Category: Disclosures

An introduction: George Chidi is on the bench

Another joins the fray.

Normally, I wouldn’t roll out of bed for less than a buck a word, but I care deeply about the state of political dialogue and I’ve found Peach Pundit to be a place for reasoned discourse, even among people with whom I often disagree. That’s a rare commodity these days. So, I hope to contribute political intelligence which would otherwise go undiscovered and unpublished, as well as a fresh perspective offering a reasonable counterpoint to prevailing views – as opposed to the cartoon-character straw men many on the right imagine those on the left to be.

Also, Charlie said he’d go clubbing with me.

I’ve been writing for pay since I was 18, after dropping out of the microbiology program at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. I enlisted in the Army as a military journalist 20 years ago, for which the only qualifications were two years of high school English, 20 words per minute on a typewriter and not being colorblind. I served five years on active duty, mostly with the 25th Infantry Division, without once being intentionally shot at. I have no business regretting that.

After returning to UMass to finish a journalism degree, I worked as a wire service reporter for the IDG publications covering the dot-com bust and as a politics reporter for the Rocky Mount Telegram in rural North Carolina before landing as a staff writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I covered growth and development, business, crime and municipal government in Gwinnett County for about three years before sobering up.

After covering one too many ax murders and gang shootings, I left the paper when Georgia Tech offered a full ride through its MBA program. I said to myself that a career in finance or real estate might be just as interesting and certainly more stable than news reporting.

I started school in the fall of 2008. Who knew.

I’ve also been a security guard, a long-term substitute teacher, a technology flack, various flavors of corporate peon, an associate investment banking equity analyst, an Occupy Atlanta activist, an ex-Occupy Atlanta activist and an elected official for the city of Pine Lake, which is manifestly not a speed trap. Any more. For real.

By day, I am the managing director of Neon Flag, a competitive intelligence consultancy, which is more or less exactly what you think it is. By night, I’m trying to figure out how to keep apparent corruption among Democrats from snatching defeat away from the hands of demographic victory in Georgia. I contribute from time to time to Creative Loafing and write irregularly about personal finance for Dimespring.com. I’ll be writing here about governance in Democratic communities and the leadership challenges of progressive politics in Georgia, along with a note now and then about economic competition, innovation and the state of the local club scene.

Next time, with Charlie.

Liberty Media CEO Donates to Conservatives

The President and CEO of Liberty Media, Gregory Maffei, is the largest sports owner/principal donor to politicians and political causes. Liberty Media is, of course, the owner of our beloved Atlanta Braves. This story from The Atlanta-Journal Constitution states, in part, of Maffei:

He’s giving it to political candidates. One report states that the Braves boss is actually the top political donor among sports franchise owners.

According to a story from WNYC, “The most generous single owner was Gregory Maffei of the Atlanta Braves, who dished $157,500 to Mitt Romney, American Crossroads, Restore Our Future, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.”

While the story leaves the impression that Maffei gives only to conservatives, such as Jim DeMint, this is not true. A quick glance at the FEC website individual donations page (01/01/2009 through 08/01/2012) shows that he has also given money to Democrats Ken Salazar and Michael Bennett as well as moderate Republicans.

While there are those who are upset with Maffei for making investments in the political field rather than in center field (RE-SIGN MICHAEL BOURN!), remember that it’s Maffei’s money. Despite the fervent wishes of many on the left, we still have property rights in this country. Besides, what’s really America’s pastime, baseball or politics?

Feds Sue Former Candidate Michael Rothenberg for Securities Fraud

The AJC reports today on a lawsuit by the Securities and Exchange Commission against Michael Rothenberg, who ran unsuccessfully for DeKalb Superior Court in 2010.

The SEC complaint appears to originate with the same transaction that birthed a federal lawsuit against Rothenberg just before the December 2011 runoff election.

The SEC alleges that Rothenberg transferred $169,o00 of money from defrauded investors to his campaign account. In November, the Fulton Daily Report noted Rothenberg denying having transferred the funds in questions to his campaign.

Read more

Georgia Is Not Wisconsin, Part II

Today’s Column from the Courier Herald:

Once more this week, I’m going to go back to the Midwest to make a point about Georgia.

The Democratic party may as well go ahead and hold a convention in Illinois, because Democrats in Indiana have joined Democratic lawmakers from Wisconsin by seeking refuge across state lines to avoid allowing Republican majorities a quorum in their respective legislatures.  In both states, lawmakers who have sided with those who tried to brand Republicans as “the party of ‘No’” have turned themselves into “the party of no-show”.

Wisconsin and Indiana, like Georgia and most other states, are facing real, structural financial problems.  States are in danger of cutting essential services.   And beyond the angry signs and shouts at various protests, there is actually a sincere if not seemingly bizarre conversation going on about what services states can afford to provide, and how states will pay to offer them.

In Georgia, that conversation took the form of rebuilding the HOPE scholarship, which is facing increasing expenses due to tuition increases which are outpacing inflation.  Governor Deal laid out his plan this week, in which he proposes to cover only 90% of tuition for most students, with some exceptionally high achieving students to continue to receive 100% of tuition from newly named “Zell Miller Scholarships”.  Money for fees and books will also be stripped for HOPE recipients. Read more

Andrew Breitbart keeps Sanford Bishop in the crosshairs

Yeah, yeah. In the crosshairs. It’s a metaphor, people. Culture of civility be damned! Ha!

Anyway, Andrew Breitbart has been on a tear of late against Georgia Democratic Congressman Sanford Bishop who loves to give taxpayer funded scholarships to his own family and seems to have other family members who love collecting as many public salaries as possible.

Breitbart continues to focus on Bishop’s alleged collusion in corruption related to the Pigford v. Glickman settlement. Sure, Old AJC Guy likes to minimize it as “pretty thin gruel” (because that’s what a biased AJC reporter does, you see). But now Breitbart has put together some TV ads for Bishop’s home district that he is collecting funds to air. Here’s the main ad:

Breitbart’s position: “I am committed to getting justice for the bona fide black farmers who faced government sponsored discrimination and land loss. These American heroes were betrayed by the so-called ‘black leadership’ like the Congressional Black Caucus, who sold them out at every opportunity. CBC member Sanford Bishop is a perfect example of the back stabbing that these men have faced.”

With conversations in D.C. about the initiation of investigations into Pigford, it remains to be seen if Sanford Bishop will ever actually address the (sorry Old AJC Guy) serious allegations being levied against him from actual victims of discrimination.

Savannah Alderman suffers stroke; quick thinking fellow Aldermen save the day

We here wish a speedy recovery to Savannah Alderman Clifton Jones who has been hospitalized after what initial diagnosis indicates was something called a “pin stroke.” Incredibly, his fellow Alderman recognized the symptoms and got him, thankfully, to the hospital in time for the appropriate medications to be administered to mitigate damage.

More here from the Savannah Morning News.

Roy Barnes claimed federal and state income tax breaks twice for a house he doesn’t own

As Roy Barnes recently said, “The people of Georgia have a right to know about the person who is going to be the chief executive officer of this state.”

I couldn’t agree more, Roy.

Roy Barnes claimed federal and state income tax breaks in 2008 and 2009 for depreciation on a house he doesn’t own, his campaign acknowledged Thursday.

Cobb County property records show Barnes’ daughter and son-in-law have owned the house in Marietta since 2007 when Barnes gave it to them. Barnes owns several properties on the road.

More here. Using Barnes’ logic, then, does this mean we can’t trust him to manage the state coffers when he takes tax breaks on a home he doesn’t even own? Really, if he can’t figure out the difference between what he owns and what he doesn’t own, how can he effectively serve us from a perch on East Paces Ferry Road in Atlanta?

John Barrow believes keeping dirty money isn’t wrong as long as you don’t discover it’s dirty until after you take it

John Barrow (D-Bad Hair Day) has announced that he will keep approximately $24,000 in campaign donations from fellow Congressman Charles Rangel (D-Throat Lozenge) who stands accused of myriad ethical violations.

As the Savannah Morning News reports, “The spokeswoman, Jane Brodksy, justified Barrow’s refusal on the grounds he received it before the ethics case surfaced.”

Emphasis mine. What convenient logic from John Barrow. You see, he didn’t know the money he was receiving was dirty until after he received it. Thus, it evidently doesn’t matter he now knows about the questionable sources for the money. How quaint. What say his opponent, Ray McKinney?

“There’s right and wrong and there’s technical right and wrong,” he said. “Barrow is choosing to be technically right. He’s saying, ‘I didn’t know about it, but now that I know it, it’s still OK because I didn’t know it at the time.’

“There’s nothing wrong with him receiving the money, but now that he knows it’s dirty, he should give it to charity, as other candidates have.”

John Barrow ♥’s Charlie Rangel bunches and bunches and is happy to spend dollars generated by corruption.

Sanford Bishop: I have determined that the most worthy of scholarship money in my district happen to be my stepdaughter and wife’s niece

As reported by Politico and Jim Galloway this morning, Rep. Sanford Bishop (D) has determined after exhaustive work and a sweeping search of his constituents that the most eligible people he found to receive three scholarships from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation happened to be…his stepdaughter and wife’s niece. Well played, my friend. Well played.

In 2003, Emmaundia Whitaker, the niece of Vivian Creighton Bishop, who is Bishop’s wife, was awarded an education scholarship. She was also given a similar award in 2005.

And in 2003, Aayesha Owens Reese, the congressman’s stepdaughter, was granted an education scholarship as well.

The congressman’s wife, is a longtime state employee in Georgia. She currently serves as clerk of the municipal court in Columbus, Georgia.

A Bishop spokesman insisted the Georgia Democrat did not violate CBC Foundation rules that were in place at that time by awarding scholarships to family members.

“It is our understanding that the CBC Foundation in 2008 revisited the guidelines and processes for its scholarship programs, and as such included language to clarify that CBC family members are not eligible to receive the scholarships,” said Ashton McRae, Bishop’s spokesman, in a statement released by the office. “These scholarships … were awarded prior to 2008.”

Read more

Oxendine Investigation Derailed

Interesting happenings in the State Ethics Commissions investigations into John Oxendine’s PAC contributions.

You’ll recall over a year ago, the AJC reported that Oxendine’s campaign for Governor got $120,000 in $12,000 installment from 10 Alabama PACs connected to Oxendine’s friend, and hunting partner Delos “Dee” Yancey III.

Well, the State Ethics Commission opened an investigation, and subpoenaed the 10 PACs in Alabama. The PACs told the State Ethics Commission to get bent, the SEC’s jurisdiction doesn’t apply in Alabama. So the SEC subpoenaed Yancy’s firms in Georgia.

Those firms dragged their feet, then filed a lawsuit in Fulton Superior Court saying that the State Ethics Commission shouldn’t be allowed to do their job this close to an election, because some members might be politically motivated. Who ever heard of political appointees being politically motivated?

Anyway, Fulton Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams ruled that all hearings into this matter be postponed till she holds a hearing on the matter. After all, why should GOP Primary voters be informed about the candidates they are voting on.

The State Ethics Commission held some debate on what constituted “this matter” – the subpoenas from the firms in question or the entire Oxendine investigation. They had initially determined that the court’s ruling applied to Yancey’s firms only, but today the AJC is reporting that the State Ethics Commission has decided to cancel a scheduled hearing into the entire investigation.

Clearly someone has something to hide.

Disclosures? Michael Thurmond Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Disclosures

At least not for the last two years. So says Atlanta Press Club award winner Jim Walls:

Gubernatorial candidate Eric Johnson neglected to report $289,000 in state payments to his architectural firm from 1999 to 2002, the Associated Press reports. But Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond can go him one better: He hasn’t disclosed anything whatsoever since 2007.

Thurmond, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, filed no financial disclosure forms with the State Ethics Commission in 2008 or 2009, a check of the commission’s online look-up shows. Elected officials in Georgia are required to report on basic details of their personal finances every year by July 1.

Since he’s leaving his state job, Thurmond is not required to file the form this year. A similar disclosure for the Senate campaign is due Tuesday.

H/T Jim Galloway

Hatfield to Obama: show me the proof!

State Representative Mark Hatfield, who earlier this session sought to impeach Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker for failing to defend the state from the attack on Federalism that is ObamaCare, has (as the AJC’s Jim Galloway reports) this afternoon filed legislation that would have future candidates for President of the United States prove their citizenship before being granted permission to be placed on the ballot.

This legislation is similar to legislation pending in Arizona. In particular, as Galloway notes, the legislation reads:

Within 10 days after submitting its list of names of candidates, the state executive committee shall submit to the Secretary of State for each candidate an affidavit by the candidate stating the candidate’s citizenship and age and shall append to the affidavit documents that prove the candidate is a natural born citizen, prove the candidate’s age, and prove that the candidate meets the residency requirements for President of the United States as prescribed in Article II, Section ! of the United States Constitution.

Expect this bill to be refiled next year. That said, it seems rather pointless since the State of Hawaii has already issued official certification of the legitimacy of Obama’s birth certificate, which would count as the “affidavit documents that prove the candidate is a natural born citizen.”

Apparently, Those “No Comments” Were Expensive: Updated

So, it’s nearing the end of spring break/Easter week, and folks with some spare time on their hands are using it to go through disclosures. And, because my friends are generous people, some choose to share their findings with me. And because I’m a generous guy, I’ll share this tidbit with you.

Remember way back when – that time everyone was pretending an ethics report that had been delivered to Congressman Deal didn’t exist? Well, the now re-assigned spokesperson was referring folks who dared to ask of such reports existance to Deal’s attorney. And boy was that expensive.

According to Deal’s March 31 Disclosure, the Deal Campaign racked up over $17,000 in legal fees to the firm of McKenna Long and Aldridge. And I’m sure all those fees were strictly campaign related, because, well, that’s all you can spend campaign money on.

I’m sure it’s just strong coincidence that McKenna submitted the response and Deal’s “Summary Of Facts” to the OCE on January 25th, (starts p 93) and that legal bills from the campaing to McKenna were paid in the amount of $8,377.80 on January 5th, and $8,986.85 on February 1st. It just makes good sense to get $17K of campaing “legal work” done while the same firm is simultaneously working an ethics defense.

I’d call over to the Deal campaign to ask for more details and assurance that the campaign wasn’t spending campaign money on a Congressional Ethics Complaint defense, but I don’t have the heart to get another “No Comment”, nor do I wish to have a campaign that is still spending more money than it is taking in to have to pay an attorney out of campaign funds to answer my questions.

Updated: After checking the report from the previous period ending Dec 31, 2009, it appears that the total paid to McKenna is closer to $40K, with a significant increase in the October – December timeframe, when the ethics complaint was originally filed by CREW. And according to the first commenter, the AP wire has Deal’s spokesperson acknowledging that this is in fact for legal defense relating to his Congressional Ethics complaint. The logic appears to be that this is a “politically motivated witch hunt”, and therefore, using campaign funds to defend an action taken as a US Congressman prior to his announcement that he was running for Governor is kosher.

I’m thinking that strains logic. You guys fight it out. I’m sure someone will be along soon to explain GA code to us soon.

Updated Again: Shannon McAffrey of the AP had this well before I did, and Jim Galloway brings you her report here.

Balfour not quite done yet with politics?

As Jason Pye broke last night, State Senator Don Balfour declared yesterday he was out of the race for the House of Representatives and was done with the Georgia Senate.

This afternoon, there is now some softening of his position as it relates to the Georgia Senate. Sorta. It seems that someone can’t make up his mind if he is truly done with elected office.

Balfour said he would decide by the upcoming qualifying period in the coming weeks if he would try to continue his 18-year tenure in the Georgia Senate, where he now heads the powerful Rules Committee.

The political fight over the past few weeks, since U.S. Rep. John Linder’s surprise announcement he would retire from office, has been brutal, and Balfour said the stress of trying to be a leader in the state’s grueling process to cut billions from the budget has been too much.

“It got very frustrating,” he said, pointing to a quick political response over higher education funding when he said budget cuts may drive a tuition increase. “In the past two weeks, I haven’t been sleeping well. … I’ve lost a lot of weight. … I just don’t have a peace about it.”

After so many years in public office, it’s certainly curious that only now is he finding himself unable to handle the rigors of his position. Curious.

Whatever his decision, it’s going to be quite a ride and I recommend that we all follow this recommenation*.

*Everyone except Ben Harbin, that is.

Meanwhile, Glenn Richardson will this week earn $2,064.23 for doing nothing. Who can we thank for that? That’s right, the “new leadership team.”

This week, disgraced Speaker of the Georgia House Glenn Richardson will earn $2,064.23 for doing nothing. He is still the State Representative from Paulding County and couldn’t even be bothered to attend the majority caucus meeting this last week. And no one currently in leadership seems to have a problem with that.

Majority Leader Jerry Keen is fine with it. Speaker Pro Tempore Mark Burkhalter, reporting in from his undisclosed and secure underground bunker, is fine with it. Ways and Means Chairman Larry ‘live and let live’ O’Neal is fine with it.

So how can an O’Neal / Keen leadership team be the cool, refreshing breeze of “new leadership” that people like Rep. Allen Peake seem to be frothing with anticipation to vote in if they can’t even speak up about the necessity for an immediate Richardson departure?

As increasing numbers realize, it can’t.

Thus, I again point to the Lunsford Stratagem as a simple and elegant solution to aid Republicans in their efforts to emerge from their morass.

The caucus should support his plan as it would permit a true “clean slate” approach with regard to Republican leadership. Because unless Bill Hembree or David Ralston succeed in their bids for Speaker, an O’Neal / Keen team (the latter, pictured right) shows no evidence of change beyond a simple switching out of nameplates at certain desks.

Furthermore, how is not forcing the Majority Leader seat to a vote smart? Keeping someone like Keen, a man who, a quick review of lobbyist contribution reports from the State Ethics Commission show has certainly been the recipient of many “gifts” over the last five years, is merely a maintenance of the status quo.

There is no “do over” with this situation and headlines like “Will Gold Dome turmoil cost the GOP?” in the AJC are not being pulled out of thin air and fabricated. A genuine electoral danger exists and majority caucus members should be prepared to reap the consequences unless they bring forth real change with a completely new leadership slate.