Friday I posted this item detailing a call from Matt Towery while in John Oxendine’s office to Lynn Westmoreland asking him to stand down on the controversy over the State takeover of Southeastern US Insurance. While I knew most of what follows below, I had not been able to talk to any of the principals involved, so I had to leave out one of the more pertinent, but unverified details.
In addition to his role at Insider Advantage, Towery is of counsel with McKenna Long & Aldridge. While they are generally known to our readers as a lobbying firm, they have a large international legal practice as well.
The client that Towery was representing during his visit to Commissioner Oxendine was Clark Fain, former owner of SEUSI. And therein lies the problem with this phone call.
While as counsel for Mr. Fain, Towery had every right to discuss his client’s legal case with the investigating body, the call to take care of the investigator’s political problem from the investigator’s office, in the presence of that investigator, is a problem.
I talked with Matt Towery this morning by phone. Frankly, he doesn’t sound well, and is still receiving treatment for the concussion he received in the Cayman Islands a couple weeks ago. He initiated the phone call, and it was helpful to understanding his involvement in this situation.
“I wanted you to know you were right” he began. I’ll admit appreciated that.
He stated that he didn’t believe he did anything wrong, as he was in Oxendine’s office to represent his client. He admitted he was not thinking through all the details when he quickly accepted Fain as a client a couple days prior to the Westmoreland call. He had already seen a document where the State of Georgia, signed off on by a representative from Oxendine’s office, has returned some money to Fain. If the state was already returning money to Fain, how could they also truly believe that he was guilty of criminal wrongdoing?
So it was with this in mind that he decided to talk to Oxendine. But since Oxendine was fixated on Lynn Westmoreland, Towery decided he needed to talk to his lifelong friend to see if he could get the Commissioner focused back on his client’s problems. He admits now that was a huge error in judgment, and has penned an article at Insider Advantage to that effect.
Towery realized afterward that he could not separate his roles as an attorney and as a political advisor, and has recused himself from the case. Towery has a long history in Georgia politics, and frankly doesn’t need the money. His sole interest at this point is demonstrating that he is still an objective political analyst, and does not want his ability to do his job compromised.
I accept that Towery’s judgment was clouded that afternoon, and sincerely wish him well as he continues his recovery. But to my knowledge, John Oxendine has not recently suffered head trauma. He should have known that having an attorney of someone his office was investigating solve his pressing political problem of the day crosses every ethical boundary and possibly a legal one.
But whether it is setting up PACs in Alabama to illegally launder campaign funds, or using the investigative authority of your office to silence a political critic, Oxendine has demonstrated he believes he is above the law.
He is unfit to remain as Insurance Commissioner, and any reasonable voter should disqualify him from consideration as our next Governor.