Posted: 11:19 am Thursday, July 17th, 2014

Second-guessing Sam Olens on the Holly LaBerge memo 

By Greg Bluestein, Daniel Malloy and Jim Galloway

 

State ethics commission attorney Bryan Webb, left, congratulates Stacey Kalberman and her husband Neil after Kalberman won her whistle blower suit against the state ethics commission in April. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

State ethics commission attorney Bryan Webb, left, congratulates Stacey Kalberman and her husband Neil after Kalberman won her whistle blower suit against the state ethics commission in April. Brant Sanderlin, bsanderlin@ajc.com

On today’s ethics front, we have boatloads of radio-delivered news.

Gov. Nathan Deal continues his pushback on the Holly LaBerge fallout this afternoon. Erick Erickson, the conservative provocateur for WSB Radio (750AM, 95.5FM) has sent out the following Tweet:Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blog

Starting my radio show at 4 PM today with an exclusive interview with Gov. Nathan Deal.

Over at WABE (90.1FM), Jonathan Shapiro hooked up with designated legal expert Page Pate, who outlined what he thought Attorney General Sam Olens ought to have done with a 2012 memo written by Holly LaBerge, executive secretary for the state ethics commission, alleging that aides to the governor pressured her to make ethics complaints against Deal disappear.

Olens withheld the document from attorneys for LaBerge’s predecessor, Stacey Kalberman, who ultimately won a hefty jury award for wrongful termination. She was sacked after drawing up subpoenas for documents from the 2010 Deal gubernatorial campaign. From the WABE website:

Pate said it’s difficult to understand how the memo could be interpreted as unrelated to those cases. And if Olens disagreed, according to Pate, withholding it outright would be a departure from professional standards.

“What you do is object to producing the particular document and then at least give the other side an opportunity to contest that with the judge. You just don’t hide the document,” said Pate.

He added the decision gives the appearance Olens was acting politically, possibly in an effort to protect the governor. Legally, however, unless the attorneys for the whistleblowers file an appeal to the court, Pate said its unlikely there will be consequences for the AG’s office.

“The strongest opponents of the attorney general’s position are on the political side, not the legal side, and they can’t simply go into court requesting that the court impose some sort of sanction for a discovery violation,” said Pate. “The main fuel to this fire will be political, from political opponents and folks who have a stake in this election.”

One of those political opponents is Greg Hecht, the former state senator – now a Democratic candidate for attorney general. On WGAU (1340AM) this morning, Hecht told host Tim Bryant that the judge in the Kalberman case is going to be more than a little ticked off. Listen here:

Said Hecht:

“The judge is going to be very upset, because the judge ruled that [neither] the governor nor the governor’s aides had to testify in this case because there was no evidence of coercion.

“There was no evidence of coercion because that memo was withheld by the AG’s office. And Attorney General Sam Olens knew it was in the file when the judge was making the ruling.”

***

Holly LaBerge as the Democratic hero? Once scorned by Georgia’s underdog party as a lackey for Gov. Nathan Deal, LaBerge’s status has shifted, given the aforementioned memo that surfaced Monday.

And there’s been more than a little Republican grumbling.

On PeachPundit, the aforementioned Erick Erickson complains that LaBerge’s attorney, Lee Parks, works for a firm that has hosted a fundraiser for Deal’s opponent, Democrat Jason Carter. But the same website points out that the firm to which Deal’s attorney is attached — McKenna, Long & Aldridge — has given far more to Carter, nearly $20,000. Which blows a hole in that conspiracy theory.

But most of the carping yesterday centered on one surprising development: The ethics commission took just a few days to toss a complaint against left-leaning Better Georgia, the Deal camp’s arch-nemisis. One reader called to note that it took the panel two years to mete out complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal (and former Gov. Roy Barnes, for that matter.)

***

In Kennesaw last night, City Councilman and former mayor Leonard Church attended his first work session since he was accused of molesting a nine-year-old boy last month. The Marietta Daily Journal observed this:

Church, 66, remained silent for most of the two and a half hour meeting Wednesday, speaking up only once to decline comment at the session’s close.

Unlike during previous meetings, a makeshift wall composed of 21 chairs sealed the council off from the public.

A Kennesaw police officer said the barricade was a “preventive” measure that had nothing to do with Church’s presence.

***

Up in Forsyth County, we have an overheated GOP runoff involving incumbent state Sen. Jack Murphy of Cumming and challenger Michael Williams.

This morning, Williams announced that he has been endorsed by Ashley Bell, a former Republican candidate for state school superintendent. Why would backing from a state school superintendent also-ran matter? Actually, in the May 20 primary, Bell finished first in Forsyth County. He’s got a radio show with a big footprint there. It matters.

***

The national grassroots organization Ready for Hillary will have a kick-off event at Park Tavern in Atlanta at 6 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are a symbolic $20.16. So what will the gang be talking about? Probably this from the Gallup organization:

Hillary Clinton is currently the best known and best liked of 16 potential 2016 presidential candidates tested in a July 7-10 Gallup poll, due to her 91% familiarity score and +19 net favorable rating. The net favorable is based on her 55% favorable and 36% unfavorable ratings.

***

The Washington Post points us to a chart putting some numbers on the difference between presidential and midterm years in non-white (and thus, Democrat-leaning turnout). It shows that in Georgia 37.9 percent of the electorate in 2012 was not white, while in 2010 it was 35.6 percent. Not too much difference, but in what could be a tight election, that difference matters.

Democrats in Georgia are hoping the rising percentage of minority voters in the state will help close the gap, but they will likely have to exceed the 2012 percentage, since Barack Obama lost the state by 7.8 percentage points. Republican lobbyist Ken Mehlman, who produced the chart, points out that Democrats across the country should look to Virginia:

 “As Mehlman notes, the 2013 governor’s race in Virginia — won by Democrat Terry McAuliffe — proves it can be done.  In 2012, the Virginia electorate was 70 percent white, 20 percent black and five percent Hispanic. The following year, the Virginia electorate was 72 percent white, 20 percent black and four percent Hispanic.  That’s pretty damn close.”

***

U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia, has a point-by-point retort for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s objections to the Voting Rights Act update that is now languishing in Congress.

Johnson’s key point:

“Unfortunately, the Secretary’s contention that preclearance is discriminatory and does not help to ensure secure, accessible, and fair elections is not consistent with the facts.

“Georgia has a persistent history of disenfranchising voters. Preclearance is necessary until the state can demonstrate over a sustained period of time that it can reduce the number of Voting Rights Act violations to zero.”

Here’s the letter in full:

***

Washington-based tea party-aligned group FreedomWorks is putting up $10,000 on Facebook ads promoting Barry Loudermilk in the 11th Congressional District runoff, according to a new FEC filing.

In the First District runoff, the Club For Growth has added another $29,000 to its TV buy savaging Buddy Carter on behalf of Bob Johnson, bringing its total investment to $387,000. (One of our number took an in-depth look at the First in Wednesday’s paper.)

***

One sign of the times, from the Associated Press:

About 400 law enforcement officers from northeast Alabama and northwest Georgia are learning how to deal with domestic extremists.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Birmingham and the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force are providing the training on Thursday in conjunction with police in the east Alabama city of Oxford.

Federal authorities say the session will teach law officers what to do during encounters with domestic extremists. They say that could include members of militia groups or so-called sovereign citizens.

The session will include a study of a 2012 mass shooting at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, where a white supremacist and U.S. Army veteran killed six worshippers.

***

And another from Sam Nunn’s Nuclear Threat Initiative:

As negotiating parties consider extending talks with Iran, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), today released new high quality, high resolution B-roll footage featuring facilities in Iran, North Korea and India. These videos complement their popular YouTube video series showcasing 3D models of nuclear and missile facilities in more than nine countries. The videos provide visual context to help understand nonproliferation headlines, from rocket tests to plutonium production.

 

47 comments
DanLovingood
DanLovingood

Seems like Nathan Deal and potentially Sam Olens now have a similar problem to Governor Rick Perry (R-TX) who was indicted today for abuse of power and coercion.  He could face up to 109 years in jail. The batteries in Deal's clock are about to expire.

PoliticalOutsider
PoliticalOutsider

Here is the problem Olens has. Depending upon how the settlement order was written with the 3 whistleblowers, their attorney could ask the courts to re-open the case because key evidence was withheld by Olens. The whistleblowers might not be through collecting from the tax payers. Sam Olens should know better than that!

He may also be facing some stern discipline from State Bar.

DS
DS

Lori Geary just tweeted new poll figures:

@LoriGearyWSB: New poll results from @LandmarkCommGA. @carter4governor 49%, @GovernorDeal 41%, (L) Hunt 4%

Analysis at 6 @wsbtv #gapol #gagop #gadems

Not sure, but I think the data might have been polled before the LaBerge memo hit the news. We'll see.

td1234
td1234

26% chance of winning.


"In Georgia, the FiveThirtyEight projection is far more pessimistic about Democratic prospects than the polls. Here’s why: No Democrat holds an elected statewide office in Georgia. No Democrat has won a U.S. Senate race in the state in 14 years. No Democrat has won a presidential race in the state in 22 years. The Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, is probably benefitting from name recognition; her father, Sam Nunn, was a well-regarded senator from the Peach State. That edge may disappear once voters realize Michelle is not Sam. Moreover, Republicans may coalesce around the winner of thecontentious GOP primary between Jack Kingston and David Perdue."


http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/democrats-are-in-a-perilous-position-in-2014-senate-races/

RoadScholar
RoadScholar

Why interview Deal on the radio> We won't be able to see his nose grow as he lies!

hobbit57
hobbit57

Hey Centrist?  You know that ole saying about doors not hitting you?

The_Centrist
The_Centrist

This blog and the AJC have gone into hyper political partisan drive on steroids.  I am no longer reading or participating until at least after the election.

Those liberal posters who have hypocritically used variations of my screen name are now welcome to keep faking without any further comments from me.

coj
coj

So, the trip to the Holy Land for Olens was a reward for services rendered, huh?

honested
honested

In the radio interview yesterday, Mr. Pate went so far as to state that 'apparently Atty. General olens is the ONLY attorney who believes he is justified not to turn over the memo'.


Do I see buzzards circling the Capitol?

WWTJD
WWTJD

@EdUktr 


Hmmm -- the surveys that Huff averaged were conducted prior to 14 Jul.


You'll see effects in next week's numbers, and next quarter's fundraising totals.  Even the WSJ is writing about this one...

LookbeforeIleap
LookbeforeIleap

Page Pate, someone with actual legal credentials, seems to disagree with a frequent and right-leaning poster here about Olen's obligation to disclose the LaBerge memo.


Guess this poster needs a few more nights at a Holiday Inn Express.

Quandry
Quandry

I would like to know:

On what grounds did the AG believe this memo had nothing to do with coercing the Board of Ethics?

This whole thing smells…..

But at the end of the day – Democrats are going to vote for Carter and the Republicans are going to vote for Deal.

The ethics allegations, against Gov Deal, are not enough to keep the Republicans home or get them to vote for Carter.

My prediction is Deal wins (not by a landslide) but yes he will win.

I don’t know if this would be a good or bad thing for the state – I guess we will have to wait and see.

EdUktr
EdUktr

Liberal provocateur Jim Galloway (using his own labeling standards) seems here to be throwing in the towel, as far as hopes of legal assistance with his column's political jihad against Governor Deal.


And according to the liberal Huffington Post, voters remain unimpressed:

Governor Deal 45.8%  

Jason Carter 42.3%




DS
DS

Olens claims that, with him, the law comes first, and politics should be left out of it.

But there is growing evidence that his actions were purely political and not up to professional legal standards of conduct.

PoliticalOutsider
PoliticalOutsider

I just heard EdUkter and td1234's heads explode. This poll must be a conspiracy by Jimmy Carter, Obama, Nancy Pelosi and the IRS!

honested
honested

@DS 

"Landmark is in bed with the Democratic Party in 3.....2.....1..."

consumedconsumer
consumedconsumer

@td1234 yeah, voters may do this and they may do that . . . we only know what they do, however, after the votes are counted. so until then, playing with numbers is just that, playing with numbers. besides, TEA is strong here in GA and TEA don't like either Kingston, or Perdue for that matter.

DannyX
DannyX

@td1234


Hey td, is Ohio in yet?  What does Karl Rove have to say about the Georgia Governor's race?  What does your unskewed polls show?

EdUktr
EdUktr

@The_Centrist

Adopting a new one-word screen name would seem less extreme. But on the other hand, with your departure advertisers will be a tiny bit less likely to see the AJC as anything but the dying ad platform it is. 

Kamchak
Kamchak

@The_Centrist 

 I am no longer reading or participating until at least after the election.

Toodles.

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@The_Centrist Thankfully we still have edukkkktur and twiddly dumber to continue the cherished tradition of wrong wing sniveling and apologia. I always loook forward to their comments consisting of a noun, a verb and librul media, or as it has now evolved, a noun a verb and HuffPo poll..

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@The_Centrist Finally a comment from da centrist I can "like."  That is, if he keeps his word and does not post until Carter/Nunn are elected.

DannyX
DannyX

@The_Centrist, just get a new screen name, how about "The_FarRight_TeaPartyist"

Or just use one of your sock puppets.  You aren't going anywhere.

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@coj They both trekked to the Wailing Wall to leave prayers. Now we know why. They must have heard LeBerg was about to go public. (Of course Deal wouldn't dare tell Olens that southern baptists like him don't believe God hears the prayers of a Jew.)

DS
DS

@Quandry

Olens said that Kalberman's attorney asked for correspondences, but this document was LaBerge's memo to herself, not a correspondence.

Notice, by the way, that the memo contains correspondences exchanged by text messaging. Strike one.

But Kalberman's attorney replied no, she didn't ask for just correspondences. She asked for all files in the Deal investigation. Everything. Strike two.

And now legal experts are telling us that Olens should have produced it for the judge and argued that it couldn't be used. But Olens hid the document instead. Strike three.

There might be enough independent Georgia voters who come out to retire Deal. And there might be enough Republicans who feel that honesty and ethics matter and decide to cross over this one time. We shall see.

Charles50
Charles50

@Quandry I agree with most of what you said.  I just hope your prediction is wrong.

hobbit57
hobbit57

@EdUktr Weren't you going on and on about Romney winning back in12?

DannyX
DannyX

@EdUktr, LOL!  What exactly do those polls say about our current Governor?

Deal is at 45%!  This is a red state and before the meat of the scandal surfaced only had a 4 point lead.  Why is Deal only at 45%??????  Sounds like the voters are unimpressed.

Please keep posting this, you're not helping your cause one bit.

Charles50
Charles50

@EdUktr We'll see how that number changes 1.  After the run-off election and 2.  As you get closer to November.   A lot of folks brains are in vacation mode.

STHornet1990
STHornet1990

@EdUktr Gald that you admit "reporting the facts" will always show a liberal slant in this state.

Charles50
Charles50

@DS And not only in this case, but pretty much all of the ones he's been involved in.  When he was in Cobb County he actually ran things well and was pretty fair and balanced.  I rarely even remembered that he was a Republican.  Since becoming the AG, I guess it is more fashionable to show your true colors.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@DS Shameful that the AG of GA does not follow the rules of discovery, which he could become familiar with by watching Law and Order.  Or going to law school.

AuntieChrist
AuntieChrist

@EdUktr @The_Centrist Advertisers pay according to the number of 'hits' a web site gets.  It is hilarious that every time one of you comes here to whine about the librul AJC (and post some bogus poll), you are adding to the number of hits, thus increasing revenue for the librul AJC, and keeping them in business.

Just more evidence of thoughtful, rational, sensible thought process we have come to expect from the Fire! Ready! Aim! tp's populating the AJC comment pages.

The Cox-Chambers family loves whiners. They laugh at you all the way to their off-shore accounts.

anothercomment
anothercomment

My dad would be sitting in his Archie Bunker chair calling Olens a damn lying Jew on these statements that this was not correspondence. People know that memos to file and memos to self are CYA correspondence and have to be turned over during a FIOA or DIscovery.

Of course Olens hasn't practiced law up in Cobb for years.

td1234
td1234

@DS Let us see if there will be a filed motion against the AG by the plaintiff's attorney. If there is then we could have something to talk about but if/when that day happens there is nothing.