Tag: Rick Thompson

17
Sep

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for September 17, 2012

Wilma (ID 545273) is a darling little 8-month old puppy who needs a home. She is in cage 301 in the Puppy Room at Cobb Animal Shelter and is available for adoption today. She is up to date on shots, spayed & neutered, heartworm negative and will be microchipped; she is being treated for non-contagious demodex mange.

When calling the shelter about a cat or dog, please use THE ID NUMBER, the names are oftentimes made up by volunteers. This beautiful pet and many others need a forever, loving home and are available for adoption from the Cobb County Animal Shelter, 1060 Al Bishop Drive Marietta, Georgia 30008, call (770) 499-4136 for more

I am re-running the following dogs because they are still available and are in danger of euthanasia.

Rally is a 5-month old, 30 pound Shepherd mix who is available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Shelter. The adoption fee is $40, which includes full vaccinations, a voucher for reduced cost neutering and a sack of dog food. Because Rally looks just like my blind, old dog Roxy did when she was young, I will sponsor her adoption; this means that if you adopt her, I will reimburse the $40 cost. Seriously.

Dolly is a senior lab mix who looks like she was somebody’s dog, and she has ended up at Walton Animal Shelter, where she will be available starting tomorrow. She has possible arthritis, as it’s difficult for her to stand up, but in my experience with a senior Golden Retriever, it can likely be managed with medication and/or acupuncture and chiropractic. If you have questions about canine acupuncture or chiropractic, I am not an expert, but can provide a referral and tell you about our experience and how it changed our senior dog’s life. There is a place in heaven reserved for people who adopt senior dogs, and if you’re looking for a mellow, low-maintenance best friend, maybe there’s a senior for you.

Anna is still waiting for a home at Walton County Animal Shelter. Her picture has captured many peoples’ imaginations, and she has an online fan club. Maybe you’re the person for her.

Puppies are being adopted at a two-for-one rate at Walton County Animal Shelter currently, as they are overflowing and don’t wish to euthanize them.

Nat and his brother Geo are 2-month old, 15# Shepherd mix puppies who are available for adoption today from Walton County Animal Shelter.

Also available from Walton Animal Shelter are Duncan, Davie and Darla, who are three months old and weigh about 7 pounds each.


These last two puppies were turned in by their owner, which typically means no mandatory hold time, and they are immediately at risk of euthanasia, especially during this time of the year when shelters are overflowing.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

Photographed 9/5/2012 in Columbus, GA

Indicted former Gwinnett County Commissioner Kevin Kenerly says that the evidence against him shows that the $1 million he accepted from a Gwinnett County developer was a routine business transaction between him and a long-time business partner, rather than a bribe.

[P]rosecutors have granted immunity to the developer who allegedly slipped Kenerly $1 million. It’s a move prosecutors call necessary, and one the defense says has all but exonerated the embattled government leader.

Jenkins was granted immunity that February in return for his cooperation and testimony regarding his business dealings with Kenerly, Porter said after the hearing.

That cooperation thus far has been a boon for Kenerly’s defense, McDonough told the Daily Post, because court paperwork that outlines transactions involving Jenkins and Kenerly makes no mention of bribery, calling the $1 million legitimate and related to another deal.

“If (Jenkins) said he bribed Kenerly, he is protected by immunity,” McDonough said. “That’s not what he said — he said he never bribed Kenerly.”

Porter said he doesn’t believe everything that Jenkins has told prosecutors, noting that Jenkins could be prosecuted if he violates his immunity agreement.

Jenkins, a residential land developer and home builder in Gwinnett, owned Winmark homes.

After 16 years, Kenerly resigned as Gwinnett’s longest-serving commissioner in 2010, when he was first indicted on bribery charges. He also faces two misdemeanor counts of failure to disclose a financial interest in two zoning cases dealing with the same developer.

McDonough argues that the $1 million that provides the basis for the re-indicted bribery charge did not involve the Dacula park, but a townhome development called Silver Oaks in Lilburn. In a commission vote on that development, “everyone concedes Kenerly followed the law by filing his letter stating he had a financial interest, walked out of the board vote and did not vote,” the attorney said.

After the hearing, Kenerly expressed relief that the arrangement between Jenkins and prosecutors was made public. He reiterated that the Las Vegas trip was merely a gathering of friends, saying he paid the group’s $20,000 tab at Ceasars Palace. He pointed to the absence of bribery allegations by Jenkins.

“That’s what confuses me — I’m trying to figure out who (prosecutors believe) bribed me,” Kenerly said.

 More from the AJC:

Court record released Friday show Kenerly has admitted he agreed to accept $1 million from developer David Jenkins to cash out of a partnership on a Lawrenceville real estate development in 2007 – just a few months before Kenerly voted for Gwinnett to buy land from Jenkins to expand Rabbit Hill Park in Dacula.

District Attorney Danny Porter contends the $1 million was a payoff for Kenerly’s support of the Dacula land purchase. Gwinnett paid Jenkins $7.3 million more for the property than he paid for it a year and a half earlier.

But Jenkins, granted immunity from prosecution if he testified truthfully, told investigators the $1 million in payments to Kenerly were “completely unrelated” to the county’s purchase of the park land, court records show.

“He says he didn’t bribe me,” Kenerly said after a hearing in Gwinnett County Superior Court. “I still get charged with bribery.”

The Georgia State Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission has lost 41% of its budget over the past five years and critics say the state legislature is strangling the agency to prevent it from doing its job.

“There is no question in my mind they are being strangled by the Legislature in order to keep them from enforcing the ethics law,” said attorney Michael Jablonski, who often represents Democratic clients before the commission. “These are people who want to do their job. They just are not given the resources to do it.”

Marshall Guest, spokesman for House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, noted last week that the commission’s budget is about $250,000 larger than it was last year — the commission’s first budget increase since 2008. Guest said the increase went to hire a new auditor, a data programmer and for computer upgrades.

Taking a longer view, Guest said the commission’s budget today is 60 percent larger than it was in 2005 when Republicans took over both legislative houses.

“Even with the commission’s added responsibilities, overall, this is a dramatic step up in state funding given the economic downturn,” he said.

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The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed budget, staffing, revenue and case resolution records over the past decade to measure the arrhythmic pulse of the ethics commission over time. What the AJC found was a close parallel between the commission’s funding and its output.

In 2008, the commission closed 116 ethics cases, collecting $195,000 in civil penalties.

That year, the commission had a budget of $1.9 million and 18 staffers, including several investigators, a certified fraud examiner, and multiple employees dedicated to keeping the agency’s farm of computer servers humming. Using the measures of resources and production, that year was a high-water mark for the ethics commission.

In 2011, the commission closed just 15 cases, according to a database of resolved cases on the ethics commission website. On May 22, 2008, the commission closed 16 cases in one day.

On that day, commissioners assessed more than $172,000 in fines, including a record $80,000 penalty against the Georgia Association of Realtors for failing to disclose $585,000 in campaign donations made through the group’s PAC. The commission also fined two members of the Georgia Board of Regents a combined $77,750 – one for making “proxy” donations to campaigns through family and friends to get around contribution limits and another for failing to disclose his business interests, including one that got a lucrative contract with the university system. Smaller fines were levied against state and local public officials and candidates for less extreme abuses.

The commission’s executive secretary that year, Rick Thompson, said the agency had turned a corner.

The commission’s aging network of computer servers has become increasingly creaky, and officials who rely on it to file their required paperwork complain of outages during peak times. Brian Hess, a Marietta-based information technology consultant who built the system, blamed the computer system’s unpredictability on budget cuts.

“You know the Legislature on ethics,” he said. “In front of people, ‘We support it.’ And behind their backs they don’t fund it.”

Hess worked for the commission as its computer chief during Thompson’s administration. At the time, the system had built-in redundant servers and a full IT staff supporting it.

“Before I left it was just me and one other guy,” he said.

This summer, LaBerge signed contracts to spend up to $240,000 a year to acquire server space for the commission’s massive databases and to shore up the system’s operations.

That the ethics commission is perpetually underfunded is just part of the problem, Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, said. Where it gets its money is another, he said.

“It’s difficult for there to be an independent investigative agency if they are annually at the mercy of the legislators that they are supposed to regulating,” he said. “They are the only ones who are in a position to regulate members of the General Assembly… . Unfortunately they’ve been largely sidelined by the changes that have been made in the law over the last couple years.”

Tom Baxter writes that a good example set from the top may be more important than a gift ban on its own.

You’d be right to be cynical about whether all this [talk about banning gifts from lobbyists to legislators] is actually going to have an beneficial impact, although positive change isn’t entirely out of the question. John Maginnis, one of the great chroniclers of what has been called “the Louisiana way,” said there has been a real change in ethics standards in his state in recent years, particularly during the tenure of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Maginnis said corruption is still evident at the local level – an FBI sting involving a bogus garbage can washing business snared several mayors recently, and former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard is under indictment. But at the state level, at least, standards have been raised, he said. The $50 limit has “kind of cleared out Chris’,” – Ruth’s Chris, a famous hangout for Louisiana politicos. And lobbyists, he added, are “delighted” with the new constraints on their credit cards.

But Maginnis noted that the improvements in Baton Rouge have come “from the top down,” and there any potential usefulness as a model for the future in Georgia starts to slide. Deal began his term as governor on the defensive from a furious attack on his ethics during the governor’s race, and the cronyism which has marked his administration has dismayed even some of those who supported him in 2010. He seems an unlikely candidate to pick up the standard for truly comprehensive ethics reform.

As for the proposed changes to be taken up by the General Assembly, it might seem impossible for the legislators to twist an absolute gift ban into insignificance, but you watch ‘em. They’re good at this. There’s a certain amount of remorse among some Republicans that they haven’t behaved better than their predecessors during their first decade in power. But without a leader that comes to very little, and the Republican most likely to fill that role, state Sen. Josh McKoon of Columbus, is still young and relatively little-known.

But for our purposes it’s worth it just to look at the core charge leveled against the 66-year-old Democrat. He was convicted of a crime for reappointing HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy to a state hospital board in exchange for $500,000 to retire the debt from an unsuccessful campaign to pass a lottery-for-education referendum. No money went directly to Siegelman. Scrushy had recently been acquitted of charges not unlike those which forced the resignation of Rick Scott, now the governor of Florida, back when he was the CEO of Columbia/HCA.

Raise your hands, everybody who thinks that wouldn’t get a pass, in a state where the Oaky Woods deal got by unprosecuted, where board appointments have become open political currency and nepotism is a commonplace on state boards and commissions. There’s a lot of buzz about ethics in Georgia, but that’s all there is.

Jace Brooks will be sworn today in as Gwinnett County Commissioner to serve out the remainder of the term of former Commissioner Shirley Fanning-Lasseter, who pled guilty to federal bribery charges and has been sentenced to 33 months in prison. Brooks will serve a full four-year term on the Commission beginning in January.

Plains, Georgia shopowner Philip Kurland predicts that President Obama will be reelected based on the sale of political buttons to tourists. Given that tourism in Plains revolves around Jimmy Carter historical sites, perhaps the sample is non-random and composed primarily of Carter fans.
Property taxes may rise this year for some homeowners as a 2008 tax hike moratorium is expiring and some home values may be creeping upwards.

For the first time since 2008, state law allowed assessors to raise tax values if they believed rising sales prices justified it. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis found that while assessors cut far more home values than they raised this year, they took advantage of the change in state law to raise values in some neighborhoods, especially in affluent areas. That likely will mean higher property taxes this year for those residents.

Assessors say they cut far more values than they raised and say homeowners can appeal if they believe their value is incorrect. They say the expiration of the moratorium on raising values has allowed them to accurately appraise properties that have gained in value but have not changed on the tax rolls for years.

Next Wednesday, September 26, 2012 from 4:30 PM to 6:30 PM, former member of the Federal Election Commission Hans von Spakovsky will sign copies of his new book, Who’s Counting? How Fraudsters and Bureaucrats Put Your Vote at Risk, at Capital Grille in Buckhead, located at 255 E. Paces Ferry Road, Atlanta, GA 30305.

Who’s Counting? will focus attention on many problems of our election system, ranging from voter fraud to a slipshod system of vote counting that noted political scientist Walter Dean Burnham calls “the most careless of the developed world.” In an effort to clean up our election laws, reduce fraud and increase public confidence in the integrity of the voting system, many states ranging from Georgia to Wisconsin have passed laws requiring a photo ID be shown at the polls and curbing the rampant use of absentee ballots, a tool of choice by fraudsters. The response from Obama allies has been to belittle the need for such laws and attack them as akin to the second coming of a racist tide in American life. In the summer of 2011, both Bill Clinton and DNC chairman Debbie Wasserman Schultz preposterously claimed that such laws suppressed minority voters and represented a return to the era of Jim Crow.

But voter fraud is a well-documented reality in American elections. Just this year, a sheriff and county clerk in West Virginia pleaded guilty to stuffing ballot boxes with fraudulent absentee ballots that changed the outcome of an election. In 2005, a state senate election in Tennessee was overturned because of voter fraud. The margin of victory? 13 votes. In 2008, the Minnesota senate race that provided the 60th vote needed to pass Obamacare was decided by a little over 300 votes.

Hans von Spakovsky is a former Chairman of the Fulton County Republican Party and served on the Fulton County Elections Board. He is a graduate of the Coverdell Leadership Institute and currently serves at the Heritage Foundation as Senior Legal Fellow, where he manages the Civil Justice Reform Initiative. Please R.s.v.p. to Kathryn Gartland.

27
Aug

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections for August 27, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

Georgia Politics, Campaigns & Elections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An invisible Poitevint is good news.

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

A visible Poitevint means trouble is afoot.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gregory views things differently.

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

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

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

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

 Ends & Pieces

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

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

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

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

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

4
Jul

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections for July 4, 2012

“Liberty” is a lab/bassett mix who needs a foster home in order to live to see next July 4th. Visit Angels Among Us Rescue to donate for Liberty or email foster@angelsrescue.org to foster her.

MISSING DOG!

MacCallan is a black lab mix who wears a red collar and was lost last night when he jumped the fence at his home. He is mostly black with a white chest and friendly disposition and he answers to “Mac” or “Pig” and may be skittish around strangers. Last seen leaving the Candler Park MARTA station after apparently riding a train. Seriously. In addition to his owner’s gratitude, there may be a reward from MARTA for information leading to his arrest for fare-jumping.

If you see Mac or capture him, please call Will at 706-977-8947 or email him.

Georgia Politics, Campaigns, and Elections

The grace period for the campaign disclosure report that is currently due ends Monday, July 9th, and yesterday we heard multiple reports that the State Ethics Campaign Finance Commission website was bogging down as people were logged in working on their campaign disclosure reports. One incumbent legislator reported that it took 90 minutes to get the system to accept a report showing two contributions.

“The backlog in the State’s filing system appears to be exclusively for ‘candidate’ filers as we are not experiencing the same difficulties filing ‘lobbyist’ reports,” says Rick Thompson the senior partner of R. Thompson & Associates a compliance reporting firm.

Click Here

“Don’t panic,” says Thompson, whose firm is responsible for filing a number of disclosure reports for candidate filers.

“There are 5-days left and I expect the Commission to get the issues resolved. As a candidate, your best course of action is to get started now. Document your filing efforts, including screen shots of the system and its delays, so in the event you do not file in time you have solid evidence to present in your appeal. You are going to have to be patient. Off peak hour filing is not making a difference. Our firm is experiencing many of the same challenges with reports we are submitting during the day as well as reports we are entering in the overnight hours.”

Additionally, it has been suggested that people having filing difficulties keep a log of the failures, and document their problems in a letter to the Commission and to the individual Commissioners.

What appears to have happened in the past is that the Commission has fined late filers and allowed those who received fines to ask the Commission to waive the fines if they had technical problems.

As recently as Wednesday, the fines ranged from $125 for council candidate Marianne Bramble to $2,750 for mayoral candidate Dick Smith. Buelterman, as well as council members Frank Schuman and Wanda Doyle, also faced fines of $1,375, according to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website. Council member Kathryn Williams, who is not running for reelection, had been fined $2,750.

On Friday, all the fines had been reduced to $125.

That still did not sit right with Doyle, who said she made sure to file her reports by the deadline.

“I don’t even think I should have to pay the $125,” Doyle said.

Most of those who have been fined deny filing late and say the fines were levied in error. But the head of the state agency charged with regulating the reports says it is the candidates who fouled up.

Candidates throughout the state have experienced problems filing, said Amy Henderson, spokesperson for the Georgia Municipal Association. The issues are a result of state computer glitches, candidates having to learn a new process and the understaffed commission, Henderson said.

The commission is being overwhelmed by filers and the number of questions they are getting, Henderson said.

The candidates’ appeals will be submitted to the commission for consideration at their next meeting, for which a date has not yet been set, LaBerge said.

LaBerge could not be reached Friday to find out why the fines has been reduced.

If past experience is any guide, you will also have trouble getting in touch with the Commission by phone as the deadline approaches. If this is the case, record also the times you attempted to call, and the disposition of the call, whether it was a busy number, you left a message, or you spoke to someone. I’d call from my cell phone to create a record of your calls, and take screenshots from the phone showing the calls.

Getting fined by the Commission is only one of the problems a candidate faces when they’re unable to file. The second issue, highlighted by the above story, is negative press related to the Commission website showing that your filing is late.

If one of my clients faces this problem, here’s what I suggest: contact the local reporter(s) and editor(s) covering your race, explain that you’re currently working on filing your papers, but are having problems due to the Commission’s filing system. Offer to share with them screenshots showing the problem, or ask them if they want to come over and see how the system is (not) working while you’re trying to file. Be open and honest and keep them in the loop.

By getting out ahead of the story, you increase the chance that a story, if written, carries the headline “State computer system problems delay ethics filings” rather than “Candidate fined by Ethics Commission for missing reports.”  This is much easier done if you start talking to the reporters before the grace period deadline and establish that not only are there problems with the system, but that you didn’t wait to the last moment and then try to blame the Commission’s system. And obviously the first headline does less damage to your campaign than the second.

Today from 11:30 AM to 3 PM, the Cobb County Republican Party will hold a barbecue at Jim Miller Park, located at 2245 Callaway Rd SW in Marietta. Adult admission is $15 and kids’ admission is $5 each. Williamson Brothers will be providing barbecue. If you see me there, say hello. Click here to go to our Events Calendar listing that includes a Google Map. If you’re on an iPhone, you can then click on the map and it will take you to the iPhone maps app where you can get directions.

While you’re at the Cobb GOP Barbecue, you can expect to hear about Sheriff Neil Warren’s endorsement of Josh Belinfante in the Republican Primary for State Senate District 6. Belinfante’s press release read:

Sheriff Neil Warren urged fellow Cobb County citizens to join him in his support of Belinfante. He stated, “Josh is the best candidate for the job. I know Josh personally, and we need his leadership and expertise at the State Capitol for a strong and safe Cobb County. Please join me in supporting Josh for State Senate.”

Tomorrow, July 5th, Florida’s United State Senator Marco Rubio will be autographing copies of his book An American Son: A Memoir at NOON on July 5that the Books-A-Million at 5900 Sugarloaf Parkway in Lawrenceville, GA 30043 [Click for a map].

A Commission appointed to advise Governor Deal on whether to remove Velvet Riggins from the Dougherty County School Board has recommended that Riggins be removed until the felony indictment against her has been resolved.

Riggins was indicted on April 25 by a Dougherty County grand jury on two counts of theft by taking, public record fraud and providing false information to obtain free school meals for a child.

The indictment stems from two 2011-12 free or reduced-cost school lunch applications filed for her children at Robert Cross Middle Magnet School and Lincoln Elementary Magnet School. Riggins is accused of falsifying information on the applications.

Riggins term on the school board expires Dec. 31, but she is running unopposed for a new four-year term in the November election.

Ends & Pieces

The Norfolk Southern has assembled its entire heritage locomotive fleet for “Family Portraits” at the North Carolina Transportation Museum. Among the locomotives are those painted in livery honoring the Southern Railway, Central of Georgia, and Savannah & Atlanta.