GOP Cookie Jar Lid Slams on Rep. Jodi Lott

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The November 2014 race to fill Georgia House District 122 seat, vacated by retiring Representative Ben Harbin of Evans was the ugliest, most hotly contested election in the modern history of Columbia County. It saw 2 months of nonstop attacks by radio station talk show host Austin Rhodes on hapless candidate Joe Mullins conjoined with the collapse of the campaign of departing Columbia County District 3 commissioner Mack Taylor. Taylor’s efforts became mired in a nasty war with Mullins, complete with subterfuge, private investigators, and backdoor conniving with the radio talker.  Columbia County, sick of the carnage, chose political newcomer Jodi Lott in the December runoff.

Representative-elect Lott was probably giddy with excitement still when she was sworn in this January. Her refreshing enthusiasm, undiminished by the grinding  reality check of public life, was apparent to everyone in the area. Her primary campaign issue, a “fairtax” (a sales tax) to replace the state income tax, seemed unstoppable in the Georgia House of Representatives, as leadership and the membership voiced support.

Like the rest of us, Jodi Lott found the meaning of “lip service,” that when grizzled politicians like House leaders move their lips, you can count on it being in service to a lie. In this case her treasured tax relief met uncompromising doom at the hands of  Governor Nathan Deal, who cited the danger that moving from an income tax to a sales tax would pose to Georgia’s burgeoning film industry, which heavily benefits from income tax credits. The House leadership beat a retreat, citing the futility of going against the governor’s wishes.

That is the “official story.” Here is a much more accurate explanation. The reason that the citizenry of Georgia will never see their income taxes cut, or replaced by a sales tax, is that other income tax credits have been a back-door, almost totally-unaccounted for, stream of public funds to connected political donors from the Republican hierarchy in the legislative and executive branches.  They give away income taxes that have to be made up by increased income taxes on us. No income tax means that the payola scheme dies.

Our City Stink/Agraynation.com  collaborative effort uncovered the scandal in 2012, during investigation into the details of the Magnolia Trace subsidized housing development uproar.  After the public fury, this writer had traveled to the Georgia Department of Community Affairs (DCA) offices and spent an afternoon pouring over records of the Magnolia Trace income tax credit applications in the company of DCA attorney Phyllis Carr.  The review did not uncover any smoking guns assignable to Columbia County Officials, but found a huge one wafting smoke toward the Georgia Republican Party and its senior officeholders in government.

You see, the availability of income tax credits, especially the low income housing tax credit, had been around for years. Most of these credits expired unused. That was until Missouri based Affordable Equity Partners got measures through the Georgia legislature allowing the credits to be exchanged, marketed and sold to taxpayers who could use the tax credits.  Affordable Equity and its sister Capital Health Management, Inc. funded a bevy of GOP-beneficent PACs and made direct contributions to nearly all of the important party office holders. To date, Governor Deal has received $10,000, House Speaker David Ralston has received $9,500, Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle has received more than $17,000 from this stable of companies and related PACs. The  GOP, its incumbents in the legislature and other supporting PACs have received another $240,000.

Magnolia Trace affair was also a scandal in its approval process and the political donation largesse was a deciding factor for approval in this writer’s opinion. How widespread are these failures and malpractices by DCA and how much is it costing the people of Georgia?

Representative Lott and tax reformers take note! To get tax reform for the people the path is directly through your leaders’ hefty campaign finances.

Let’s see if the candidates now running for Senate 24 and House 123 seats on passing a “fairtax” have that much tenacity.

 

Augusta Ministers Rose Up for Georgia!

by AL M. Gray

Guest Column for the Urban Pro Weekly

The 2500 statewide votes by which Karen Handel lost the Republican Party nomination for governor to Nathan Deal in 2010 hurt this writer deeply. The corruption-plagued Deal became governor because the personal commitment to total courage had fallen short……leaving sighs of regret that “I should have…” or “we could have….” Four years later we have another chance to restore faith and honor in the office of Governor of Georgia. It will take one word – COURAGE.

In that decisive month of August, 2010, Nathan Deal came on the local Austin Rhodes Show twice and his powerful supporter, Congressman Paul Broun, was on once, each time for a half-hour. Knowing that your author was well versed in Deal’s voting record, scandals, and escape from Congress barely ahead of an ethics investigation, Rhodes allowed the next half-hour each time for a through rebuttal of the Deal propaganda. If only the COURAGE to speak out on talk radio programs had extended to a statewide effort, Nathan Deal would be just another failed, bankrupt politician.

Why can such bold statements be made? Going into the August run-off, the entire Republican Party establishment and almost all local officials of that party were solidly behind Deal. It was a powerful machine, yet here in the CSRA, it lost and decisively so! Counties within 50 miles of the WGAC radio station voted for Handel by 60% to 40%. Had we Handel supporters had the COURAGE to take our talk radio strategy across the state, Deal would have lost and our state spared four years of embarrassing outrages.

WGAC Georgia Counties 2010

Courage is a more than a word. It is the difference in victory and defeat.

Courage arose in an unexpected way a dozen years ago in your city, when a group of brave ministers in the black community took the full measure of charges against Georgia Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker under prayerful consideration and stepped out to endorse a white Republican, Randy Hall. Their decision shook the state. To discontinue support of the most powerful black, Democratic Party politician in Georgia history took stamina and it did not come without repercussions, yet they did it with clarity and firmness of voice.

Their stand now gives you moral authority to take a position with those of us who are Independents, principled Republicans, Libertarians, and motivated voters in ridding our state of the Deal gang. We need to be telling our churchgoing brothers and sisters who normally unfailingly cleave to the Republican Party of the brave Augusta Ministers for Hall in 2002 and their stand. We should use every chance we get to remind them of the moral qualities that men and women of fail of all colors profess to live by, to raise their children by, and live religious lives for. We should ask them to have courage too – the courage to ditch their partisan loyalties for just one election year to make things as right as citizens of this great state can make them.

The governor’s race isn’t about President Obama. It is about us and our courage to confront powerful office holders gone astray. If your ministers can do that, then why won’t they and their ministers do this?

Talk to the people of other races in West Augusta, Columbia County and across our area. Tell them of your concerns. Let them know that you will rejoice if they just show the same gumption, independence, and honor to present the same principled opposition in showing Nathan Deal the door as your ministers did in 2002. Surely they wouldn’t want you to have a higher moral ground!

Georgia is in the heart of the Bible Belt but Georgians have had the unhappy history of letting charlatans bamboozle their way into office or stay after they have gone wrong. In 2014 one hopes that we have the same courage as Augusta ministers of 2002 and that honor prevails.

Domeward Bound No More

UPDATE: Legendary Lincoln County football coach Larry Campbell announced his retirement this week, which made the posting of this report and video timely, as Campbell and the Red Devils made the Georgia Dome their second home. Since this report and video were produced in the summer of 2013, there has been a $50 million publicly-funded parking deck added to the Falcons’ new stadium project, a $200 million change for HVAC (Augusta Tee Center readers will snicker at that.), and the land acquisition price soared.

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Nothing is loved in Lincolnton, Georgia more than its Red Devils football team. 14 state championships in the small school classification. Georgia’s winningest coach in Larry Campbell. More times than any other school as state runners-up. So many trips to the Georgia Dome to play in state play-offs that there is a slogan that rises every year here – “We are Dome-ward Bound.” 8 times would tend to do that for doting fans. They look for greatness under the Georgia Dome, but sadly those quests won’t be the same thanks to the work of another crew of devils, the Legislature that frolics under the Gold Dome.

At the end of a not-distant season, the Red Devils won’t be Dome-ward bound, for the legislature decided to bequeath $1.2 billion (over the next 35 years) of public funds dedicated to the Dome to Arthur Blank, the 90% owner of the Atlanta Falcons Football team, in the form of a new stadium to be leased and operated by the Falcons. The stadium costs are put at more than a billion dollars, but with all of the likely cost overruns probably will exceed Blank’s $1.6 billion net worth (just this month upped to $1.7 billion) by the time the new retractable-roofed stadium is completed.

Dastardly deeds that small town folk cannot really understand underpin the arrangement. After receiving Blank’s hefty campaign donations in recent years, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle killed a key conservative right to work bill that stood in the way. There was a failure to account for the damage that losing $19 million in hotel tax funding and $15 million in profits does to Georgia World Congress Center’s finances. Then World Congress’ own consultant suggested claw-back terms or profit sharing with the public in case 90% owner Blank sells the team with its $1.6 billion stadium lease, but it isn’t in the final agreement, which contains a provision only that the Falcon’s cannot relocate without a penalty.

The legislature under the gold dome OK’d renewing the hotel-motel tax and using it to build a new stadium in 2011, but after 73% of Georgians arose in opposition, Governor Nathan Deal took negotiation of the final sell-out to the Falcons behind closed doors. Then it came to rest in the hands of Atlanta Mayor Kassim Reed, who rammed the agreement through a pliant City Council.
The Falcons and their supporters loudly claim that the team will be paying $800 million and the public only $200 million. Reed emerged with the final agreement and a press release saying that the public funds are “capped at $200 million,” but when if you read the legal documents, the terms said the funding will start at $200 million. Worse than that, analysis of various consultant reports puts public stadium funding at nearly $700 million, with several Hundred $millions more in operations costs funded by hotel motel tax once the stadium is built. The real numbers look like they are the reverse of what the Falcons’ claimed.

The Georgia Dome that the Lincoln County Red Devils played in is property of the state. 60% of dome use was not for the Falcons. The state was making $15 million a year while hosting high school, SEC, and NCAA football. Concerns were expressed in negotiations that such events might be be “not on economic Terms” after the Falcons take over operations of the new stadium. After all, they expect that ticket prices will increase 20% and that food and beverage prices will go up 44% to nearly $18 per seat. Can small town fans afford that? The costs are going to be so high that Mayor Reed’s final deal provides public assistance of $3.5 million a year, with automatic 2% increases, for a total of $184 million to “Stage Other Events.” “Other events according to the legalese are non-Falcon events, like Red Devil playoff games and all of the other ones that our Dome’s profits used to provide for.

The San Francisco 49ers sold naming rights to their new stadium for $220 million. Georgia and Atlanta gave their naming rights up to the Falcons at no charge in the deal.

When this correspondent posed a list of questions to World Congress before the revised deal was public, they refused to answer. The Atlanta Journal Constitution, where Blank sits on the board of directors, has been silent on nearly all of these things. Oh, and don’t expect to hold Nathan Deal or World Congress’ Frank Poe to accountable. They will be retired before the damage is known.

In news breaking in June, the World Congress Center just approved this design, which USA Today Sports calls CRAZY, writing “Will this thing actually get built?”

Despite these questions, huge costs, and conflicts, it appears likely that a perfectly good Georgia Dome will fall to the wrecking ball to yield to the Falcons new rookery. The public and the Red Devils will find their sell-outs under an intact gold dome across town, with the only dome-ward bound being lobbyists looking for ever larger Blank checks.

    OPINION

Hushing the Racket from Dr. Phil (Gingrey) and his D.I.C.K. Quartet

Its springtime in Georgia, but this spring there are a lot of things blooming in the red state of Georgia besides the redbud trees and like this redbud tree the true colors are beginning to show a tinge of blue for good reasons.

The state might be in the heart of the bible belt, but its movers, shakers, and polydamnticians have most of us, the citizens, remembering that the place started out as a penal colony of thieves, con artists, petty pirates, embezzlers, and more than an few whores. Our holy rollers in banking managed to make Georgia #1 or #2 in Mortgage Fraud for 5 years running from 2001 to 2005 on the way to the national championship of bank failures 7 years later. 11000 real estate appraisers warned them. (Video cites a conservative 2200.)You’d think somebody would be embarrassed.

Undaunted by their humungous failures and emboldened by chilling thoughts of losing their second homes in Highlands, the financiers turned to the mother’s milk of government bailouts and protection rackets. While they were at it, they dressed all the rest of us in milk-bone pajamas in this dog-eat-dog world they created. You reckon they thought we wouldn’t notice?

Over under that gold dome in Atlanta, their puppet chairmen of the House and Senate Banking Committees – both of whom headed failed banks – kept those pesky credit unions owned by the people at bay. We can be sure they were in church on Sunday – that is a Georgia law for politicians after all. Now, one of their pawns, Donna Sheldon, is running for the United States Congress in the 10th District after sitting on her duff on the Georgia House Banking Committee or actively countering the reformer, Senator Jesse Stone of Waynesboro. We’ll talk over more about her later.

Over yonder is US Representative Paul Broun, who vacated the seat Sheldon is drooling over, whose family owned a failed bank. He is looking to replace Saxby Chambliss a guy who so brilliantly defined $trillion bank derivatives as mere phone calls after his committee was charged with reforming banking. Saxby had a motto: “Wall Street Money for Free, be on the First Tee by Three!”

Yes we can bank on our Republican leaders in this state for rollicking fun and entertainment at our expense. Let me introduce you to Dr. Phil (Gingrey) and the Deal, Isakson, Chambliss and Kingston quartet. Phil and the DICK gang voted for such fiscally responsible triumphs as Medicare D, No Child Left Behind (before Phil), highway and farm bills. Before Phil came, DICK voted to allow banks to gamble with depositor’s money with no reserves and to book those bad gambling debts to be paid back first before depositors. Old Milhous Nixon himself wasn’t this tricky.

Now you think it is ugly to call these bozos DICK, but they got the ball rolling when Deal and Isakson became a tag team 4 years ago. Chambliss is escaping the boot he was about to get, but that old pork barrel spender Kingston is out playing the churches in an old woodie like a 2014 model Pharisee.

For us a frugal folk there isn’t much deciding to do. Let’s pack Dr. Phil and the DICK quartet off to a doublewide in Ludowici to play the pornography derivatives market and send the capable David Perdue and Karen Handel into the US Senate runoff. Do it for yourselves and the kids.

Please, don’t forget a lifelong conservative Republican Protestant who doesn’t really want you to force him into a Chilly November date with a Nunn.