There is a very old expression that nothing is fatal in politics besides a bullet. When it comes to many politicians in Georgia, and indeed all over the country that been proven true time and time again. Georgia has the dubious distinction of leading several lists we rather not be on. Georgia places dead last at #50 according to this State Integrity report card. But wait….there’s more.
In addition to being last overall in the country for corruption, we lead a few other problematic categories. A watchdog group called Citizens for Ethics which is non-partisan and goes after corrupt politicians from both parties has three tiers of ranking the worst governors: Ringmasters, Clowns, and Sideshow. Guess where Nathan ranked? You guessed it, he made ringmaster. Nathan Deal is far from alone in Georgia. A few more on the 2013 list that made the cut from the peach state include Rep. Sanford Bishop (D), Rep. David Scott (D), Rep. Paul Broun (R). It seems neither party has a monopoly on politicians with questionable ethics.
Recent Ethics Charges Against Nathan Deal Are Nothing New
Recently you may have heard a number of stories with various ethics violation charges involving the state ethics committee. You may also be aware that Georgia taxpayers have paid around $3 million defending these charges. But I always think it is important to go back to the very beginning. Let’s go back a few years when Nathan Deal was Congressman Deal and not Governor Deal.
Rep. Deal resigned from congress on March 21 literally minutes before a deadline that would have required the ethics committee to investigate some very serious accusations involving a family salvage business back home in Gainesville. To their credit, the ethics committee did the report even though he resigned. Essentially the ethics committee found that Mr. Deal had described his income from the family salvage yard as simply dividends. (meaning that he was a passive and uninvolved business partner) However, his 2008 tax return showed he received $75,000 as wages which exceeded a House rule prohibiting members from receiving more than $25,830 in outside income.
There are more allegations that Deal also used his office and influence when he met with state officials to raise objections to a change in the laws affecting the salvage and inspection business. Why was he ever in any of these meeting to begin with? His salvage business had earned $634,000 in 2007 and 2008 even though state inspectors performed the actual work. Under the proposed change to the law the inspection program was to be privatized essentially taking away the monopoly Deal’s salvage company had enjoyed in that area. They would establish a licensing program to allow private companies to inspect vehicles. This would also end the practice of only having one inspection center at a given location and allow competition which is usually considered a good thing in a free market. His rationale for opposing the new laws was because he was worried that the private sector wouldn’t do as good of a job as the government inspectors. Now does that really sound like something any self-respecting red-blooded republican politician would ever utter? Not only was he against any competition but also was against letting the private sector handle inspections. I think Mr. Deal simply understood that his gravy train days with a monopoly might be over and he fought tooth and nail to keep that gravy coming his way.
Because Nathan Deal resigned minutes before the ethics deadline there is no way to say for sure what his punishment might have been had be remained in congress. Charlie Rangel certainly proves you can get away with almost anything in congress and keep your seat. But we can all agree it was certainly the right move and right time to get out of Dodge. It didn’t take him long to stir things up once again. As a candidate for governor, one of the very first things he did was hire his daughter-in-law who had practically no political experience or expertise. He paid her $40,000 during the campaign. There were also substantial payments made to Southern Magnolia Capital, LLC a company she founded. No one knew that the daughter-in-law was connected to Southern Magnolia Capital until after the election was over. Between January 2011 and March 2013 this company reportedly received more than $240,000 from Nathan Deal’s campaign. He also loaned his daughter $2.3 million in a failed sporting good business that caused further turmoil which he also failed to disclose prior to the election.
A substitute teacher in north Georgia filed a complaint with the ethics commission over this payment to the daughter-in-law from campaign funds, but the hand-picked ethics panel told the teacher that Gov. Deal had done nothing wrong and the teacher was handed a bill for $10,387.50 for her effort. Apparently if you lose in front of a panel hand-picked by Deal you get the honor of paying attorney’s fees. Luckily for the teacher the ethics commission voted 3-1 to suspend those fees.
This leads us to all the new allegations you have heard in the news the last few weeks and months. The Atlanta Journal did an excellent job of explaining the latest intrigues of this continuing saga that always seems to shadow shady Nate Deal. I wrote this article to give some historical context and make people aware that this has been going on for a very long time. Politicians can and are often falsely accused by rivals. But when you start to see a pattern develop and not one allegation but a dozen or more you finally have to start to wonder if there is some fire behind all that smoke.
When you also throw in his ineptitude and deer in the headlights response to the snow storm in Atlanta, his guns everywhere law which was complete grandstanding to the NRA, and gutting the state ethics committee. Not to mention cronyism with his family businesses you start to see a pattern emerge of both incompetence and corruption. The only “people” Governor Deal seems interested in helping are corporations with tax abatements along with friends and family members while typical Georgians languish. Any growth that has occurred in the last four years happened in spite of Nathan Deal not because of him.
We can even go further back to 2005 while as a member of congress he used his position to obtain approval for a landfill owned by his longtime business partner Kenneth Cronan. In late 2011, Mr. Cronan applied for some new permits for expansion. According to a local environmental group, the state issued new permits to Mr. Cronan in “record time.”
Mr. Wilheit was the campaign chairman of Gov. Deal’s gubernatorial campaign, and had been one of his top donors. Mr. Wilheit is a partner in a 518-acre industrial park in Hall County where the state paid $690,000 to buy 10 acres of land for a $13.6 million state poultry laboratory. It seems his family are not the only ones to benefit from his largesse.
In November 2012, Gov. Deal arranged for Georgia Public Broadcasting (GPB) to hire state Sen. Chip Rogers (R-Cherokee County) as “executive producer, community jobs program,” with a salary of $150,000 . Sen. Rogers’ salary is paid solely by state taxpayers, and is higher than Gov. Deal’s. Sen. Rogers, a former Senate majority leader, was likely given the job to get him out of the Senate, where he had sponsored an embarrassing seminar on “Agenda 21,” an alleged U.N. conspiracy against property rights and was also apparently a thorn in Governor Deal’s side on various other issues. Apparently giving this problematic senator a cushy job was a great way to get him out of the way. If only my enemies treated me so well….
The latest scandals with names like Stacey Kalberman, Holly LaBerge, are simply the newest in a long string of scandals going back over a decade. Will Georgian’s finally be able to end our co-dependent relationship with Nathan Deal? How many more times can he give the citizens of Georgia a bloody nose and smack us around before we wake up to the fact that he is a bloviating, scandal-ridden do-nothing governor that needs to be booted out of office. How many more scandals will it take before Shady Deal is sent packing back to his salvage yard in Gainesville?
Better Georgia, an Athens based watchdog group also completely destroyed the only thing Nathan Deal has been bragging about in his campaign commercials. Remember all those ads touting Georgia as ranking 1st for business? Not so fast it appears.
“It turns out that CNBC used data from two politically aligned sources to create the rankings: the National Association of Manufacturers and the Council on Competitiveness. And both of these groups have direct ties to Nathan Deal. The chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers is also the CEO of Caterpillar, Inc., a corporation that received a $44 million tax break from Gov. Deal’s administration to open a new factory in Georgia. And the chairman of the Council on Competitiveness is the CEO of John Deere, whose PAC has donated $10,100 to Nathan Deal’s campaign and at least $140,650 to Georgia Republicans since 2011.” Read More Here
Funny how Deal ignores the metrics that really matter to Georgian’s like unemployment rates, graduation rates, education rank vs. other states, per capita incomes, the number of uninsured in Georgia, or the fact that Georgia has three cities among the 10 fastest shrinking cities in the U.S. Georgia is the only state with more than one city on that list. Valdosta, Albany and Macon are all on the Bloomberg Rankings. The list also includes major American cities, such as Detroit. But then again, if it’s not Atlanta, who really cares, right Nate?
There is still no statewide transportation plan and our transportation funding ranks 49th. Our per capita income has dropped to 40th in the country and only one other state can claim that in the entire country. Most new jobs offer low wages not living wages. We are 32nd in quality of life and education. I guarantee you will not hear from too many people that care about being ranked #1 in business while they struggle to buy groceries. 70% of the school systems in the state have had to raise taxes and have less than the 180 required school days a year due to budget cuts. I am sure our corporate citizens like the Braves, Falcons, Coke, Home Depot, Georgia Power and so many others are pleased as punch with the tax handouts, but actual Georgians are hurting badly. Corruption it seems does trickle down at least even if the jobs don’t.
Jason Carter may be a political neophyte, but he promises to restore accountability and to bring ethics back to Georgia and may be just what the doctor ordered. He is young, intelligent, fresh faced, idea-driven with a clean record and the energy and determination to bring honor back to the governor’s mansion. Jason Carter is the polar opposite of the aging relic that is Deal. A man who does a lot of talking but has very little to show for it all. He is also pushing 80 and looks like he ran out of steam a long time back.
Nathan Deal has zero actual accomplishments as governor. The only one he really touted about being #1 for business turned out to be a complete lie. Have Georgian’s had enough of a raw Deal to finally take a chance on someone new? It will be an uphill fight to elect any democrat governor in Georgia. There is no question Deal will do everything in his power and pull every string and dirty trick from his playbook to stay in office. He might suck at being governor, but this old dolt seems to always find a way to keep getting re-elected. If Jason Carter can appeal to the independent/moderate middle he has a good shot. It will also require some white republicans in the state to do something they may not have done for a very long time which is to vote for a democrat. If they care about their state they may need to do exactly that. Is Georgia finally ready to clean house and ask for a better Deal from our highest elected office in the state? I sure as hell hope so.
August 13th Edit: This article was written before I knew anything about the libertarian candidate Andrew Hunt. Over the last week I have began to do a bit of research and recently wrote an article about him here. I also just returned from meeting him in person for lunch with a group of local supporters and got a very good vibe from him. He was articulate, intelligent, honest, and not afraid of tough questions. I still haven’t made up my mind and will make that decision after the debates. I remain absolutely certain that another fours years of Shady Deal politics would be disastrous for Georgia, but I am pleased to say we now have two viable alternatives not one.