Byon October 30, 2014
Here’s the Readers Digest Condensed version of this epic which, I assure you, comes nowhere near conveying the glorious vista of awesomeness that you can find in the entire tale. In 1990, it seems, the state contracted out the job of doing title searches on abandoned vehicles. These were sweet, no-bid contracts divvied up among companies by region, all over the state. The sweetest one went to a company called Gainesville Salvage Disposal, which was co-owned by a young state senator named Nathan Deal. This might strike a cynical soul as something more than coincidental. Then, in 2007, when Deal was serving in the U.S. Congress, the Georgia Revenue Commissioner noticed that this scam…er…arrangement was costing the state a carload of money. He cancelled all the no-bid monopolies that had been handed out 17 years earlier. Congressman Deal, however, wasn’t letting go of the grift. He was making 75-G’s a year as a corporate officer of the salvage firm. Alas, the House doesn’t allow its members to be corporate officers, and they can make only $25,000 in outside income. So Congressman Deal simply didn’t disclose his salvage business. Then, things got really strange.
In June 2008, Graham was called to a meeting by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and was greeted by Deal, his GSD business partner Ken Cronan and his chief of staff Chris Riley. Deal asked that GSD be granted a full-time, state-paid inspector, which would mean more title inspections and more revenue for him. Graham refused but Deal wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Just four days before Wilder Outdoors went under, Deal called another meeting. During the “contentious” and “hostile” meeting, Deal justified restoring the $1.7 million to the state budget by speculating that if left to the free market, “illegal aliens” might get the work. Despite the pressure, Graham refused to budge. In May 2009, Deal announced he’d run for governor and took out an undisclosed $2.8 million loan, backed by GSD assets. After failed attempts to strong-arm Graham, Deal shut down the title inspection business in August of 2009.
Investigations inevitably took wing, leading to further interesting developments.
In October 2010, ethics commission director Stacey Kalberman and deputy director Sherilyn Streicker sought subpoenas related to Deal’s campaign finances. In early 2011, after Deal was elected governor, the FBI and federal prosecutors visited Kalberman and Streicker. Months later, Deal’s executive counsel, Ryan Teague, asked Holly LaBerge if she’d be interested in taking Kalberman’s job. The following month, LaBerge replaced Kalberman. According to sworn testimony by ethics commission staff, that’s when orders came down to remove, alter and destroy documents in the Deal investigation files. Although Deal couldn’t stop the federal investigation, he slowed it down by granting a Georgia district judge’s seat to Robert McBurney, the federal prosecutor leading the investigation against him.
(It is suspected by more than a few people that Deal left Congress and ran for governor simply to shut down a congressional ethics investigation into his obvious lack thereof.)
If you’re wondering why the name of Boss Hogg hasn’t yet popped up in this saga, you’re not alone. This thing is so penny-ante in its profits and so profoundly unethical in its operation that it’s hard to believe Scott Walker didn’t think of it first. Anyway, it’s erupting again as Deal tries to hang onto his job and demonstrate that his political viability is, well, salvageable.