Political Insider blog 

AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns

Deal defends staff’s contact with ethics chief, comparing her to ‘prosecutor’

  • 4:56 pm Thursday, July 17th, 2014 by Greg Bluestein

Gov. Nathan Deal issued the liveliest defense yet to the bombshell ethics memo rocking his campaign for re-election.

The remarks came in an interview with Erick Erickson, a conservative talk show host on WSB Radio, as he faces mounting pressure to explain why his aides contacted the commission’s chair, Holly LaBerge, days before a key hearing. In the interview, he compared LaBerge to a prosecutor and the commission’s five members to judges.

It was a friendly interview in a friendly venue. Said Deal:

“There was no communication from me and my staff to the commission members. Holly LaBerge is sort of like a [More]

Second-guessing Sam Olens on the Holly LaBerge memo

  • 11:19 am Thursday, July 17th, 2014 by Greg Bluestein, Daniel Malloy and Jim Galloway


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:

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 [More]

Holly LaBerge’s memo and the queasy politics of ethics

  • 5:47 pm Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 by Jim Galloway

The Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission is a quasi-judicial agency – with a heavy emphasis on the “quasi,” as this week’s developments have shown.

To the point of queasiness.

Once upon a time, we had a State Ethics Commission to keep track of how money shapes Georgia politics. But four years ago, the word “ethics” was disappeared by an act of the Legislature and the signature of an exiting Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The renaming of the agency wasn’t accidental. It was cultural.

And it lies at the root of the sudden problem for Gov. Nathan Deal, posed by a 2012 memo that [More]

Ethics commission rejects complaint targeting Better Georgia

  • 3:07 pm Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 by Greg Bluestein

The wheels of Georgia’s ethics commission grind on, even amid the fallout of its director’s bombshell accusations.  You need proof?

The panel rejected a complaint filed by Cade Joiner of Macon, a GOP activist with a hefty political resume. Like another complaint filed days earlier, it accuses the left-of-center Better Georgia group of failing to abide by the restrictions of its federal tax category.

You can read the copy of the commission’s decision here, but the gist is that the panel found there were no documents supporting the allegation of a violation.

There’s no word on a resolution of the other complaint, which [More]

Sam Olens on the hot seat over Holly LaBerge memo

  • 9:55 am Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 by Greg Bluestein, Daniel Malloy and Jim Galloway

Looks like fallout from an ethics probe that, years later, has yet to touch bottom will be the theme of the day.

Late Tuesday, Attorney General Sam Olens issued Said Olens:

“Our civil lawyers determined it was not responsive to the discovery request in the civil litigation.”

In other words, the whistleblowers’ attorneys didn’t ask the right question that might have prompted the memo’s release. However, Olens said he did advise LaBerge to turn it over when the feds asked for relevant documents.

Not everyone is buying into the attorney general’s distinction. “If you gave it to the FBI, why wouldn’t you give it [More]

Sam Olens explains a ‘frustrating,’ explosive memo — and an opposing view

  • 6:05 pm Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 by Greg Bluestein

Attorney General Sam Olens just released his explanation of why the bombshell memo from ethics chief Holly LaBerge claiming that Gov. Nathan Deal’s aides pushed her to make complaints go away only emerged in public yesterday.

Take note of the last line, where he rejects Democrat Jason Carter’s call for an independent probe into the claims. We also have a serious opposing view.

Here goes:

My office has received a number of questions regarding the news this week about the Ethics Commission and Holly LaBerge’s Memorandum of Record. I want to address as many of them as I can now.

From the [More]

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

  • 11:10 am Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 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 [More]

Johnny Isakson: We need a 72-hour turnaround for Central American border kids

  • 9:48 am Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 by Greg Bluestein, Daniel Malloy and Jim Galloway

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, in an interview with Martha Zoller and Tim Bryant “Anybody coming from a non-contiguous country actually had to have a hearing before an immigration authority or immigration judge. That takes up to four to six weeks.

“We need to amend that law, to say that they can be sent home within 72 hours, like somebody from Mexico or Canada – and stem the tide. Once they see that we’re going to send them home, the attractiveness of trying to get into the United States of America will be diminished and will lessen the pressure on the border.”


Jason [More]

Holly LaBerge: ‘My reputation is destroyed. I am toxic.’

  • 8:18 am Tuesday, July 15th, 2014 by Jim Galloway

The AJC’s Aaron Gould Sheinin broke the news first, but Dale Russell of WAGA snagged the only interview with Holly LaBerge, who last night went public with her accusations that, in 2012, she was threatened and cajoled by top aides to Gov. Nathan Deal to reduce or dismiss ethics complaints arising from Deal’s 2010 campaign for governor.

LaBerge said her public production of a memo recounting the contact at the time was a matter of self-protection. “My reputation has been destroyed,” she said. “I am toxic.” Watch below:

Why Holly LaBerge went public

  • 5:50 pm Monday, July 14th, 2014 by Greg Bluestein

At the state Capitol, the question on every set of lips is something like this: Why has Holly LaBerge, executive secretary of the beleaguered state ethics commission, come forward at this moment with such explosive information.

We have the answer.

But first, here’s your lede, from our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin:

The head of the state ethics commission said she was threatened and pressured by Gov. Nathan Deal’s office in 2012 to “make the complaints” against the governor “go away,” according to a memo obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

While on vacation in July 2012, state ethics commission director Holly LaBerge says she [More]