Posted: 9:54 am Monday, June 16th, 2014
By Greg Bluestein, Daniel Malloy and Jim Galloway
As the weekend began, Lori Geary of Channel 2 Action News gave you a first glimpse of Robert Miller, the marketing consultant who blew the whistle on more than $80,000 in campaign contributions to Jack Kingston, the frontrunner in the GOP runoff for U.S. Senate.
Miller has alleged, to the AJC and the FBI, that Khalid Satary, a Palestinian expat whom the feds are attempting to deport, allegedly arranged bonuses for employees of two companies so that most of the cash could be given to Kingston last November and December.
Kingston has returned the money. Now what’s at issue is when the Savannah congressman knew of the problem. When the story first broke, earlier this month, Kingston said he was surprised by the details.
But Miller says he and his attorney sat down with the Kingston campaign on May 1 and unloaded the details. “There’s a credibility issue now, and there’s an integrity issue,” Miller said. “I am a disgruntled ex-employee, sure. But the truth is the truth. And the facts are the facts.”
Also, Kingston says he doesn’t know Satary. Miller said that, at the December fundraiser, the congressman sat next to Satary for two hours.
Sunday’s Macon Telegraph included an endorsement of U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston in the GOP Senate runoff, from former Karen Handel advocate Erick Erickson, the radio provocateur and editor of redstate.com. A paragraph:
Kingston is not perfect. David Perdue, to be sure, looks like the perfect candidate. People want an outsider and Kingston has been in Congress a long time. But even on the outside, Perdue has used his connections to benefit his companies. For an outsider, he is comfortable with the insiders. Kingston, an insider, has never been so comfortable with the insiders.
On somewhat the same topic, the AJC’s James Salzer today has a look at connections between U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue and his governor cousin, Sonny. A taste:
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of campaign donations showed that by the end of April, David Perdue had raised more than $450,000 — more than a third of his contributions from outside sources — from donors connected to Sonny Perdue, including some of the former governor’s top lieutenants and numerous board appointees.
“This isn’t Mr. Smith goes to Washington,” said Chuck Clay, a former state GOP chairman and lawmaker. “This is kind of a proxy fight between the Washington political machinery and state political machinery.”
We told you last week about the Jobs and Progress Fund, a pro-David Perdue group that is going after Jack Kingston in the U.S. Senate GOP runoff. Here’s the spot, featuring Cash for Clunkers and the debt ceiling, that began this weekend:
One interesting footnote: In dubbing Kingston the “king of earmarks,” the ad goes back to a 2007 column by political journalism giant Bill Shipp.
Gov. Nathan Deal has long vowed to explore legislation that would give the state more leeway to intervene in struggling school boards in a second term – one of the reactions to the crisis with DeKalb schools last year.
He wasn’t able to make it to a speech at the Georgia School Boards Association in Savannah on Saturday, but in his prepared remarks he sought to build support for the initiative. From the remarks:
“We know that your actions as boards can shift the foundation of student learning — for good or for bad. Governance matters. Schools, teachers and students need support to not only get students across the finish line, but to avoid costly remediation later.”
Jon Richards over at peachpundit.com caught Rep. Tom Price at Saturday’s North Fulton County GOP breakfast.
The Roswell Republican blamed Eric Cantor’s shocking upset on his tea party challenger’s grassroots popularity, the specter of immigration reform and Cantor’s national duties as the House’s No. 2.
He says he thinks Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy will win Cantor’s old post. But as for who will take the No. 3 gig, Price said the race is “wide open.” As for Price’s ambitions? From the post:
When he was asked by an attendee whether he planned to run for Speaker of the house, Price answered, “Not now,” saying he wanted to chair the House Budget Committee in the next Congress. He felt that would be a better way to represent the interests of the sixth congressional district.
Speaking of House GOP leadership races, there was a brief kerfuffle this weekend about a dark horse Lynn Westmoreland candidacy for Majority Whip, the No. 3 spot in leadership, but it was not to be.
A Politico story floated the Coweta County Republican along with Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas as possible late entries into the whip race, but Westmoreland’s office quashed the talk while signaling a run later this year for chairman of the National Republican Campaign Committee, where Westmoreland now holds the No. 2 slot:
“Currently my focus is on … the November midterms, and the efforts to create the largest Republican majority in decades. If there are future opportunities at the NRCC or within the conference after November, I would like to be a part of that discussion.”
The Washington Post this morning lists Westmoreland as a prominent backer of Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., in his whip bid.
Bob Barr and Barry Loudermilk, the two GOP runoff candidates for U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey’s seat, locked horns in a debate at Kennesaw State University on Saturday. Our AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon caught a glimpse of the growing foreign policy division within the Republican camp. The topic was a crumbling Iraq:
A former congressman, Barr said he would support a U.S. military strike on the Sunni extremist militants who have captured large portions of northern Iraq and are advancing toward Baghdad.
“I would advise [President Obama] to use the air strike capacity that we have — both man and drone capability — in this situation,” Barr told the audience at Kennesaw State University.
“The targets are clear. There is very little danger — with these folks marching down the highway — of collateral damage as they say — killing innocent civilians. [The militants] provide a perfect target. We have the weapons to do it for surgical airstrikes and drone strikes.”
Loudermilk, a former state lawmaker, expressed caution.
“If there is a clear and present danger that Iraq poses, we must intervene on behalf of the safety and security of the United States,” he said, noting his son serves in the U.S. military and could be deployed. “But if it does not, then we should not be engaged. I can’t answer that question right now.”
They also had an interesting split on gay marriage, with Loudermilk falsely stating that most of the country is against it, while Barr said it’s not a big issue:
“The overwhelming majority of the people in America agree,” Loudermilk said, “we should define what marriage is — that marriage — legally defined — is between a man and a woman.”
Barr said: “I have to tell you I have not heard one person who has said to me, ‘Bob, the most pressing issue is whether the presidential candidate in 2016 will champion gay marriage’ or whatever. It is not something that is on people’s minds as we look to the congressional elections in 2014.”
Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn is on the move this week, with stops heavy on North Georgia — typically tea party country. She plans campaign stops in Macon, Columbus, Newnan, Rome, Dalton, Trion, Canton, Jasper, Blue Ridge, Blairsville and Nacoochee.
Through the decades, the late Tip O’Neill’s dictum that “all politics is local” has been a rule of thumb. But in a look at the fortunes of U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi, now engaged in a desperate runoff, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, the New York Times says O’Neill’s Law is wearing thin:
For all the talk about how partisan polarization is overwhelming Washington, there is another powerful, overlapping force at play: Voters who are not deeply rooted increasingly view politics through a generic national lens.
Friends-and-neighbors elections were already a thing of the past in congressional campaigns. But the axiom that “all politics is local” is increasingly anachronistic when ever-larger numbers of voters have little awareness of what incumbents did for their community in years past and are becoming as informed by cable television, talk radio and the Internet as by local sources of news. In this year’s primaries, the trend is lifting hard-liners, but it has benefited more moderate candidates in general elections.
“They don’t know who the heck Thad is,” said the Republican strategist Karl Rove, of Mississippi’s newly arrived voters. “There is no 40-year history with him, knowing that this is the guy who built up the state’s modern Republican Party. The same with Eric, people who have just gotten to Richmond don’t even know what the House of Delegates is, let alone that he served there.”
About the Authors
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He joined the newspaper in June 2012.
Daniel Malloy is the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington Correspondent, covering the Georgia Congressional delegation and other D.C. goings-on that affect the state since 2011. He's a zealous fan and proud graduate of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.