Did I Say 500? I Meant Zero. Sorry.

June 26, 2012 12:20 pm

by Mike Hassinger · 41 comments

I have received a demand for a retraction of my post “500 Good Reasons To Trust The T-SPLOST,” because somebody thought I had implied that Citizens For Transportation Mobility was not disclosing what they are spending on their efforts to persuade us to vote yes to a 1 percent increase in sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. Well, let me correct that RIGHT NOW. Citizens for Transportation Mobility, Inc, has, in fact, NOT disclosed what they are spending on their campaign. And they will continue to NOT disclose what they are spending until the week of July 16, which is 10 – 15 days before the vote on the tax increase. CTM’s secrecy is in full compliance with Georgia’s disclosure laws, in spite of what you may have assumed by reading the website of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, our state’s most powerful agency.

Also, while we can’t say for certain, they’re probably NOT developing jet packs. I’m very sorry to disappoint any of you who thought otherwise.

NOT factual. Sorry to break it to you.

 

This tax increase is a pretty big deal -it should raise $6 or $7 billion over ten years, to fund transportation fixes in the metro Atlanta region. The campaign to persuade you to vote yes to the tax increase is a pretty big deal, too. In addition to a website, videos, mailers,  and the usual stuff of a political campaign, Jim Galloway points out a concerted effort by CTM folks to “reach out” to employers and have bosses “encourage” their employees to turn out on July 31. These employers are definitely NOT telling their employees which way to vote, because that might be taken the wrong way.  But as Galloway points out, it would only take a small percentage of employees in the region who might believe their jobs were at stake and vote “yes” to sway the election. One would hope that a newspaper that’s put such an emphasis on lobbyists spending more than $100 to take legislators to dinner would have a few questions about the millions being spent on this campaign and things like its employer “outreach” program. One would also hope for jet packs.

Part of the reason we have campaign disclosure laws at all is so that the public can be informed about who is donating to any particular campaign. The sources of campaign funding are part of how voters form opinions about candidates. But in Georgia, since early voting starts on July 9 and ballot committees are not required to disclose donations received or spent until the July 15th (at the earliest) a good number of voters will not be able to get that information until after they have voted. Citizens for Transportation Mobility did not write the disclosure laws, and they are adhering to them. Any of you who want to know who’s funding the campaign for the biggest thing on the ballot next month should take it up with your state legislator. Just don’t spend more than $100 on a meal or gift for them when you do!

So, to recap: My post, “500 Good Reasons To Trust T-SPLOST” is hereby retracted. There are 0 good reasons to trust the T-SPLOST. Any implication that Citizens for Transportation Mobility Inc., is in violation of Georgia’s campaign laws by hiding their campaign spending is also retracted. CTM’s secrecy is completely legal. And jet packs, while not fictional, are highly impractical and probably not being developed by anyone.

Douglasville Dude June 26, 2012 at 12:23 pm

I still want a jet pack. :(

David Staples June 26, 2012 at 12:42 pm

So long as you only live within a 30 second flight from work, it looks like you may be able to get one here….

http://www.jetpackinternational.com/

David Staples June 26, 2012 at 12:45 pm

…and here’s another option if you don’t need it to actually have a description of “jetpack”…

http://www.tecaeromex.com/ingles/libe-i.htm

John Vestal June 26, 2012 at 12:47 pm

We sell ‘em…..just pick a model! :>)

Jackster June 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

Well there’s a good reason to vote no – only after the fact will we see whose interests are being served.

And it’s not mine… Unless of course CTM is going to educate on how to cash in on these projects to stimulate jobs.

Three Jack June 26, 2012 at 1:19 pm

It would be nice to see how much is being spent and funded by who, but we all know it will be millions provided by MACOC members and other corporate types. Will that change any votes?

The really troubling part of this campaign is the corporate ‘suggestion’ effort ‘encouraging’ employees to vote on 7/31. In the current environment, even the slightest hint at staff reduction will easily sway an individual to vote in favor of TSPLOST. If it passes, we can thank Coke and the other F500 CEOs whenever we are forced to pay an additional 16% for one of their products.

Afterwards I hope all good GOPers will remember who led the tax increase campaign whenever he shows up in charge of a candidate’s race. Paul Bennecke – http://clatl.com/atlanta/paul-bennecke-the-transportation-geek/Content?oid=4500212 – and his future candidates should never win another GOP primary in this state.

CobbGOPer June 26, 2012 at 2:27 pm

“The really troubling part of this campaign is the corporate ‘suggestion’ effort ‘encouraging’ employees to vote on 7/31. In the current environment, even the slightest hint at staff reduction will easily sway an individual to vote in favor of TSPLOST…”

I was wondering that too, how many of these companies that are backing this thing are out there dropping veiled threats of layoffs to employees when ‘encouraging’ them to vote in favor.

As for your thoughts on Paul Bennecke – well, you can’t put it all on him. Pretty much every major GOP consultant in the state is involved in this thing in one way or another (and everybody getting their piece of the millions spent on the PR campaign too). You have to understand that they’re paid hacks – they advocate what the client wants.

They all disgust me for having no principles, but you can’t blame them for making a buck. I’d probably do it too if I still worked in that wasteland of a profession. The money’s still green after all.

Three Jack June 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm

CobbGOPer,

Agreed that Paul should not shoulder all the blame, but he is the HRIC so one would assume he hired all the other spineless GOPer consultants.

As someone who also participated in the political consulting business for a few years, I actually can blame them for ignoring principle to make a buck. Maybe I’m foolish but I would rather live on Ramen noodles than get paid to advocate policies that are in direct conflict with my basic principles.

Rambler1414 June 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm

“If it passes, we can thank Coke and the other F500 CEOs whenever we are forced to pay an additional 16% for one of their products.”

Check your math.

To be accurate, the statement could read “16% higher sales tax” or “an additional 1% for one of their products”

Three Jack June 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Accuracy adjustment noted.

DeKalb Wonkette June 26, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Mike: You’ve nailed it – the fetish with lobbyist expenditures is a mere side show meant to distract the public. The real action is in campaign financing and PACs – a virtual black hole when it comes to “transparency” .

Jackster June 26, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Mike: You should post the demand – if it reads anything like other love letters, I’m sure it will be a fun read… or yawn.

Calypso June 26, 2012 at 2:01 pm

“And they will continue to NOT disclose what they are spending until the week of July 16, which is 10 – 15 days before the vote on the tax increase.”

@ Mike, I hope you do publish a link to the disclosure once it’s available and ask Charlie to keep it pinned to the top of the site every day until the election.

CobbGOPer June 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm

I second that emotion.

Calypso June 26, 2012 at 2:20 pm

Thanks Smokey.

seekingtounderstand June 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm

Every person running and every person in office has been for TSPLOST with the exception of Martha Zoller.
It really, really stinks to live in a one party state and my prediction is that Gwinnett County corrupution will pale in comparision to what is coming……………..why so negative?
There is no way to stop legal graft with the use of bond debt. Our laws are to weak and the politicans and supporters know that so they do not care about Georgias citizens just the greed part.
Asking for an ethics pledge is like spiting into the wind.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm

Georgia has always been a one-party state and will likely be a one-party state for the foreseeable future, at least until whatever year the expected ongoing demographic changes kick in.

The people that are running things (into the ground) now under the GOP banner are the very same people who were running things in this increasingly downward direction before under the Democrat (Dixiecrat) banner.

It’s the very same exact group, just with a different letter after their names (R’s instead of D’s as one must have an “R” after their name instead of an “D” to get elected these days).

It’s just that the smoke-and-mirrors of seemingly endless Sunbelt growth and prosperity that masked so many underlying structural near-fatal flaws during the 80′s and 90′s are gone (near-fatal flaws like this region’s glaring lack-of-investment in water infrastructure and the glaring lack-of-investment in transportation infrastructure that this T-SPLOST very poorly attempts to further mask) and the increasing economic struggles that this region and state are experiencing are nothing more than the culmination of decades of corruption, mismanagement and shortsightedness by the ruling Dixiecrats (Democrats-turned-Republicans).

With the exception of a few bright flashes of competence and foresight, Georgia was able to get away with governing incompetence for a time because it is a Sunbelt state with a favorable climate that is at the nexus of a couple of very important transportation routes, but with the glaring lack-of-transportation infrastructure investment rearing it’s ugly head on the ridiculously overcrowded roads and the region running increasingly low on long-term water supplies, our past failures to make even seemingly minimal investments in water and transportation infrastructure can no longer be hidden, especially when you have a regional population of six million trying to use a water and transportation infrastructure that was only meant to accommodate three million people, tops.

Snowbelt regions with highly-inept political leadership, like Southeast Michigan (Detroit) and Western New York (Buffalo), haven’t been able to get away with the same type of governing incompetence that a Sunbelt area like Georgia (Atlanta), Arizona, Florida or California have more than often been able to repeatedly get away with.

When politicians make inept political decisions in Sunbelt states they get re-elected again and again and again.

When politicians make inept political decisions in Michigan or Western New York, people vote…With their feet and leave the area in droves.

Georgia has been able to get away with shirking its duty to invest in its infrastructure for a long time, but now it appears as though we have reached the point where we can no longer get away with doing so, Sunbelt or no Sunbelt.

seekingtounderstand June 26, 2012 at 2:18 pm

People who have all the power and control the gates to that power will never, never change the laws on themselves or require accountablility. Once Romney is elected then they will not have to worry about the Feds as it will be a one party country.

Bob Loblaw June 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Mike: Seriously…the AJC reporting the millions of donations that aren’t accounted for in the transportation referendum campaign? They are in favor of T-SPLOST for Pete’s sake! Now if they were not in favor, you’d have Editorials opining, columnists blogging, senior staff writers opining in the middle of their “hard news” reports on the front page and goofballs that can’t think for themselves all beating the drum. For something like how much the dinner tab is.

you June 27, 2012 at 6:50 am

In Hall County many of the Chamber members have had pro-TSPLOST letters to the editor published in the Gainesville Times.
Also the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission has a web site called connectgeorgiamountains.org advertising “Vote Yes” in the same paper.
I wish we could use taxpayer money to run a “Vote No!” campaign.

seekingtounderstand June 28, 2012 at 8:26 pm

The Hall County budget gives the Chamber hundreds of thousands of dollars event though there is a court ruling to stop it. Part of the money to Chamber pot goes under cute name like economic development but goes to the Chamber.
Then they do nothing but work to raise taxes and force elected officals to do as they want.
Boycott any Chamber business and do us taxpayers a favor by not supporting this graft.

benevolus July 3, 2012 at 10:17 am

Politicians just can’t win:
– If they don’t ask for public input they are not listening to the people
– If they DO ask for public input they are abdicating their responsibility
– If they don’t take a position they are not being leaders
– If they do take a position they are corrupt.

I wouldn’t run for office if it paid $500,000 a year.

debbie0040 June 27, 2012 at 7:14 am

http://media.ethics.ga.gov/Commission/2011Forms/6/FormRO2011.pdf

The reporting schedulefor Constitutional Amendment/ Statewide Referendum Ballot Committee is below after the 500.00 threshold is met. :

•Statewide Ballot Committee must file a report with the commission 75 days before the election
•Statewide Ballot Committee must file a report with the commission 45 days before the election
•Statewide Ballot Committee must file a report with the commission 15 days before the election
•Statewide Ballot Committee must file final report prior to December 31 of the election year.

This is a statewide or regional referendum, it is not a county or municipality referendum. Each county votes on it but the vote is tabulated regionally, not just in the counties and it is on the ballot statewide. The choices that apply to this on the registration form are either county or municiple ballot question (I don’t think this would apply since counties can vote it down but if the tabulated vote of the region approves it, then counties that voted it down are forced to pay it.) or statewide referendum.

Connect Georgia even lists it as regional-not county..
http://connectgeorgia2012.com/downloads/TSPLOST_QA.pdf

you June 27, 2012 at 7:23 am

It looks like connectgeorgia2012.com is owned by the GA Chamber. I’d like to know how much they are spending on this. And I am sure their members would like to know.
Will we ever really know the true cost of this campaign when there are so many government groups in on it?

Calypso June 27, 2012 at 7:43 am

No.

debbie0040 June 27, 2012 at 7:43 am

The TIA legislation mentions the state numerous times and the ballot question also mentions the state. It is a stretch to consider this only a local/county ballot question. I think CTM filed this way to try to hide their contributors because they don’t want the public to know the truth about who their contributors are.

http://www.traffictruth.net/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/Final-TIA-Bill-HB277-106194.pdf

Bob Loblaw June 27, 2012 at 8:25 am

CTM could lean on the Montana case the Supremes ruled on this week and just make the whole thing a Super PAC and then they could tell all you nosey blankety-blanks to kiss their collective rear. So what if a public figure like Arthur Blank kicks in a $100k or if Bob Loblaw contributed $5? Why do you care? If you’re focused on this, you’re not focused on defeating T-SPLOST and continuing to embrace the clogged arteries that make up Georgia’s heart.

I will say that some of you blind squirrels found you a nut in the election code! Ever heard of a “regional” election in GA history? A “regional” tax? Tea Party People: Get out your Constitutional Cliff’s Notes and take a look-see. I’ll help you get started. Ironically, you’ll find the core of the question in the “home rule” section. Call 1-800-Bob-Law if you have questions. $400 an hour.

Charlie June 27, 2012 at 9:19 am

I anxiously await your spirited celebration of “transparency” the next time the party line calls for that as the solution to make ethics reform go away.

Calypso June 27, 2012 at 10:01 am

I think Bob conflates ‘transparency’ with ‘invisibility’.

Bob Loblaw June 28, 2012 at 8:08 am

Without the transparency GA has in its laws we’d know little or nothing. The 2010 Act gets short shrift. Conflicts of interests, abuse of official powers, sexual harassment, 3x reporting requirements with 3x fines for being late. What’s the answer? Common Cause’s plan to use taxpayer funds to run political campaigns so we’ll all be “equal”? Wait, they call it “fair”. My bad.

I don’t know what reform would look like that would satisfy anyone that didn’t have a $100 limit of some form. I don’t think the TEA Party would like taxpayer funded trips for legislators to speak to public interest groups, but without letting the lobbyists pay for it, that’s what will happen. I guess that’s starting to become the norm, though, as they hold hands with Common Cause while they simultaneously seek their overarching goal is taxpayer financed political campaigns.

debbie0040 June 27, 2012 at 11:28 am

I would imagine calls are being made to Georgia Transparency Commission questioning their registration and complaining about them not filing disclosures. Just a guess on my part.

Bob, we have been raising the Constitutional question for months. If T-SPLOST passes, we plan to file an immediate challenge. The way I look at it, why spend our money now to challenge it? Why not let the pro-transportation tax crowd spent their millions of dollars now, and when it is defeated on July 31st or thrown out by the courts, the donor money will have been wasted.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 27, 2012 at 12:11 pm

“If T-SPLOST passes, we plan to file an immediate challenge.”

That’s an increasingly big IF at this point.

Bob Loblaw June 28, 2012 at 8:01 am

I would imagine that your organization(s) have attorneys as members. Would they not simply be able to file for an injunction and a temporary restraining order with a brief attached, pro bono? All that needed to happen is for it to get lobbed into the courts and in 30 days, you’d of had a ruling from a Superior Court Judge. Since we’re breaking new ground here voting by regions, registering as “local” elections because no law exists for a “regional” vote…seems like a good strategy to have stopped it. Once the toothpaste is out of the tube, Judges are reluctant to try to put it back in.

Hinging your hopes that the judiciary will rule in your favor with the, frankly, quite sinister “hope” that those contributing to an effort with a different position than yours will have “wasted” their money is an ulterior motive. Those donors have more money. You’re hope to double-dip with a punch-to-the-gut as you walk away from the courthouse is ugly. What’s your goal? I believe its stopping T-SPLOST. Why waste one of two legal avenues to do it? You can’t stop the election after its happened.

debbie0040 June 27, 2012 at 1:40 pm

Atlanta Tea Party registered as a state-wide referendum committee. CTM registered as a local county committee instead of state-wide referendum. If it were a local SPLOST the local committee would apply . Their intent is so they don’t have to report as often and disclose their expenditures and donors…

John Konop June 28, 2012 at 7:44 am

What I find Irronic about this debate is a key component of our growth has been infrastructure for our country. A major factor as to why Russia lost the cold war was the lack of infrastructure. The majority of people on this blog would not be here if Atlanta had not built the airport here over Birmingham. If we do not get serious about this issue history has shown it will have a major impact on our economy in Georgia. The problem with this debate is it should be about how do we increase capacity which drives economic growth, not how we solve traffic problems. Finally this cannot be solved on a local level. It must be cordinated on a statewide bassis or the plan will fail. We must understand we are all interconnected ie a the port expansion in The southern part of the state helps all of us on a macro, well planned regional airport, light rail if done right………helps us all.

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 28, 2012 at 7:50 pm

I agree with your comments that the debate should about increasing the capacity of our transportation network and I also agree that it would be best to approach our transportation problems on a statewide basis.

But the extremely polarized politics of this state and this region, first of Atlanta vs rural Georgia then of ITP liberal urban Intown Atlanta vs OTP conservative suburban/exurban Atlanta, will not a allow a seemingly one-size-fits-all treatment to be applied to this problem and rightfully so as urban ITP Atlanta and suburban/exurban Atlanta both have vastly different transportation and political needs.

Suburban/exurban OTP Atlanta needs mostly road improvements and smaller degree of targeted regional commuter bus service and maybe (and that’s a really big maybe) some degree of regional commuter rail service on existing rail corridors where physically, financially and politically-viable.

While urban ITP Atlanta needs mostly transit upgrades with a few targeted road upgrades due to a very severe lack of roadway infrastructure (even more severe than the politically and culturally very conservative rail-adverse automobile-dominated suburbs and exurbs) and the lack of physical space to expand the right-of-ways of that very limited road network, not-to-mention a decisively left-of-center political environment that almost completely abhors roadbuilding of any kind at this point.

seekingtounderstand June 28, 2012 at 8:32 pm

John: You are correct and we would love to rally behind a massive move forward.
One thing is standing the the way………….we do not trust them.
They have gorged and gorged.
If you knew anything about how DOT works and looked at the projects you would know that it sucks and is full of BS on estimating costs. Its designed to graft off of.

John Konop June 28, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Seek,

I agree any rational person can see the list is polititics over a rational policy. We need a committee of non partisan business people appointed by region to make a plan. Not sure how it happens, but it is needed ASAP!

The Last Democrat in Georgia June 28, 2012 at 9:38 pm

You forgot the one other thing that is also standing in the way of this state and this region rallying behind a massive move forward, which is MARTA, which is widely perceived, especially in the politically-dominant and politically and culturally-conservative traditionally transit-adverse OTP Metro Atlanta suburbs and exurbs, as a mismanaged inept and incompetent government transportation in its own right.

It is the perception, both real and imagined, that OTP suburbanites and exurbanites taxes will go to fund the needs of an ITP transit agency that they abhor that is used by liberal Intowners that they can’t stand, that the flawed, misguided and inadequate T-SPLOST concept is in severe political trouble with those politically-dominant suburban and exurban voters.

John Konop June 28, 2012 at 9:40 pm

TLD,

All good points!

benevolus July 3, 2012 at 11:08 am

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