Some people embody the cliche “fake it ’til you make it”, or in business vernacular, the peter principle. John Oxendine is a living caricature of both.
There have been rumors for years, even before Ox announced and cancelled a bit for Lt. Governor years ago, about the “shakedowns”. Oxendine helps those who give him tickets to Oscar parties, or $600 bottles of wine with dinner, and punishes those who don’t contribute, don’t endorse.
There is a reason that whistleblower statutes exist, and that is because those who choose to do what is just are often the recipients of blowback from powerful forces. The the price to pay for doing the right thing is too great to risk a job or a business. As an example, look at Pete’s post from earlier today regarding what happened to the folks that tried to blow the whistle on a “non-profit” hospital that distributes tens of millions to its executives while serving a relatively poor community.
So, in this environment, it is not surprising that a down ballot constitutional officer would be able to exert the forces of his office for a little personal or political gain if he were to choose to do so. After all, a $600 bottle of wine to an insurance company making millions is a rounding error.
And if his dad were a board member of a charity that served handicapped children to teach them to overcome their disability, there would be no repercussions to delivering 25% of the charity’s annual budget to a lobbyist whose web page, until the day this scandal was uncovered, only bragged about his closeness to John Oxendine?
But the problem with petty shake down artists is they all eventually get greedy, and see so much more than they are when they look in the mirror. They see invincibilitiy.
This could be the only explanation why John Oxendine would place a series of phone calls to Congressman Lynn Westmoreland. Westmoreland has perhaps the best combination of social and fiscal conservative cred in the GA Congressional delegation. Westmoreland’s supporters extend beyond his 3rd Congressional District, and are comprised of those that we generally accuse Ox of pandering to. His supporters are those that Ox covets. When Cagle dropped out of the Governor’s race last April, Westmoreland was thought to be the immediate front runner if he chose to enter the race. During this time, calls from Oxendine increased in frequency, essentially begging Lynn to endorse the Ox. Lynn would have none of it.
Sometime in mid-summer, Westmoreland had enough. He told Oxendine in relatively blunt terms that he needn’t call anymore. There would be no endorsement. Never.
So it was strange when Westmoreland received a call December 9th informing him of the failure of Southeastern U.S. Insurance. It was from Oxendine directly, and he, at the time, questioned Westmoreland’s relationship with the organization.
SE US Insurance was closed because of financial irregularities by the owner (
who, coincidentally, had never contributed money to Oxendine. Coincidentally Correction: Fain donated $1,000 in 2006 and $1,500 in 2008 to Ox. Didn’t he get the memo that $100K and Oscar tickets are required to keep you out of trouble?) These events happened in roughly 2007-2009. Westmoreland served on an “advisory board” for about 18 months in 2001-2002. Readers should note that an “advisory board” has no fiduciary responsibilities, and serve generally in a PR/Marketing/Local Community Outreach capacity. They are not the same as the “board of directors” that make financial decisions for, nor audit the books for, a corporation.
But in the December phone call, Oxendine expressed his concern for Lynn if his “director” position of this company was made public. After Westmoreland told him he had nothing to hide, multiple times, Oxendiene told him he would really hate it if this were made public, and he wanted him to know he wouldl do everything in his power to keep this from the press according to sources close to Westmoreland, who recounted the call to them immediately afterward.
So it was rather strange, this week, for Congressman Westmoreland to get a call from Georgia Public Television asking for his comment on his involvement in the failure of Southeastern US Insurance. Strange because the reporter listed his source as one John Oxendine, Insurance Commissioner. The man who pledged in an earlier call to do everything in his power to keep Lynn’s role from the press was now calling GPTV (the press?) to put pressure on Westmoreland. The reporter emphasized Westmoreland was not the subject of wrongdoing, but it was just what his exact role was that was the subject of the investigation.
Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot?
If an elected official is not expected of wrongdoing, why is his role significant? More importantly, when it is clear that Westmoreland’s role ended prior to his becoming a Congressman in 2004, why are acts committed years later any reason to investigate his role. But more importantly, why would Oxendine, who pledged (unrequested, and unnecessarily) to do everything in his power to keep Lynn’s name out of the press now dropping hints to folks from GPTV (again, not a news outlet – thus, a state sponsored “warning shot”) that Lynn was the target of an “investigation”?
Eventually, the “fake it ’til you make it” crowd are found to be fake. John Oxendine could have continued his foolishness as Insurance Commissioner and probably never faced an insurance executive willing to challenge his alleged improprieties. But he got greedy. He’s apparently decided he not only deserves to be Governor, but can treat other elected officials the way he has allegedly been treating insurance company executives for over a decade.
Finally, someone has decided to fight back. Congressman Westmoreland has taken the story public, and others are expected to soon do the same.
We’ve had a good run of Oxendine’s tweets, of his fake supporters on Facebook, of his being staunchly against alcohol as he mixes another dockside margarita. But the state of Georgia faces serious issues, and it is time for this campaign to be serious.
So, we have the first official claim of Oxendine using his capacity as a Contitutional Officer of Georgia for personal political gain. It comes from someone who stepped aside from the same race, and who could have easily been the front runner for the office Oxendine seeks. The accuser himself instead elected to maintain his status quo. Hardly the profile of someone who Oxendine claims to be the one “playing politics”.
It’s time for the other victims of Oxendine to come forward, and admit what has been going on in this office for some time. Lynn Westmoreland has made the first step. I expect others to follow soon.