Posted: 9:10 am Thursday, February 20th, 2014
By Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy
The image above is a mailing that arrived Wednesday at an AJC reporter’s house in U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey’s district. The Marietta Republican’s message is rather clear on the subject of immigration: “Secure Our Borders. Enforce Current Law. No Amnesty.”
But squint and cock your head just so to look at the bottom half: “Public document – official business. This document was prepared, published and mailed at taxpayer expense.”
We’ve spent a lot of time in the heated U.S. Senate race talking about the perils of incumbency, but here’s an upside for the three sitting congressmen: The chance to advertise your views on hot-button issues to your constituents and have the taxpayers foot the bill, in the form of Congress’ franking privilege.
Gingrey does not mention the U.S. Senate, his opponents or even the date for people to get out and vote for him – May 20. That would run afoul of the law.
But he’s free to send you a photo of himself surveying the Mexican border and ask your opinion on securing said border.
The cost of the mailing will not be publicly available for several months. The most recent numbers we have are through Sept. 30, 2013. In the first nine months of last year, Gingrey and Rep. Jack Kingston did not send any mass mailings in their districts, while Rep. Paul Broun — who has a known fondness for franking — spent $48,000 on a mailing to 136,000 of his constituents.
Gov. Nathan Deal already has more than $4 million in the bank ahead of a competitive primary and a general election featuring Democrat Jason Carter. But more help is on the way.
Deal allies confirmed this morning that they have created a new Super PAC called the Georgia Victory Fund. First reported by Politico, the group is led by GOP operatives Chip Lake and Stefan Passantino. Its mission is to boost Deal and tear down Carter.
You’ll recall another fund tied to Deal, called Real PAC, raised more than $800,000 late last year before disbanding. The new account has been around since March 2013 and federal records show it had about $15,000 in the bank by the year’s end. But expect fundraising to ramp up considerably, especially given that Deal is barred from raising campaign cash during the legislative session.
One reason for bringing in a Super PAC: Over at the University of Virginia, Larry Sabato and his Crystal Ball have moved Georgia’s governor’s race from “safe Republican” to “likely Republican” – a subtle shift that takes into account the state’s shifting dynamics. From the Crystal Ball:
“As one shrewd local observer told us, Atlanta’s suburbs, politically, are similar to Northern Virginia 15 years ago, and we know how Democratic that region has become….
“As in Kansas, an upset would be a big surprise, but this is no longer a sleepy contest.”
A celebrating state Rep. Virgil Fludd, D-Tyrone has sent a note to friends about redistricting in Fayette County, where at-large voting has prevailed. It includes this:
“U.S. District Court Judge Timothy C. Batten Sr. has approved a new district voting plan that was developed by his office several weeks ago. The plaintiffs and NAACP who sued Fayette County in August of 2012 have been waiting for months for Judge Batten to make a final decision in which maps to impose and allow for district voting to prevail in Fayette County.
“The judge’s most recent ruling clears the final hurdle for elections to move forward for the Board of Commissioners and School Board elections. The next elections will allow candidates in each of 5 separate districts run for office and be selected only by the voters in those respective districts. The lawsuit was decided on in May of 2013, where Judge Batten issued an 81-page ruling indicating that the current at-large voting system in Fayette discriminated against black voters.”
Karen Handel thinks the recent winter weather is evidence that the Earth is not getting warmer.
In an interview last week with libertarian blogger Jason Pye, the Senate hopeful was asked about environmental policy. Said Handel:
“Having come off of two back-to-back snowstorms and frigid weather in Georgia, I’m in the camp of strongly disputing the whole global warming trend that some harp on.”
Handel went on to attack the EPA. But she was chuckling when she talked about the snowstorms, so we followed up with her campaign manager to see if Handel was being facetious. Corry Bliss’ reply: “Karen does not believe in global warming.”
A conservative-leaning alliance conducted one of the more interesting polls we’ve seen lately.
The survey put 923 respondents through a “triple filter” to find the most hard-core Republican voters. Only those who had voted in at least twice in the last four major elections, those who stuck to the GOP side of the primary ballot and those who intended to vote in the Republican contest this year were allowed.
It was conducted by Hicks Evaluation Group and Apache Political between Feb. 13 and Feb. 16 — just after the second round of ice beset metro Atlanta.
Gov. Nathan Deal tallied about 80 percent of support, but surprisingly about 8 percent of respondents said they would vote for Democrat Jason Carter.
That’s far above the 3 percent of GOP voters who said they would side with Carter in an AJC poll released in early January. Since then, Deal has faced criticism for his handling of a Jan. 28 ice storm and unrest from teachers over changes to the state health insurance plan.
Another intriguing finding involved the Common Core guidelines, believed to be anathema to many conservatives. The pollster found that some 42 percent of voters would abandon the program, about 30 percent would keep it, and the remaining — roughly a quarter of respondents — had no opinion on the program’s future.
When those who support abandonment of Common Core were asked if they would still want to drop the program even if it meant spending more state education dollars, more than three quarters said they still would. That speaks to still-simmering discontent from the base on the program.
The race to replace U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, in Congress includes two coastal state lawmakers – both of whom injected themselves into the news on Wednesday:
– State Sen. Buddy Carter, R-Pooler, introduced S.R. 747, which encourages the repeal or amendment of the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act, a 2012 measure passed by Congress to bring solvency to the federal flood insurance program.
The new law is poised to raise federally subsidized flood insurance premiums drastically. In Washington, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson has passed a bill out the Senate that would delay implementation. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., has promised a vote on a House version next week.
“Bringing flood insurance costs closer to true market value is important, but we cannot do this on the backs of the citizens of coastal Georgia. It has the potential to cause another housing market crash in an already unstable climate.”
– State Rep. Jeff Chapman, R-Brunswick, last year introduced H.B. 267, a bill that would prevent Georgia Power from collecting profits on cost overruns associated with two new nuclear plants now under construction at Plant Vogtle.
The measure was popular among tea party and consumer types, but in the face of heavy lobbying from utility lobbyists, it never gained any traction in the Legislature.
Nonetheless, Chapman declared victory – even as he withdrew his own bill on Wednesday. From the press release:
“Facing growing media scrutiny and public pressure to do the right thing, Georgia Power has now yielded to a Public Service Commission order to cease collecting profits from cost overruns at Plant Vogtle, saving Georgia’s ratepayers tens-of-millions of dollars. Having accomplished my purpose, I would like to announce that I am withdrawing HB 267 for consideration.
“When people work together for the common good, there is much to be accomplished.”