Cagle Skips Retreat, Makes Presence Felt

Today’s Courier Herald Column:

“It is better to remain quiet and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln

Casey Cagle has been quiet for a while.  Perhaps he realizes he spoke up a bit too much after being stripped of his power soon after being re-elected by one of the widest margins of any statewide Republican.  Perhaps he realizes that the year he spent publicly battling Senate Republican leadership didn’t help his image.  Or perhaps, he realized by being quiet the focus of the dysfunction in the Senate would be directed to the Senate’s leadership.

Rather than publicly pick sides in most other Senate battles during 2012, Cagle has been the anti-Cagle from 2011.  The combative Cagle that spent the first year trying to restore his power has spent the last year largely behind the scenes.

Cagle has remained largely quiet during the Senate ethics investigation and now GBI investigation into false expense reports submitted by Rules Chairman Don Balfour.  After all, Balfour is not his problem.  He no longer serves as Rules Chairman at the pleasure of the Lt. Governor, but by a Committee On Assignments installed by Senate leadership.

It appears that the year of relative silence has made Cagle look a bit smarter.  This is, of course, a relative comparison to Senate leadership.  Their year has been marked by blocking ethics reform, ignoring an obvious problem with their Rules Chairman, having a majority leader claim his pitches for a sports book operation weren’t him but a character he was playing that coincidentally had his same name, and attempting to appoint freshmen to a new leadership slate and asking senior senators to tell the freshmen what committees they would like to be considered for during the 2013 session.

And then, there’s the not inconsequential matter of the Senate Republican Trust.  The trust is a PAC that raises money to help protect incumbent Senators outside their own campaign activities.  Problem is, much of the money held in the trust was transferred to an “independent” expenditure group.  The bigger problem is that the group was funded by donations raised by members who directly benefited from the group. The expenditures of the group were directed by Senate Leadership, as evidenced by an email sent to explain the group’s independence. The group’s existence and operation appears to be a violation of state law, and has resulted in multiple ethics complaints still pending against Senate recipients.

The Senate Republican caucus will meet Wednesday and Thursday at the Barnsley Gardens Resort in Adairsville. The event is a fundraiser to replenish the funds in the trust. Casey Cagle will not attend, but his year of silence appears to be over as well.  Instead of fighting in the trenches of Senate legislative battles, however, Cagle returns this time occupying the moral high ground.

As reported by the AJC’s Jim Galloway, Cagle informed Senate Republicans via letter that the trust has been tainted, and that his attendance would “wrongly legitimize conduct and decisions which are wholly unacceptable.”  Perhaps Cagle’s money quote, however is “We do not have to cheat to win in November.”

Senator Josh McKoon, also a member of the Republican caucus, a staunch supporter of ethics reform, and the lone member of the Senate Ethics Committee that continues to push for additional sanctions against Rules Chairman Balfour will also not attend.

Cagle’s statement that he will not attend does not mean his presence will be missed at the retreat.  This is likely the last meeting of Senate Republicans before they will meet to vote on new leadership sometime after November’s elections.  Cagle will likely not have  a slate of his own to challenge the one hand picked by current President Pro Tem Tommie Williams of Lyons, but rather is likely to support a “compromise” or “peacemaking” slate, depending on who is characterizing the group.

The balance of power between the sides is likely found at the moment with the Senators who have been elected to the body since 2010.  Those with two years or less seniority now comprise a majority of the caucus.

It will be an interesting couple of days in Adairsville, for those who are there and those who are not.  While rumblings will likely make their way outside the north Georgia resort, it may be mid-November before we can tell who looks the smartest after the last two years of battle.



  1. Charlie says:

    Galloway’s original reporting is worth a read, especially with the numbers included as to who got what emails from the “independent” expenditure group.

      • Ken says:

        Just on Lt. Gov Cagle.

        At this point a good, qualified Republican candidate would beat him in a state-wide GOP primary. The only statewide seat he can win is the one he currently holds and that is solely becomes he is the incumbent.

        • redrock says:

          Based on your latest performance in CD2 – finishing 3rd in a 3 way primary – you don’t have any room to predict political futures. Making snide comments, sure, that’s what the blogs are for, but that’s about it.

          • Ken says:

            Stating that Casey Cagle can’t win a state-wide race against decent competition in a statewide GOP primary is an opinion, not a snide comment. If that opinion offends you then do feel free to be offended.

  2. Baker says:

    Is McKoon not attending the best way to go? Not all of the post-2010 elected can dislike him as much current leadership, could he not go and at least get his voice in there? Or would he and Balfour in the same room other than Senate chambers just be a non-starter? This will indeed be fascinating. If there is not much change of leadership, how much louder do yall think the voices of frustrated Repubs will be next year? Or does it not matter how loud those voices are?

    There seem to be two types of fundraisers, 1) lobbyists, who will contribute no matter what (unless they’re banned…) and 2) hardcore Repubs who have plenty of moola. Won’t this second group withdraw some funding if Senate ethics or lack thereof sees no change?

  3. brasstownhigh says:

    It’s good to see Cagle and McKoon taking a stand on this.

    Tommie Williams, Chip Rogers and Bill Cowsert’s PAC/Independent expenditure dealing is a big issue. They put the whole caucus at risk by doing what they did.

  4. Bob Loblaw says:

    McKoon not attending is bad form. Supporting caucus endeavors is part of building a cohesive team to take on the myriad decisions the Senators face. As a freshman, you’d think he would want to spend time with his colleagues and convince them of his stances instead of boycotting them and calling them unethical. The milk has been spilled. The cleanup is underway. He ought to be part of the next steps. Maybe its time to consider becoming a Democrat. His closest colleagues are liberals that want to raise your taxes to fund political campaigns.

    The LG not going makes sense to me. Whomever wins the Pro Tem race determines whether or not he regains any authority over the Senate. He’s rising above the fray, politically and saying that campaign finance reform may be part of whatever “ethics” means this year.

    • benevolus says:

      “The event is a fundraiser to replenish the funds in the trust. ”

      Supporting caucus endeavors extends to supporting something that may be illegal?

      • Bob Loblaw says:

        Accepting contributions to the Senate GOP Trust is not an illegal, unlawful, unethical or does not support of anything of the sort. Again, the milk has been spilled. Every fundraiser, from Krispy Kreme sales to topless car washes are “events to replenish funds”. Once the Commission begins to look at the issues mentioned, then they will be dealt with. Support of the GOP Senate is not “something that may be illegal” and the doubletalk doesn’t make it so!

        Peach Pundit really needs to put Bob Loblaw on retainer.

  5. Dave Bearse says:

    Cagle had to figure that assigning 2012 session Ethics legislation to Balfour’s Rules Committee in Feb was tantamont to burial, indicative of Cagle’s opinion of toughening ethics standards, or that Cagle valued his own standing more than seeking to toughen legislation. I don’t much fault him if it’s the latter, given Senate disfunctionality.

    • Bob Loblaw says:

      Diggin’ up bones, I’m a diggin’ up bones. That ol’ column from Jay is better left alone.

      Cagle is about to push his chips all-in to make what the Caucus did expressly illegal in the code. I can smell it from a mile away. He gets to force the Senate to codify a prohibition against what they did, rather than allowing the Commission to “call a duck a duck” and come to the same conclusion.

        • Bob Loblaw says:

          The connections between an independent committee and the source of its funds, activities, etc. could be codified in law to make the Trust’s actions unlawful. This would give Casey an ethical “clean up” badge and in the future, would clarify these acts as unlawful rather than letting the Commission look at definitions of independent committee and the actions of the Trust and decide for themselves whether they violated the law.

  6. Dave Bearse says:

    Charlie, I’m looking forward to your take on the state news of the day that Deal may sue George Anderson for legal expenses in connection with ethics complaints.

    Shouldn’t Anderson ought to be able to recover legal expenses from Deal if the complaints are not judged frivolous, if Deal can recover expenses if Anderson’s complaints are judged frivolous?

    Not guilty is not the same thing as innocent.

    I welcome someon (Bob Loblaw?) to chime in as to what role if any malice has in determining frivolity with respect to the law allowing Deal to sue.

    • John Walraven says:

      Malice is irrelevant. Both civil and criminal law have remedies for abusive litigation and this code section, in my opinion, was enacted so the Commission would be less likely to receive bogus complaints. With the workload it already has and the attention that is drawn to it, those who want a more effective commission should applaud this law and its fair implementation. Folks can file complaints all day long, but they ought to have merit and if not, a “stick” should be available to deter friviolus or political campaign-motivated complaints.

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