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Jim Galloway, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy

Third whistleblower suit filed against state ethics agency

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030414 qualifying deal

House Speaker David Ralston is interviewed after signing up to run for re-election Monday morning at the state Capitol. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com


It appears that the troubles surrounding
the panel once known as the State Ethics Commission will continue to plague us. From the Fulton County Daily Report:

A man who has testified that he was ordered to alter and hide documents relating to a probe of Gov. Nathan Deal before being fired by the chief of Georgia’s ethics agency has filed a whistleblower suit against the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission and its executive secretary, Holly LaBerge.

The suit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court last week by the commission’s former media specialist, John Hair, is the third whistleblower action stemming from a dramatic shakeup at the agency in 2011, when its former director and her assistant were forced out in the midst of an investigation into Deal’s purported misuse of campaign funds.

***

You have to hand it to state Rep. Sam Moore, R-Macedonia. He’s not backing down. The freshman whose first crack at legislation cut to the heart of Georgia’s sex offender laws made these observations in a letter to constituents about his first days in office:

I sat starving and thirsty in the Ethics class I had a week ago last Friday, ignoring the free Coke provided by the Coca-Cola company sitting right in front of me.  I treat freebies like poison.

Get this: they have an entire room devoted to free food, only accessible to State House Reps. I do not partake.  A guy sits there and offers it to you all day long. I’m glad he has a job and he’s a great guy, but knowing that this entire room is sponsored by a business I may one day vote for/against makes me sick.

The “great guy” that Moore references is Jim Tudor, president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores.

***

For those of you who think presidential visits are banquets of spoon-fed information from the White House, this is the sum total of the official word on Vice President Joe Biden’s trip to Atlanta today:

DAILY GUIDANCE FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

In the morning, the Vice President will travel to Atlanta, Georgia.

At 1:00 PM, the Vice President will attend an event for Michelle Nunn at a private residence. This event is closed press.

Later, the Vice President will return to Washington, DC.

***

SB 377, one of two “religious liberty” bills considered by the Legislature this session, quietly expired on Crossover Day. In a press conference anticipating the defeat, a group of conservatives led by tea partyer Julianne Thompson announced a boycott of the hometown corporate interests they declared responsible – including Delta Air Lines, Coke, UPS, and Home Depot.

But this was the heart of their complaint, expressed by Thompson:

“Mostly we’re disappointed that we have a super-majority in the Georgia state Senate, and we’re one vote away from having a super-majority in the House, yet our Republican leadership is caving to the far-left radical agenda and to corporate lobbyists. That seems to be much more important to them than the people that got them elected.”

***

Now that Crossover Day is in the books, Gov. Nathan Deal is keen to remind lawmakers just which of their legislation bears his imprint. And one such bill is the Senate proposal calling for a review of Common Core standards.

Deal made clear Monday that his staff played a direct role in drafting the legislation, which he views as a “very good compromise bill that allows us to go forward and doesn’t take the rug out from teachers.”

Deal and his predecessor, Sonny Perdue, were early supporters of the Common Core educational standards. But Deal asked the state Board of Education to review the state’s participation in the program last year amid unrest from critics who viewed the program as part of a federal takeover of sacred education rights. This legislation would essentially codify that review.

When it’s completed, Deal said, “we think that we will have a measurement tool that will be appropriate. That’s really what’s important. We want to make sure that the rigor is included in those standards and that we are advancing our students to the degree that is possible.”

With 10 days left in the session, much can happen. And Deal has a message for lawmakers eager to tinker with the plan:

“I’ll simply watch and see if any changes of real significance occur in that time. The format is one we can all be satisfied with.”

***

A sign that Common Core has emerged as a dividing line in the superintendent’s race:  Republican educator Kira Willis said the legislation referenced above is a “huge mistake for our students” due to language she fears could force the state to abandon standardized tests.

“You’re talking about International Baccalaureate testing, ACT and SAT testing,” she said. “If we get rid of any of that, we’re hurting our kids.”

***

Republican Senate candidate Karen Handel picked up the endorsement of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List on Tuesday. It’s the fund’s first pick for a Senate candidate in this election cycle.

Fund president Marjorie Dannenfelser said she was impressed by Handel’s ability to “speak to the errors of abortion-centered feminism and one of its chief advocates, Michelle Nunn.”

SBA List spent $1.5 million on outside advertising in the 2012 cycle. The endorsement also provides another chance for Handel to talk about her sparring with Planned Parenthood and some national anti-abortion cover as the no-exceptions Georgia Right to Life already endorsed Paul Broun.

***

State Rep. Ed Lindsey journeyed down from the House chamber to qualify for a competitive U.S. House seat. The Atlanta Republican faces at least three well-known rivals in his bid to replace Rep. Phil Gingrey, who qualified Monday for the Senate contest.

He said what distinguishes him from his rivals is that “I actually have a record of accomplishment.”

“I’ve worked real hard here to show I have the patience to listen, the strength to lead, the wisdom to know how to negotiate without compromising my principals and perhaps the most importantly, the courage to stay the course when times get rough.”

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