Mistrial in Burrell Ellis Case

October 22, 2014 9:17 am

by Ed · 8 comments

What a county where you can be secretly recorded allegedly threatening to “dry up” a company that didn’t donate to your campaign in exchange for county work and not be found guilty.

I just don’t even anymore…

The jury that failed to reach a verdict in the corruption trial of suspended DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis was close on a few of the counts but they were truly split on most of the 13 still-unresolved charges, according to the woman who was elected foreperson after four days of the deliberations…

Citing a gag order that remains in place, District Attorney Robert James office declined to say if he would seek a retrial or drop the case. That information will come out in a court filing, most likely over the next few days.

A mistrial was declared late Tuesday afternoon because the jury plagued with personality conflicts could not reach verdicts on any of the 13 charges.

This was the biggest corruption trial in Georgia since Bill Campbell was tried in 2006.

Page Pate said Dekalb DA Robert James “will consider the time, the expense, whether it really is a benefit to the community” when deciding to re-try the case.

I’m not a lawyer but it seems as if this case is a slam dunk if there’s a non-dysfunctional jury. But more importantly, this is definitely worth the time and money. Citizens need to have absolute faith in their governments and rooting out corruption–or having our elected officials prove they are honest public servants–is a fundamental element to establishing that trust. I hope James decides to re-try the case, for the citizens of Dekalb’s and Mr. Ellis’ benefit.

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Morning Reads in Autumn

October 22, 2014 8:04 am

by Ed · 4 comments

I guess fall is officially upon us. I can no longer lie to myself… at least about the change of seasons.

Frank Sinatra “Autumn Leaves” 

  1. College graduates barely coming to Atlanta. 
  2. GA-12 one of the worst districts to run campaign ads in. 
  3. Atlanta’s traffic costs each commuter $1,120. 
  4. Secret audio recordings show Atlanta hardship payments were not for police chief’s hardships. 
  5. Close ties between the Nunn and Perdue families making race a little awkward for folks. 
  6. Cong. Lewis has a handy five-page PDF on Ebola. 
  7. Albany a good place to live for centrists, Peachtree City good for conservatives. 
  8. Alleged Gurley autograph hawker says he’s being harassed. 
  9. You’ve got Beltline questions, I’ve got Beltline answers! 
  10. The Creative Loafing food issue is pretty good. 
  11. I’m a worthy opponent for GGG. Anytime, anyplace. 

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Who Said This?

October 22, 2014 7:20 am

by Jon Richards · 14 comments

The chairman of one of Georgia’s political parties gave the AJC this statement Tuesday evening:

It echoes the message for job training and opportunity and changing the climate of communities. … It’s all about changing the climate and the communities so that you can move forward and not feel like you’re restricted. That’s the message from our entire team: Let’s bring better opportunities so it doesn’t end up like that.

Was that leader talking about Casey Cagle’s effort to promote career academies in Georgia? Or, was he talking about how Nathan Deal has implemented criminal justice reform that reduces the prison population and works to educate offenders, many of whom are black, so they can be integrated back into society? Or, was it the promotion and passage of the Charter Schools amendment two years ago that expanded the opportunities for children with failing schools in their neighborhoods to get a decent education?

If you guessed any of the above, you are wrong.

The first page of a mailer sent out by the Democratic Party of Georgia.  Credit:  Jim Galloway, AJC

The first page of a mailer sent out by the Democratic Party of Georgia. Credit: Jim Galloway, AJC

Instead, that’s Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman Dubose Porter justifying this mailer that was apparently sent to people of color, urging them to “vote for change” and to vote early. The AJC caught up with Porter Tuesday evening and asked for his comments.

Democrats and Republicans alike are doing their best to motivate their voters to cast ballots in November. But, it’s a non-sequitur for the Democrats to link the events in the city of Ferguson Missouri with who will be elected to Georgia’s statewide or federal offices. That, however, is the ugly politics of race. It’s seen on the Republican side as well, with opposition to “Amnesty” any time a proposal is made to modify the way immigration works.

The Rick Allen campaign in Georgia’s Twelfth District was quick to respond:

“The national and local media, citizens from across the country and international poll-watchers would rain fire and vitriol from the heavens if Republicans tried this — as well they should,” said Allen spokesman Dan McLagan. “This is ugly, racist, wrong and, sadly, in character for a Democratic Party that is out of ideas and desperate to cling to what congressional seats they can. If John Barrow won’t disavow and condemn this foul spew, it will say more about his character than any 30-second ad ever could.”

Dan McLagan is one of the more colorful spokesmen in Georgia politics. But, there’s truth in what he says. One wonders what Jason Carter or Michelle Nunn, who talks about working across the aisle to solve the country’s problems, would say about the mailer.

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Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle released another TV ad that once again has a positive message AND focuses on an issue. In an overly saturated and negative political ad season, it is good to hear (or see) a positive ad come across the airwaves.

The ad, like his first, focuses on College and Career academies and never mentions Connie Stokes, his Democratic opponent.

I am neither a pollster nor a pundit, but my gut tells me that Cagle will poll the highest percentage of any of the statewide candidates in two weeks.  I think that he has the right type of message that will hopefully be emulated by future campaigns.  Voters (and my younger children) are becoming very weary of all of the negative ads.

My transcription of the video can be found after the break.
[click to continue…]

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Don Balfour is that guy that for twenty years kept doing the same things but the people kept re-electing him.  That stopped this year, with Balfour not making the runoff in a three-way contest for his seat.

Balfour hasn’t gone quietly.  He pretty much thumbed his nose at …well, everyone with this piece about him having a reserved place of piety because he was “in the arena”.  Let’s re-count why he is no longer in the arena.  It’s because the voters called him home.

Why?  Because of the years of documented arrogance that was exposed during his recent journey that ended with him being acquitted on criminal charges, but leaves a $5,000 fine leveled from his peers on his permanent record.  Balfour was once the most powerful man in the GA Senate.  He’s now un-elected, and is trying to take at least one other Republican with him:  Sam Olens.

Olens is the incumbent Attorney General.  It was Olens’ Office that sought and received an 18 count indictment against Balfour.  Olens’ office was ultimately unable to secure a conviction.

Upon the verdict, Balfour has liked to pretend he has been a victim.  He’s not.  He was made aware of the discrepancies in 2010 – including his duty under Senate Rules and GA Law to hold Audit Committee meetings – but did nothing until ethics complaints began moving against him years later.   His arrogance was his downfall.

Now, he’s going for retribution.  WSB TV’s Richard Belcher is reporting a story that Balfour is claiming Olens’ prosecution is in retribution for Balfour and/or Waffle House not making a contribution to the GOP AG’s National Prosecutor’s conference.

Olens’ succinct response:  If he truly believed any fundraising request of mine influenced his prosecution, he would not have waiting until two weeks before my re-election to say so.

Exacty. Balfour used to be a man that was feared.  That’s because he did crap like this for 20 years and people kept re-electing him. Balfour has always been about Don Balfour.  Some on his team wanted others – including us – to look the other way for the good of this team.  On his exit, this is one of his final gifts back to the same team.  Good riddance to him.

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The strong campaigns of Democratic Senate hopefuls in Georgia and Kansas are causing “heartburn” for Republicans, says veteran political soothsayer Charlie Cook.

On Monday, he wrote that if Democrats win both races (a still unlikely proposition, he concedes), Republicans will have to pick up eight seats to reclaim the Senate. 

Republicans are also getting heartburn from the race for the open Senate seat in Georgia. Though the computer models have long given the GOP a huge advantage in the state—one was giving Republicans over a 99 percent chance just a week or two ago—this was always likely to be a very, very competitive race, which is why The Cook Political Report has rated it as a ‘Toss Up’ since March.

…Gradually, Perdue began to pull things together and eased ahead of Nunn with a lead that was admittedly not large, but seemed to be durable. One Perdue advantage is that Georgia still votes more like a Southern state, having not yet transitioned into a purple, competitive state, as other states like Virginia have.

The hammer has since come down on the Perdue campaign. Democrats have attacked Perdue’s business record and his affinity for outsourcing jobs—something that is often necessary in today’s business world, but remains very unpopular during a fragile recovery, where the median real family income hasn’t improved since 2000. Now, Nunn is in a very close race with Perdue, whose campaign is in something of a tailspin.

I shudder to think what the race will look like if we head to a runoff with Senate control still undetermined.

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Felicia Moore is a member of the Atlanta City Council.  Furthermore, she’s a member of the Council’s Finance/Executive Committee.  She’s also perhaps the most fierce watchdog of taxpayers’ funds on the council.

So….when the council member who is known to be a watchdog who also sits on the Finance Committee can’t get access to the city’s financial records….we may have a problem.  Councilwoman Moore has sent the following notice to the press:

ATLANTA – Atlanta City Councilmember Felicia Moore will discuss her latest requests for access to all city of Atlanta accounts payable financial records and transparency in city government during a 10:30 a.m. news conference on Wednesday, October 22 in Committee Room No. 2 at Atlanta City Hall.

Moore originally requested access to all of the city’s records but revised her request for specifically one thing, access to “view only” accounts payable financial records that show all monies being expended by the city.

Moore has requested access to Oracle, the city’s current financial reporting system, to view those payments made by the city. That access was denied late Monday in a letter to members of the Atlanta City Council. The letter, addressed to Councilmember Moore and copied to members of the Atlanta City Council, is attached.

This may look a bit inside baseball, but watch it closely.  Ms. Moore usually shows up for battle prepared.  And she usually knows exactly what she’s after before she gets it.

H/T to Grayson Daughters on FB

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This time, we’re looking at you Greg Hecht.

Greg Hecht circulated a press release claiming several notable (and many Republican) Sheriffs had switched their endorsements over to Hecht.  Usually, these kinds of claims if effective are done the weekend before voting starts.  You know, in the days before the internet could catch up and catch any fabrications.  Well, we’re here on the internet, and the Olens’ campaign is claiming fabrication.  Press release is as follows:

For Immediate Release/10.21.14
Hecht Fabricates Sheriff Endorsements

Late Friday, the campaign of Democrat Greg Hecht rolled out a false press release claiming 37 Georgia sheriffs had “switched” from backing Attorney General Sam Olens. After multiple news outlets ran the story, listed sheriffs began contacting both campaigns to complain. As the sheriffs have called the Hecht campaign to demand their name be taken off, the number he claims continues to change daily.

“I’m proud to support Sam Olens and I am shocked that his opponent claimed to have my endorsement,” said Lanier County Sheriff Nick Norton. “Sam is a friend and has done a tremendous job as Attorney General helping my office of Sheriff here in South Georgia with many criminal cases. Sam has always had my full support and my endorsement.”

Mike Dewey, Sheriff, Brooks County, said “I don’t know why Attorney General Sam Olens’ opponent would falsely list my name as switching my endorsement. Sam Olens has proven himself as a friend and supporter of Georgia’s law enforcement efforts and has always had my full support.”

Sheriffs confirming to the Olens’ campaign that Hecht fabricated their endorsement to date, include:  Sheriff Nick Norton, Lanier County; Sheriff Mike Dewey, Brooks County; Sheriff Josh Hilton, Calhoun County; Floyd County; Sheriff Neal Walden, White County; Sheriff Thomas, Pike County; Sheriff Young, Grady County; Sheriff Kight, Toombs County; Sheriff Peterson, Clinch County; Sheriff Thomas, Franklin County and Sheriff Nobles, Long County. One of the “switchers” listed was not on the Olens’ list to begin with.

Additional names listed on the original press release have also been redacted from the current list on the website.

“It is shameful that someone this fundamentally dishonest could run for the state’s top legal office. In his failed lieutenant governor’s campaign eight years ago, Hecht’s tactics were so deceptive; one Atlanta newspaper actually revoked its endorsement,” said campaign spokesperson Sheri Kell.

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Back in June, we told you about an attempt by Georgia’s Democrats to turn the Peach State blue by registering 300,000 African American voters.

And in the June 18th edition of the Peach Pundit Daily (Subscribe Here), we told you why the plan wouldn’t work:

Jon Richards examines the claim that if Democrats register all Georgia’s African-Americans the state will turn blue. Interesting stuff, likely impossible, and something the Democrats say, but never do. If you doubt us, consider this: The last day to register and be eligible to vote in the general election in November is October 6. That’s 80 weekdays from today, and to hit their goal Democrats would have to register 3,750 new African Americans every day between now and then, and turn them out to vote a month later. If they haven’t already started, they can’t pull it off. And they haven’t, so they won’t.

It looks like we were right. The Georgia Secretary of State’s office released the final count of eligible voters for the 2014 General Election, and while more black voters were registered since March 1st than white voters, the number is nowhere near 300K. Here are the details:

Current eligible voters: 6,038,372
2012 eligible voters: 6,077,554
2010 eligible voters: 5,795,536

Breakdown of new eligible voters since 3/1/14
Total new eligible voters: 183,416
White: 61,779 (33.68%)
African American: 67,500 (36.8%)
Hispanic: 7,550 (4.12%)
Asian: 5,094 (2.78%)
Other: 3,865 (2.11%)
Unknown: 37,628 (20.52%)

Despite registering new voters in the two years following the 2012 election, the number eligible dropped by some 39,182 people.

In a related item. Walter Jones with Morris News is reporting that the Secretary of State’s office says that all of the voter registration applications submitted by the New Georgia Project have been processed:

Kemp said county registrars have indeed dealt with every application submitted by the New Georgia Project in time for them to participate in early voting, except for about 6,500 that have obvious errors or the roughly 9,500 that are pending resolution of a discrepancy between the application and existing government databases.

“There are no lost voter-registration applications. Every single one that met the deadline has been processed,” he said Sunday evening in a debate organized by the Atlanta Press Club.

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With just two weeks left until Election Day, the ad wars for Georgia’s gubernatorial race are heating up. The Republican Governors Association is bringing another ad to Georgia’s airwaves to support Governor Nathan Deal in his reelection efforts. The new ad, “Realize,” repeats previous RGA attacks, but also introduces a topic that Governor Deal and State Senator Jason Carter sparred over in Sunday’s Atlanta Press Club debate – Carter’s legislative record. While the ad claims that Sen. Carter “never passed a bill,” the Carter campaign pushes back by citing 85 Carter-sponsored or co-sponsored bills, 54 of which were bipartisan and 21 of which were signed into law.

The Carter campaign recently launched a new ad of their own featuring Carter’s wife, Kate. Those following this race will remember Governor Deal’s positive ad featuring his other half, Sandra, earlier this month. With Kate hitting the airwaves, it’s clear that the race for Georgia’s First Lady is also picking up.

Comments from the RGA and Carter campaigns on the RGA ad, plus an additional Spanish-language anti-Deal/Perdue ad, are available below the fold.  [click to continue…]

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Georgia is approaching the end of a long and perhaps different campaign season; one that befits a large state that could be on the brink of turning purple over the next few years. Nowhere is that more evident than in the amount of effort being expended by the two major parties to expand their bases and get their voters to the polls.

Republicans have opened offices across Georgia, employing paid staffers to mobilize volunteers and interns to contact and classify potential voters. The effort is part of the Republican National Committee’s Victory 365 program, an effort to use the type of data-driven canvassing that allowed Barack Obama and the Democrats to take the presidency and win re-election. The Washington Post highlights this effort by describing the beehive of activity that is the Marietta GOP Victory office.

A clutch of volunteers is handwriting postcard messages to would-be voters — one of the most intimate ways to reach supporters. But [Cobb oOunty GOP Chairman Joe Dendy] is more intrigued by the other group — young, old, white and black — using new phones that automatically dial numbers from a database and can leave prerecorded voice mails for people who don’t pick up. Another group is out in the neighborhood using a phone app that feeds back information to a database that will keep county and state party officials updated on potential voters.

In Georgia and other key states, the RNC partnered with state party operations to deploy paid staffers and millions of dollars in new databases, apps, Web sites and phone systems. In Cobb County, Dendy has essentially ceded day-to-day ground operations to Ashley Williams, 24, a paid GOP staffer helping organize volunteers. She is the kind of young, energetic party staffer that Democrats regularly deploy into a key state more than a year before an election.

The Democrats aren’t taking this sitting down.

Eager to take advantage of a growing Democratic voter base fueled in part by an influx of new residents from other states, [Senate candidate Michelle] Nunn and [Governor candidate Jason] Carter are operating a coordinated campaign that allows them to pool resources. But while Republicans have 17 major outreach offices across Georgia, Democrats have seven. Facilities like the Cobb County GOP headquarters are under long-term leases, while Democrats are mostly renting short-term space.

In addition to the efforts of the two parties, independent groups are trying to motivate and inform potential voters. The Post article describes the activities of the Faith and Freedom Coalition to inform conservative voters about the candidates’ positions on issues important to them, including distributing voter guides and making phone calls to evangelicals. And, the New Georgia Project concluded a major effort to register new voters, focusing on minorities and others considered more likely to vote a Democratic ticket.

No matter what the results are two weeks from today, the increased presence by both parties and their allies is likely to continue. When you are a battleground state, as Georgia is becoming, the campaign never really ends.

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For months, Republican Congressional candidate Rick Allen has touted a prediction by the Washington Post’s Election Lab that he would knock out Democratic incumbent John Barrow in the 12th District. In an August Facebook post, he even announced triumphantly:

allen barrow

It’s official: John Barrow is the most vulnerable Democrat in Congress.
The Washington Post has already predicted his loss.

Now, that same election model gives Barrow a 74 percent chance of holding his seat.

From the Barrow campaign:

“The term ‘crumbling’ is used to describe Rick Allen’s campaign in nearly every conversation,” said Richard Carbo, spokesman for Friends of John Barrow. “While John Barrow is talking directly with folks in the 12th District about issues that are important to them, Rick Allen is running one of the most negative campaigns in the country. With two weeks to go until the election, we feel stronger than ever and are grateful for the broad support from Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across the district who are tired of the gridlock in Washington.”

The prediction is in line with RealClearPolitics, which also rates the race as “Leans Dem.”

It appears increasingly likely that Barrow, a moderate Democrat, will once again frustrate Republicans’ attempts to take over Georgia’s most competitive Congressional district.

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Dizzy Gillespie was born on this day in 1917. Here’s Dizzy doing “Salt Peanuts”. Thomas Edison invented a workable electric light in 1879, which led directly to Georgia Power forcing you to prepay for their nuclear plants, so temper your excitement. Morning Reads after the jump…
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Georgians will not just be voting for political candidates this November. In fact, the people of Georgia will also have a say in three significant questions on the ballot. Two of these three ballot questions are constitutional measures, and one is a referendum involving a tax exemption. All three measures require a simple majority of voters voting YES to successfully pass.

State Senator Buddy Carter of Pooler, the Republican nominee for Georgia’s 1st Congressional District, recently sent out a newsletter with the three questions and brief descriptions of what passage would mean:

- A -

To prohibit an increase in the state income tax rate in effect January 1, 2015 (Senate Resolution 415). Act No. 592

“Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended to prohibit the General Assembly from increasing the maximum state income tax rate?”
[click to continue…]

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The Importance Of The Undercard

October 20, 2014 10:00 am

by Charlie · 37 comments

This week’s Courier Herald column:

The vast majority of airtime and newsprint dedicated to the 2014 election has been dedicated to the race for Governor and U.S. Senate. Ironically, these races that have received the most attention are also the most likely to go beyond next Tuesday and give us negative ads and direct mail into and possibly through the holidays. Yea us.

Looking a bit further down the ballot, however, may well give us a clue as to what the near future of Georgia elections will be like. Casey Cagle is the clear front runner for re-election to Lt. Governor. A recent 11Alive Survey USA poll showed Cagle 7 points ahead of challenger Connie Stokes – the strongest lead of any statewide candidate polled.

Cagle will become the de facto front-runner for the Georgia GOP nomination for Governor regardless how the current Governor’s race ends up. Governor Deal is of course term limited. In the event there is a Governor Carter, it will be Cagle along with House Speaker David Ralston that will be the face of Republican rule.

The future of David Ralston was largely decided by a May 20th primary. Not only did he win re-lection by the voters of his home district, but his team faced down primary challenges across the board. Cagle, however, currently runs statewide. And presumably, will be again in four years, though likely for a different position. As such, the tea leaves from this election will likely tell us a lot about the GOP agenda from the Senate will look in the immediate future – as well as a potential body of work to be presented in four years. [click to continue…]

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