Category: Speaker of the House

Why affairs matter

When the whole Richardson/Cagle thing was going down last year, several people commented that an elected official having an affair was a matter between them and their spouse.

I strongly disagree. Beyond the fact that someone who cheats on their spouse lacks any integrity, there is a more fundamental issue at stake:

Can that elected official be blackmailed by someone with evidence of the affair?

Allow me to paint a hypothetical picture. Say you have a powerful committee chairman who travels out of town a lot. Lets also say this chairman has a kink, perhaps he likes to be tied up by scantly clad women other than his wife.

Now lets say, somehow, an unscrupulous lobbyist got hold of a picture of said chairman tied up in a bed with said scantly clad women other than his wife. What might said lobbyist do with the picture?

If said chairman were open about his kink with his spouse, and if his constituents were also open minded about such things, said picture would hold no power over said chairman. However if said chairman’s spouse didn’t know, or if his constituents were not open minded, well, the lobbyist with that picture could get said chairman to do all sorts of things.

How many pictures like this exist? How many bills have been introduced or passed that had no reason for being?

Ralston & Perdue To Senate: Try Again

Over the holiday weekend, frustration from the Governor and the House at the measures the Senate had to add to the Hospital Bed Tax to secure passage began to boil over. Travis Fain has statements from both the Governor and Speaker indicating their displeasure here, noting that Ralston has ruled the Senate passed version “not germane”, thus keeping the House members from voting AGAIN for a tax hike, only to have the Governor ultimately veto the package.

The blame from both inside the Senate chamber as well as from the House and Governor appears to be pointing toward Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, who the Gov and House think may not have been dealing in good faith (or has promised something he can’t deliver). Meanwhile, there are rumblings from inside the Senate about displeasure with the Lt. Gov putting them on the hook to vote for a tax hike that many privately do not support.

Weird things tend to happen in this state after showdowns like those of last week – and during Master’s week. This one deserves some close attention. We’ll see if the “Spring Break” allows tempers to cool, or for the forces of opposition to organize.

Friction Starting To Show Between House, Senate As Final Days Approach

The schedule for the remainder of this week shows the General Assembly in session tomorrow and Thursday, then breaking for Easter. Thursday is day 33, so there will be 7 days of G.A. fun remaining to solve all the state’s problems before these folks return home to face the voters.

Tomorrow, however, there are no scheduled votes in the Senate, as most Senators will leave the capitol and attend the funeral for former Senator Nancy Schaefer and her late husband Bruce.

This leaves one day of Senate business before the Easter break, and House members are watching the lack of movement of two bills with increasing anxiety.

HB 307 is the bill which raises taxes from hospitals. HB 1055 raises fees in many state areas. Both bills are a significant portion of the gap needed to balance the state budget.

The House is also responsible for submitting the budget to the Senate. And the apparent agreement when leadership of both houses and the Governor agreed to these tax & fee increases was that all were on board. To prepare and pass the budget, the House needs to know what revenue is expected. Read more

Ralston Presents His Ethics Plan

According to Aaron Sheinin at the AJC, Speaker Ralston is presenting his plan now:

Ralston said they’ve already made substantial changes this year, including eliminating the controversial “hawks” system, and letting the media back on the House floor.

“We made the House more transparent, more inclusive,” Ralston said. “I’m very proud of that.”

Ralston said the “best police force to public officials is the public. They are assisted by the media and assisted by others.”

I still firmly believe that the most important issue to come out of this session is substantial ethics reform. These guys have one chance to get it right, and time is growing short.

All of us on the front page at Peach Pundit will have a lot more to say about this as we move toward the close of this session, but today it’s your turn.

What do you want in an ethics package, and how important to you view this topic relative to the other business the General Assembly is considering?

Tax Cuts Sunny-Side Up

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce held its annual Eggs & Issues event this morning. There, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle promised tax cuts to help the faltering economy.

Cagle, speaking at the 2010 Eggs & Issues event sponsored by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, moments ago said lawmakers this year “have to have foundational changes.”

With the state already facing a budget that is $3 billion less than it was four years ago, and preparing to cut another $1.5 billion, Cagle said the Senate will work to insure “we do the responsible thing, create efficiencies and bring government back to the 21st century and focus very deeply on cutting taxes.” Read more

Richardson PAC money transfer illegal?

Possibly, according to Atlanta Unfiltered.

As we’ve previously noted, just before the New Year on Glenn Richardson’s last day as Speaker of the Georgia House, he moved the remaining $219,915 in his re-election bank account to the MMV Alliance Fund. The fund filed its 2010 registration on December 30 naming Richardson as its new chairman. This meant that he could use the remaining funds for whatever purpose he wanted, without consequence. At least, that’s what we thought.

One potential problem: MMV does not appear to be among the organizations that may legally accept unused campaign contributions. Under Georgia law, political campaigns may give excess funds to IRS-recognized charities; educational, philanthropic and non-profit organizations; other candidates; or political parties.

MMV, a political action committee created in 2004, is none of those. It is not registered as a corporation in Georgia, non-profit or otherwise; a spokesman for the Georgia Secretary of State said late Thursday that the agency had received no request from MMV to register as a corporation. Nor does the committee show up in the IRS’s searchable database of tax-exempt groups.

But how does this differ from what has been noted concerning PerduePAC?

Gov. Sonny Perdue, barred by law from seeking a third term this year, did much the same as Richardson a few years ago, when he transferred a little over $787,000 from his campaign account to PerduePAC. A key difference: the governor registered PerduePAC as a non-profit corporation first.

Perdue had asked the Ethics Commission in early 2007 whether campaign money could be transferred to a non-profit with “PAC” in its name.

On April 5, 2007, the commission said yes. On May 30, PerduePAC filed papers to register as a non-profit. On June 4, the governor’s campaign transferred the $787,000.

Glenn, give us a shout out on the ‘ol Tip Line and feel free to explain how this is just so, so wrong.

Speaker Ralston

They chose wisely, it seems. At least most of the unaffiliated people tend to be telling me that.

Also, I’m told several legislators are smirking today feeling like they delivered a blow to the Governor in the process of electing David Ralston as Speaker.

David Ralston’s closing argument to the caucus

(Pete’s note: this was sent to members of the Republican caucus late Wednesday afternoon.)

Dear Friends:

First, I want to thank you for talking to me as I have tried to reach out to you over the past few days. Especially at this special time of year, I know it has been annoying at best.

However, our Caucus and the House of Representatives have been confronted with an unprecedented challenge. But challenges are opportunities and I am convinced that we are ready to fix the problems and get about the people’s business.

Read more

Smith out in Speaker’s race

Wednesday evening State Rep. Tommy Smith was the second individual to announce in an e-mail to members of the caucus that he was withdrawing from consideration for Speaker. Always pushing his self interests, though, he made sure to note that we can all feel free to stop by his neck of the woods for blueberries. “Stop by and see me when you are in south Georgia and we will see that you leave happy and healthy with plenty of blueberries,” he wrote.

Smith now plans to return to legislative obscurity for another 29 years.

The Larry O’Neal Story

I have now seen the Larry O’Neal story. Pete has captured the gist of it accurately.

I think the story, upon further reflection, seems to be a bit of dirty pool or amateur journalism — perhaps we should have run it here as opposed to 11 Alive.

What I mean is that O’Neal is a lawyer. He does corporate transactions including the incorporation of businesses. A lot of Republicans send business to him because they know him, trust him, and know the quality of his work.

When I was winding down my law practice I referred people to him, not that I know if he knows that.

In any event, the gist of the story is that Larry O’Neal did his job. He incorporated some businesses for friends. There is no allegation that he had any business interest in the companies, etc. He just incorporated a business.

That’s it.

The problem seems to be he did it for some of the young, up and coming guys who hang around with the Republicans in Atlanta. If we’re going to go all guilt by association, 11 Alive might want to dig into some of the Democrats in the legislature who do the same thing.

I think Bill Hembree needs to reconsider

I have dug into Bill Hembree’s district and I think he may need to reconsider running for Speaker.

Let’s admit that he will be target number 1 for the Democrats were he Speaker and, frankly, may be target number 1 anyway. His district demographics contrary to a number of reports are trending terribly for the GOP.

He will have a black voter registration (not VAP, REGISTRATION) of close to 40% by election time next year. I think that’s almost an un-winnable district.

Bill has the highest number of black voters of any GOP-held House district in the state per December 2009 data from the Secretary of State.

That’s why Bill’s district voted for Obama and Jim Martin in 2008.

Hembree’s district’s overall black voting percentage has more than doubled from 16% to 34% – in just the last 3 years. This district is going away from the GOP in dramatic fashion and may be virtually un-winnable by 2010.

Not a single Republican House member in a district with over 30% black population won re-election in 2008 if they had a qualified Democrat challenger (Tumlin, Freeman, Heard), except for David Knight who was running against a convicted felon that still got 44% of the vote – and Hembree is likely to face a 40% black registration by the time he runs in 2010, making it almost impossible for him to win if targeted by the Dems.

If Hembree were to win the Speaker’s race, he would be the most powerful GOP legislator in the most vulnerable seat in Georgia. Aside from the political difficulty he would have in doing his job, it is virtually inconceivable that were he to survive election next year that the Obama Justice Department would allow us to redraw the district of a white Republican speaker to reduce his black population enough to make him safe under the “non-retrogression” principle. Hembree might already be doomed by the changes in his district, but it seems more likely than not that he would be doomed by 2012.

FOX5 on Richardson and his lobbyist “hook up” friend

FOX5’s Dale Russell is reporting this evening on the relationship between Glenn Richardson and lobbyist Raymon White (pictured) in e-mails where the two discuss how and when the former can meet the female lobbyist who he was having an affair with. Russell also noted the many times White filed disclosure reports on meals he bought for Richardson, but failed to disclose who was at the meals and what specific client was paying for White’s lobbying services.

Letter from Larry O’Neal

My Friends –

I open this by noting it is an unfortunately lengthy email, but its  contents are vital because they involve my good name (which I guard  jealously) and a complicated piece of tax legislation.  Please review  this entire email so you can be fully informed in your decision for  speaker.

Since Friday, one of my opponents has attacked me in the caucus for  tax legislation I sponsored in 2005. That legislation came to involve  Gov. Perdue and was the basis of an ethics complaint filed by Bobby  Kahn and his minions.

I did not intend to respond to my opponent’s attacks, but a reporter  is now calling my supporters in the caucus trying to write another  story about this, so I must now address these falsehoods.

Perhaps the most important thing for you to know is that in addressing  these attacks, I am finally able to share information with you that  has never been shared publicly that I believe will clear my good name  once-and-for-all on this issue.

The canon of legal ethics prevents a lawyer from discussing legal work  for past or present clients.  As you know, I have done legal work for  the governor.  That has limited what I could say about the governor’s  land matter and the legislation I sponsored.

However, the governor has for the first time released me to talk about  all aspects of these matters, and the details I can share will show  the extent to which this witch hunt has harmed my reputation unfairly.

The extent of my work for the governor has been greatly exaggerated.   I currently do no legal work for him.  In addition, I will be leaving  my law firm on Friday of this week if you elect me so I can serve as a  full-time speaker, and I will not have any legal clients except to  conclude matters currently with my office.

I hope this answers any questions about the extent of my legal work  for the governor.

On the specific tax legislation involved, I will begin with a summary  of the legislation:

Read more

Letter from David Ralston

Dear Friends:

  In less than 48 hours, we will meet to choose the Republican candidate for Speaker. We face a challenging decision in a political climate that has changed rapidly in just a few short weeks.

  Reform of our House rules and improvements in our ethics laws have suddenly become very fashionable topics. I am not a “johnny-come-lately” to this discussion. I spoke out loud and clear for change when it wasn’t front page news.

  I do believe we must embrace change at this moment. Ours should be a Caucus of inclusion and openness. Every member should be treated with respect and valued for their input. Strong leaders should not feel threatened by good ideas and must be willing to give credit where it is due.

  Let me remind you, I advocated a year ago for abolishing the “hawk” system. I stood up for changes that would abolish Rules Committee substitutes and curtailing the use of rules that limit the ability to offer amendments and restrict floor debate.

  I know I have the commitment and I hope I have the credibility to enact these and other needed internal reforms.

  There is a growing clamor for ethics reform. We, as Republicans, can and must lead the way on this issue.   Many good and useful ideas have been offered in the past few days. However, this is a serious issue and I, for one, do not think a 6-day caucus campaign is the appropriate way to develop a sensible and solid plan. If you honor me with your nomination on Thursday, we will get to work on putting together a legislative package with input from all of you that we as the Republican caucus can unify around come session.

  We cannot legislate good behavior. However, we can lead by example. I will set specific rules for the Speaker’s office: lobbyists will not be permitted past the reception room without an appointment; the office will not be used as a private dining room; the office will be open to members and their constituents; and, I will meet regularly with the news media.

  As I have said before and will say again and again: we must embrace the newness of the day or be perished to political irrelevance.

  As always, please call me if you have any questions.


David Ralston