Posted: 6:00 am Thursday, July 24th, 2014

Nathan Deal aide’s strange method of blowing off ethics-related steam 

By Greg Bluestein

Gov. Nathan Deal’s chief spokesman, Brian Robinson, is known for his use of, er, colorful language when confronting critics of his boss. Now we also know he may need a few extra pillows in his first-floor Capitol office.

In an April 9 email to other Deal aides, Robinson sent a link to an Insider post detailing ethics chief Holly LaBerge’s critique of the governor’s ethics overhaul. Below the link were these words:

“She told the AJC that she doesn’t like the governor’s proposal because the commission would be too big and would outnumber the employees. I’m stuffing a pillow in my mouth to stifle my screams.”

The note, obtained as part of a broader public records request, offers a glimpse at the office’s attitude toward the ethics chief, who is increasingly in the middle of a campaign fight.

Remember, this memo was sent long before the now-infamous LaBerge ethics memo surfaced in public. In that memo, LaBerge claimed that Deal’s staffers threatened her to make an ethics complaint “go away.” (Deal’s staff doesn’t dispute there was contact but says there was never any threat.)

Yet in the months before the memo’s release, Deal faced accusations that LaBerge was his puppet. That’s partly because whistleblowers claimed she bragged that Deal “owed” her, and because his executive counsel Ryan Teague recruited her for the role. Deal has repeatedly said he didn’t know LaBerge and did nothing wrong.

Maybe a sound-proofed room is a better idea.

Maybe a sound-proofed room is a better idea.

When asked about the email, Robinson stuck to the same line he did after the memo was made public. He argued that it’s another sign that his office never had any sway over LaBerge.

“This was one more glaring piece of evidence that she was not and never had been our pawn, but yet that was the prevailing narrative of the time. Stifled screams into a pillow is exactly how it felt. We were speaking truth but no one would listen. I think people believe us now, and I’m currently only using bedding textiles for their prescribed purpose.”

More broadly, it underlines the complicated – an understatement – relationship between Deal’s staff and LaBerge. It’s hard to keep up with all the twists, but the latest revelation showed that LaBerge sent Deal’s aides cutesy texts hours after she claimed she was pressured to settle complaints against the governor and later asked his staff for a recommendation to a vaunted program.

Democrats say the contact between the Deal aides and the ethics chief handling his complaints into his 2010 campaign demands an independent investigation. Republicans say it was harmless, akin to a defendant contacting a prosecutor ahead of a trial. Every inch in between will be ceaselessly vetted through November.

In the meantime, a suggestion: In case the governor wanted to give Robinson a wedding gift for his upcoming nuptials, might we recommend sound-proofing his office?

27 comments
Starik
Starik

In State government there's a lot of unspoken and unwritten rules; one is that when the Governor appoints a person to a position he expects loyalty in return.  That's not unreasonable, but there's a line that shouldn't be crossed.  A good rule is to ask yourself whether a particular action or inaction would be b-a-d if it became public. 

HueyMahl
HueyMahl

Interesting.  Robinson is a pillow-biter.  Who knew?

Claver
Claver

It's not complicated.  Someone with the ability to make or break her career threatened her, and she obviously did not like it and continued to resent it.  But, she had two choices at the time:  Make nice, pretend to be friends, and try to get something out of it (how about a recommendation to the Leadership class?); or, hold firm and risk getting punished (fired like her predecessor, cuts for her agency, etc). She chose option 1 and it seemed to work for a while.  Then, when it became clear after the whistle blower settlements that she was going to be the scapegoat anyway, she changed course and went into CYA mode.

SoGAVet
SoGAVet

Methinks the Gov and his staff doth protest too much.

EdUktr
EdUktr

So, the "bombshell" Holly LaBerge memo that suddenly doesn't look so credible—remains a key prop in Jim & Company's continuing efforts to undermine Governor Deal and boost Jason Carter's flagging campaign?




Kamchak
Kamchak

"I’m stuffing a pillow in my mouth to stifle my screams.”

In the words of the late great Lewis Grizzard: "Brother, I wouldna told that."

Bubba30342
Bubba30342

They played her, just like they played a lot of other people who were willing to grovel in hope of being rewarded.



coj
coj

Look, she was nice to us after we threatened her. No one does that, even if they are intimidated and cowed, right? Bullies believe intimidation is foreplay and acquiescence is passion.

NoahVale
NoahVale

Every inch in between will be ceaselessly vetted through November. "


And I'm sure we can count on you, Bluestein, to lead that inquisition.

honested
honested

'akin to a defendant contactin a prosecutor ahead of a trial', and when that occurs, it is fairly established what the prosecutor is supposed to do.

MoFaux
MoFaux

A rape victim making a joke to appease her captor, in order to not be raped again (or stall for time, to escape, etc.), was STILL raped.  What would be her motivation to lie about this?

JackClemens
JackClemens

"I think people believe us now." Delusion.

NWGAL
NWGAL

It is not atypical for an employee whose job has been threatened to try to mollify the employer. Writing cutesy emails is one method of not appearing to be a threat to the employer.

DS
DS

"I think people believe us now" --- Brian Robinson

No, I don't think so. 

Nathan Deal's office was involved in replacing Kalberman with LaBerge to stymie an investigation into Deal's 2010 campaign. We have sworn testimony in the Kalberman trial.

After Kalberman was replaced by LaBerge, the investigation that Kalberman had planned was never done. 

The LaBerge memo shows that staff from the governor's office were pressuring LaBerge to give Deal a slap on  the wrist, else the ethics commission might not get rule-making authority.

LaBerge and the ethics commission caved and gave Deal the slap on the wrist. Deal got what he wanted. Coercion worked.

Deal has lied about his office being involved with LaBerge being hired, lied about being involved with the investigation, and lied about using coercion to shape the outcome.

Sam Olens had a copy of the LaBerge memo, which shows evidence of coercion, but he did not reveal it to the judge in the Kalberman trial. The judge ruled that neither Deal nor his staff had to testify in the Kalberman trial because there was no evidence of coercion. Olens hid the evidence.

If Deal is innocent, why not welcome the investigation and clear his name? Doesn't he believe in due process of law?

Charles50
Charles50

@Claver Excellent post.  Of course she knew how she had gotten the job.  In order to keep her own she knew it meant not rocking the boat.  

honested
honested

@EdUktr 

The only Candidate for Governor with a flagging campaign is the one on the ballot with an 'R' next to his name.

Keep up!

STHornet1990
STHornet1990

@NoahVale The guilty always scream loudest when exposed. "You're picking on me! Stop it!"

honested
honested

@NoahVale 

And already devolution to blaming the messenger has occurred in the wrong-wing.

SoGAVet
SoGAVet

This is an excellent synopsis!!! Note that Kalberman prevailed, even without the memos - which would have only solidified her case.

Olens's actions are grounds for removal from office.

honested
honested

@DS 

Exactly!

Let's not forget that Holly LaBerge was only employed BECAUSE the Governor had already violated public trust in eliminating a capable investigator and staff who were well under way in exposing the Governor's transgressions.

The LaBerge affair is merely icing on the cake.