order to help pay back more than $700 million borrowed from the Federales. The bill passed 34-13 on a party line vote with Democrats criticizing the bill. Several senators questioned whether state Labor Commissioner Mark Butler was doing enough to address the debt.

Senate Bill 474, introduced by Sen. Jeff Mullis (R- Upper Left Hand Corner) would created under GRTA a regional transit council including local elected officials to coordinate local transit systems. The outlook for the bill looks dim as elected officials from Fulton and DeKalb counties are walking away.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp asked the Senate to withdraw SB 445 from consideration. The bill aimed to reduce the expense and time of applying for professional licenses.

Georgia counties are concerned that juvenile justice reform might cost them more money.

Senator Jesse Stone (R-Waynesboro) sent out a weekly review for his constituents that reviews legislation he introduced and major Senate bills.

Senator Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville) told the AP that he will not seek to pass a “personhood” constitutional amendment this year, preferring to support house legislaiton aimed at reducing abortions.

Executive Branch News

Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Robert C. McBurney to the Superior Court for the Atlanta Judicial Circuit (Fulton County). McBurney will take over the seat vacated by the resignation of former Judge Marvin Arrington; he served as senior litigation counsel with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia and has received the FBI Director’s Award for Outstanding Counterterrorism Investigation, Council of Inspectors General Award for Excellence and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association National Award for Prosecutorial Excellence.

Gov. Deal also announced that Georgia State University will match scholarships provided by the new privately-funded REACH need-based scholarship, joining Georgia Tech and the University of Georgia.

The Georgia Department of Labor, under Commissioner Mark Butler, will hold a career expo for veterans seeking employment on Feb. 29, 2012  from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Clairmont Presbyterian Church, 1994 Clairmont Rd in Decatur. For more information about the expo, contact the North Metro Career Center at (404) 679-5200.

Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black launched the Georgia Grown Executive Chef Program during the annual Taste of Georgia Legislative Reception. The program is designed to recognize culinary excellence and promote Georgia-grown crops.

The chefs participating in the inaugural 2012 program include: 
– Holly Chute, Executive Chef, Georgia Governor’s Mansion;
– Michael Deihl, CEC CCA AAC, Executive Chef, East Lake Golf Club;
– Kevin Gillespie, Executive Chef, Woodfire Grill Atlanta; and
– Hilary White, Executive Chef, The Hil, A Restaurant at Serenbe

Campaign news

President Obama’s trip to Georgia on March 16th will include an event at Tyler Perry Studios.

Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was in Athens yesterday attending the Georgia Libertarian Party’s state convention as he seeks the Libertarian nomination for President.

Republican candidates for the 2d Congressional district will debate on Tuesday, Feb. 28 at 7 PM at the Century Fire Station, located at 934 U.S. Highway 19 South, in Leesburg, Ga.

Local News

Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson and Charter Review Commission Chair John Shinkle disagree whether to place a $500 “basic city services” fee on the November ballot. Tomlinson believes the fee will result in higher property taxes for 83% of homeowners and will only apply to those who would otherwise pay less than $500 in property taxes.

The Haralson County school system has applied to the state board of education to operate as a charter school system.

The City of Dunwoody has hired former DeKalb County District Attorney Bob Wilson to investigate leaks of information regarding a proposed real estate transaction. The transaction was discussed privately in executive session, which is allowed under state law.

Railroads, Ports and Freight

The Georgia Department of Transportation and Department of Economic Development released a report that details the state’s priorities for expanding the intermodal freight system. Included in the report are the fact that the logistics industry contributes 18 percent of Georgia’s gross state product, and includes more than 5000 companies employing more than 110,000 Georgians and generating $50 billion in annual sales.

Norfolk Southern has delivered some of the heaviest components for Plant Vogtle nuclear reactor units 3 and 4. The 3600-ton steam condenser is arriving in pieces as prefabricated parts. The parts are transferred through the Port of Savannah after an ocean voyage from Korea.

January saw drops in total imports for most US Ports, but the Port of Savannah saw a 3 percent increase, while February and March are expected to continue the trend of increasing freight traffic there.

The largest ship ever to call on the Port of Savannah arrived yesterday and is expected to leave today. MCS Roma could only call on the port and depart with a partial load and near high tide because of the need to deepen the river channel that allows access to the port. Here’s a video of the ship.

Earlier this week, United States Senators Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss briefed Acting U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank on the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project and its needed role in creating jobs in Georgia during a tour of the facility. Blank said. “The Port of Savannah is an important part of that bi-partisan priority. I enjoyed learning about the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project firsthand. Building a state-of-the-art, modern port is key to creating an economy that’s built to last.”

Random

According to a poll by proponents of horse racing, 72 percent of Georgians favor allowing a statewide referendum on horse racing that includes pari-mutuel betting. I’m betting against it.