Who Gets To Investigate A Speaker?

The AJC’s James Salazar brings word that the man picked to investigate House Speaker David Ralston for the Georgia Bar is a former campaign donor, as well as the husband to Former Secretary of State Cathy Cox.

“The State Bar of Georgia asked the state Supreme Court to appoint an investigator, known as a special master.

The court chose Mark F. Dehler of Hiawassee. Dehler is a longtime attorney married to Cathy Cox, a former Democratic secretary of state and gubernatorial candidate who is now president of Young Harris College.

Records show Dehler contributed $500 to Ralston’s re-election campaign in 2010, and Cox contributed $250 in 2013.

Besides being president of Young Harris, Cox has been a frequent visitor to the statehouse during legislative sessions, lobbying lawmakers to continue funding more than $20 million a year in grants to private college students.

Dehler told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he looked at his contribution records last week after being appointed and found that he’d given about $30,000 to political candidates over the past decade.

“If I thought I was biased (for contributing), I wouldn’t have accepted the assignment by the Supreme Court,” he said.”

So, before we bunch up our drawers, let’s run this through a reality filter.  To do so, we have to acknowledge that anyone with the standing and profile to be selected by the Georgia Supreme Court is probably going to have made a lot of campaign contributions.  (See that $30,000 figure above.)  You’re probably going to find most folks in this category have split their contributions across the partisan divide, concentrating on people of power.  That’s likely going to get you a small dollar contribution to the Speaker.

Let’s say that this person doesn’t do that, and is partisan.  OK, if his donations are all to Republicans, then the headlines become “the fix is in.” If they’re all to Democrats, those headlines become “partisan witch hunt.”  As we’ve seen with too many facets of our ethics system, there’s really little way to make everybody happy, or to have the purity of independence we always desire but never can find.

Sometimes, you just can’t win.  But can we at least let the process play itself out?


  1. Scarlet Hawk says:

    I agree with your assertion but would offer a question regarding another alternative: why couldn’t we seek an attorney outside the state? I’m not familiar with the rules in such a case, so maybe this isn’t possible. If it isn’t, why not?

  2. debbie0040 says:

    Dehler is a good choice and he has impeccable integrity.

    Now for the GA Bar, still want to hear an explanation why they deliberately sat on this complaint for almost 8 months when the usual course of action according to their rules was to file it with the SC within 30 days of a probable cause finding…How many more complaints are they sitting on ?

  3. Dash Riptide says:

    Dehler was probably just the next name on the list. The parties have ten days to object to his appointment. The rest of us lack standing (in every respect).

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