Posted: 11:10 am Tuesday, July 15th, 2014

Nathan Deal on memo: ‘Why were we all in the dark?’ 

By Greg Bluestein

This morning, Gov. Nathan Deal went into emergency communication mode.

Minutes before his Democratic opponent, Jason Carter of Atlanta, appeared before reporters and demanded a state-level investigation by Attorney General Sam Olens or his designee, the Republican incumbent gave us an exclusive interview in which he declared that he, too, has been kept in the dark.

The governor said the bombshell ethics memo that surfaced on Monday had come as a surprise, and he asked why it hadn’t been released sooner. In the memo, ethics agency director Holly LaBerge accused his staff of pressuring her — she characterized the communications as threats — to make campaign complaints against him disappear.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

“This is an independent agency,” he told us. “This was a document that was prepared by the staff of the agency, of which we had no knowledge, either. That’s a good question: Why didn’t it come out until now? Why were we all in the dark? I think it further proves they are an independent agency, and my office had no operational knowledge.”

The governor, also said he believes his chief of staff, Chris Riley, and his executive counsel, Ryan Teague, acted appropriately in contacting LaBerge. She said in the memo she received a call from Teague and texts from Riley pushing her to wrap up the ethics complaints soon.

Said Deal:

“Certainly, I stand by them. These are some of my senior officials. And you have to understand the context in which it was done. They were trying to say, ‘Let’s get this thing to a hearing.’ We have maintained all along that we didn’t do anything wrong …

“And finally when we got it before a commission that’s exactly what they determined. It was two years that this had been going on. And they were simply urging the staff to proceed in a timely fashion rather than postpone it again.”

We will quibble with his phrasing here. Riley and Teague were pushing for a resolution, but the LaBerge memo indicates they were specifically attempting to avoid a public airing of any campaign law violations.

When pressed on why his staff would contact LaBerge, the governor said his staff was trying to prepare for an ethics hearing that had been delayed before. Said Deal:

“Nobody could find out what the procedure was … My staff needed to know the answers to those questions so they could plan my schedule, so they could plan our schedule. I’m the governor of this state. It’s my responsibility to govern, to run government. I can’t micromanage everything. People need to act in a responsible fashion.”

He added: “Why would she be on vacation and refuse to answer her phone at the week leading up to the largest hearing?”
***
The governor was also communicating with his supporters this morning. While the governor declared himself to be in the dark, an emailed note from Deal campaign spokesman Jen Talaber includes this, under the heading ‘We saw it coming.’ (Talaber says the dispatch refers to Democratic attacks – not the LaBerge memo.) To wit:

Democrats across the country are abusing our legal system for political gain, and Republican governors are targets. Here at home, Better Georgia (bankrolled by former Democratic Gov. Roy Barnes), and activist groups aligned with Jason Carter have tried to make an election year issue out of the troubles at the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.

In fact, in a June 16 blog post, Carter’s allies said they were “pleased to announce that we will be working directly with one of the commission staff members that was wrongfully terminated to bring residents the full untold story. We promise some juicy exclusives in the very near future-stay tuned!”

The only problem is, as we predicted, that the facts don’t support any wrongdoing. Instead, a leaked document only now made public confirmed that, contrary to media reporting, past and present commission staff aggressively pursued allegations against the campaign. Indeed, Deal and his campaign were subjected to the highest level of scrutiny in the history of Georgia. This included a full audit of all of his disclosure reports consisting of thousands of entries with no specific formal complaint as a basis-a first for the commission.
After that extensive search, the commission dismissed all claims with the exception of an administrative fee dealing with clerical errors in campaign reports. There was no global settlement, nor does this case pertain to recent settlements between the commission’s board members and ex-staffers.

About that “juicy exclusives” quote: It apparently originated with a Facebook group calling itself “Conservatives for Carter.” We don’t know much about them. But it was not the work of Deal’s usual arch-nemesis, Better Georgia.

131 comments
J. White
J. White

Of course it is just too much for   people to wait and let the   investigation  do it's work before they decide  guilt or innocence isn't it. I prefer to  have all the facts before I   make up my mind about anything.  Prejudice in politics and personalities  seem to have made Americans less open to  facts now and more open to  public outrage and criticism.

tomkat1111
tomkat1111

Does anyone really think Shady Deal will confess ?

longmemories
longmemories

As a Republican I believe we are being just as hypocritical as Democrats to not try to get to the bottom of it. I believe this needs an independent investigation. I also call on Democrats to quit making excuses for Eric Holder and the IRS and demand a full independent investigation in Washington. We both need to get our houses in order.

FirstDerivative
FirstDerivative

Those whistle blower people were robbed in their awards.  If you were on the jury and heard about this memo your award recommendation surely would have been different, and it comes to show that LaBerge was little more than Deals' political face basin.

Claver
Claver

Maybe Deal can recycle Edwin Edwards old campaign slogan:  "Vote For The Crook.  It's Important."

FirstDerivative
FirstDerivative

I have very low ethical expectations of the governor, as the normative case- no problem there. My surprise is the existence of the memo was "lost" in Sam Olens' office. 

You would want to believe that Olens would have handled the governor's ethical drama coming through the AG office with a rag laced in Pine Sol. Instead we hear his office now back pedaling about we did not hide anything

EdUktr
EdUktr

Makes those "missing" IRS Lois Lerner emails look like small potatoes—eh, Jim?

Numbers_R_Us
Numbers_R_Us

Poor Nathan! How did he manage to keep himself in the dark all these years about his unethical actions! Someone enlighten him.

ChuckClausen
ChuckClausen

We had live all over the Country when I was coaching, Columbus, Ohio, Albuquerque, NM, Cherry Hill, New Jersey, San Diego and San Francisco, Ca. Nathan Deal has been our best Governor by far, when he's finished in Atlanta we need him back in Gainesville to help teach the Anglers Sunday School at the First Baptist Church.

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

 “This is an independent agency,” he told us.

*chuckle*

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

"Ooh I love to dance a little sidestep, now they see me now they don't-
I've come and gone and, ooh I love to sweep around the wide step,
Cut a little swathe and lead the people on."

-Charles Durning, "Best li'l (you know what) in Texas"

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

"I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

Captain Renault, Casablanca 

PoliticalOutsider
PoliticalOutsider

I don't have any doubt that Deal is "in the dark". He's just not a very smart man. The real culprit is Chris Riley. Chris got Deal in all sorts of trouble in Washington and now he has gotten him in all of this mess in Georgia. I've been saying that Chris Riley would be the first one in the Deal administration to go to jail. I still believe that will happen.

The Feds move at their own pace, but the voters have a right to know what they know BEFORE the election. It serves no purpose to re-elect Deal, and then have him sent to prison a few months later. What Riley and Teague has done now is to interfere with a state investigation, to intimidate witnesses, and to threaten state employees. And Sam Olens, by withholding evidence from an ethics hearing, has also crossed the line. Olens gives up the evidence when asked by the Feds because they can put is short a$$ in jail, but hides it from an ethics hearing because all they can do is sue him( and collect $3M).

Both Olens and Teague are attorneys. Both are held to a higher standard of ethical conduct by the State Bar. While the Feds move at a snails pace, where is the State Bar and why aren't they looking into the actions of Teague and Olens? Someone needs to wake them up.

As disturbing as all of this stuff is, I doubt that most voters know or even care about it. It has become expected behavior by the GOP. Short of an indictment, most voters just don't care. And we wonder why Georgia is the New Mississippi?

No Deal
No Deal

Thank God we only have 5 more months of dealing with Deal and his lying ways......Bring on Carter!  From the beginning and the controversy with his son in-law, to how he dealt with the snow storm.  He is a crook and does not know how to govern!  I just hope he does not steal the furniture and artwork that does not belong to him from the governors mansion when he is moving out!  

JaySly
JaySly

olens is in deal's pocket--he's not going to appoint anything to make nathan mad.

taters
taters

DIRTY DEAL...I KNOW NOTHING.  Sounds like Sgt. Schultz on Hogan's Heroes.  What a lying idiot.

td1234
td1234

Different posters (maybe or maybe same posters under new names)  same concept 4 years later. 


Deal left Congress before he was indicted. 

Deal is the most corrupt politician in the country.

Deal is morally bankrupt. 

Deal is a crook. 


The results were Deal beat Barnes by 10 points in the general election because either the people of the state did not believe the accusations or the people of this state dislike progressive policies worse than they dislike corrupt politicians. 4 years later and progressives know that they can not run on their on philosophy in the state because the citizens of this state reject that philosophy so they bring back up corruption angle. 


The only chance to get rid of Deal was in the primary but since it did not happen he will be re-elected governor. 

honested
honested

Looks like we will be hearing a lot from those with hands deepest into the taxpayers pockets who are likely to have to find a real job after November.

Funny how being one of the 'cronies' changed their perspective.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@longmemories 

... and demand a full independent investigation in Washington. We both need to get our houses in order.

Despite the fact that there has been an ongoing investigation for over a year and 14 congressional hearings you want yet another investigation.

Geez....

The definition of stupidity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

honested
honested

@longmemories 

What on earth requires further 'investigation of the IRS'?

Enough money has been wasted just because whiny teaklanners faced the SCRUTINY REQUIRED to get their tax exemptions.

Requesting a tax exemption is not a guarantee you will get it!

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

@longmemories 

Kind of like, "i'll show you mine if you show me yours"?

honested
honested

@EdUktr 

Makes them as irrelevant as ever.

Quick, how many wrong wing nut tax evasion groups failed to get their exemptions?

MoFaux
MoFaux

@ChuckClausen You must be looking for an appointment/job with your buddy Deal.  You've copy/pasted the same thing on AJC several times today.

ChuckClausen
ChuckClausen

Our Governor did a terrific job of representing Northeast Georgia in the U S House of Representitives - I live all over the country before moving to Gainesville, it was the first time in my life where we had a congressman who communicated with us (his voters) Congressman Deal was a Natural to run and get elected Governor, very smart guy with exceptional leadership skills.

JaySly
JaySly

@PoliticalOutsider if anyone from the state bar "looks into" the actions of teague or olens, they will lose their job and easy money.

RealKat
RealKat

@No Deal I forgot all about his son-in-law and that property!

DS
DS

@JaySly, and now Olens is in trouble, too.

LaBerge claims she gave him her memorandum, but he didn't produce it in discovery for the Kalberman trial, and he instructed LaBerge not to mention it in her testimony.

Uh oh.

HarryCrews
HarryCrews

@td1234 


Sir: I wouldn't exactly look at Mr. Carter as a modern day "progressive". His social, political philosophy is more akin that of Eisenhower or even Nixon. By examining his website you can find many parallels.

honested
honested

@td1234 

You contradict yourself.

Part of 'progressive policies' is to eliminate corruption.

Apparently the Georgia gop prefers corruption to Civilization.

atlantalegal
atlantalegal

The Attorney General and Governor are both crooks and a stain upon the state.

NWGAL
NWGAL

Deal's ability to lead money into his own pocket is very impressive.

Kamchak
Kamchak

@ChuckClausen 

Congressman Deal was a Natural to run and get elected Governor, very smart guy with exceptional leadership skills.

Too bad he has the ethics of a weasel.

Just sayin'.

honested
honested

@DS 

Told her not to mention it!!!

Let's see, there is a term for that, let me think, it's on the tip of my tongue.......

td1234
td1234

@HarryCrews @td1234 What he claims publicly may be but his actions say something totally different. He lead the way to turn the Hope Scholarship program from one that rewards the best, brightest and most hard working Georgia students to just another progressive means tested welfare program.   

honested
honested

@EdUktr @honested 

Nor, do I care.

Do you have any idea how much money it costs to have these dog-and-pony hearings PER MINUTE?

Do you really want to waste money continuing to dig when there is obviously nothing to find?

honested
honested

@td1234 @HarryCrews 

Harping on 'means testing' again.

Outside of teaklan meetings, nobody in Georgia finds 'means testing' to be a problem.

Most of us encounter it every day with every purchase. Inadequate means, consider yourself tested.