A biting tit-for-tat in a fight over House Speaker David Ralston's law practice

As guilty pleasures go, the only thing that beats reading other people’s mail is a court document with an account of private conversations involving powerful people.

A second overseer in the State Bar of Georgia’s case against House Speaker David Ralston has resigned less than a week after he was appointed, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

 Retired DeKalb County Judge Robert Castellani stepped down last week after Ralston’s attorney — former Gov. Roy Barnes — questioned whether Castellani had a conflict of interest because his pension and pay as a senior judge are set by the Legislature.

 Barnes’ move , however, was less about the judge than it was a volley fired at the Bar. Attorneys for the Bar had previously called on Mark Dehler, the first “special master” in the case, to resign after being named head of the Judicial Qualifications Commission. Dehler resigned late last month before the Bar filed a motion to call for his ouster.

You can read the former governor’s biting account of the conversation behind this tit-for-tat right here:

And here’s the State Bar of Georgia’s contention that the former governor has his facts wrong:

***

Some good sentences from Tom Baxter of the Saporta Report, on the disappearance of Jefferson-Jackson dinners from Democratic calendars:

It ... reflects a modern tendency to which the party has become prone, that of gravitating toward semantic, symbolic change, such as defining an act as a hate crime or bringing down the Confederate battle flag, as a substitute for real change, such as doing something about guns.

It’s this tendency which gives the Trumpian reaction to political correctness such bite. Voters, wherever they are on the ideological spectrum, understand that much of the political debate they’re being invited into is about naming things, not changing things.

***

Here's a fight coming to a Gold Dome near you. The Anti-Defamation League announced that it will work to pass hate-crime laws in the five states that do not have them: Georgia, South Carolina, Arkansas, Indiana and Wyoming.

ADL announced the initiative at the memorial for lynching victim Leo Frank. From the press release:

“The recent hate-based murders in Charleston by a white supremacist is a wake-up call  that the time is now to bring strong hate crime laws to all 50 states – including South Carolina  and Georgia which lack them entirely,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL National Director.

Look for this to become wrapped up with discussions of religious liberty legislation.

***

It's no surprise that the latest phase of Georgia's water wars fight with Florida is brutally expensive. Here are some of the numbers that pop out in the latest legal status update filed by the state:

  • 1.4 million: The number of pages of documents Georgia has so far produced for the lawsuit.
  • 50: The approximate number of full-time attorneys now dedicated to document review for Georgia.
  • 7: Number of federal agencies so far involved in the legal back-and-forth.
  • 33 and counting:The number of "nonparties" who have been subpoenaed by Georgia in the case. They have so far produced nearly 200,000 pages of documents alone.

***

The Democratic Party of Georgia just got a little smaller. The Rome News-Tribune reported that Floyd County Sheriff Tim Burkhalter and Clerk of Superior Court Barbara Penson have bolted to the GOP. From the story:

“Over the last several years I’ve put a lot of thought and prayers into this,” Burkhalter said. “Once I made the decision, I’m 100 percent all in.” Burkhalter said deep family ties with the Floyd County Democratic Party, which his mother Sarah Burkhalter chaired for many years, made the decision all the more difficult.

“I’m not leaving the Democratic Party, they left me,” Penson said.

***

Well, that settles it. Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., in a conversation with Fox News' Greta van Susteren, predicted that Hillary Clinton will not win the Democratic nomination because of the ongoing email controversy, and that a free-for-all is imminent:

Said Gingrich:

"Democrats need to worry about [Bernie] Sanders because if he keeps running and he keeps gaining momentum and keeps gaining supporters there is a morning when he in fact becomes genuinely formidable. This is a party which likes socialism. This is a party which likes his very dovish foreign policy. I don't think t's impossible to imagine Sanders ending up the Democratic nominee. ...

"If Hillary in fact starts to implode you're going to see a vacuum like you've not seen in many, many years and that will pull in an amazing number of [candidates]. I'm sure John Kerry is waiting for his Nobel Prize speech and then promptly announce to run."

Of Donald Trump, Gingrich said: "He is a phenomenon," comparing the billionaire to a super-villain:

"It's like a science fiction film where you shoot at him and he gets bigger. And you're trying to figure out, maybe oxygen will poison him or something. But it's literally, you're dealing with somebody who's totally different from anyone in modern politics."

***

Over at the Washington Post, David Fahrenthold has a great rundown of Donald Trump's shifting platform-on-the-fly, in light of his immigration policy roll-out.

***

Once you start rising, the hits start coming. Witness this examination of Carly Fiorina's business record by the Boston Globe's Annie Linskey:

Fiorina took over Hewlett-Packard in July 1999 as the company was stalling with a “mandate for radical change,” according to a Harvard Business School paper on her tenure there.

Her mission was to “reinvent HP to lead in the Internet age.”

Her tenure there was criticized by some for poor strategic decisions and causing employee morale to plummet. “Her leadership of HP was a total disaster for the company,” said Michael Beer, a professor emeritus at Harvard Business School who has written a book about the firm.

From the New York Times' Andrew Ross Sorkin:

In September of 2001, I remember sitting in a theater in midtown Manhattan, listening raptly as Mrs. Fiorina announced Hewlett-Packard’s merger with Compaq and boasted about the combined company’s prospects.

“Hang with us,” she said on that same day in a conference call with reporters. “It’s going to be a great party.”

The party never happened, but the hangover was brutal. Hewlett-Packard is still recovering from the ill-conceived merger nearly 15 years later, and recently decided to split the company up. There were some 30,000 layoffs. Its stock price plunged and badly lagged its competition.

***

The New York Times' Jonathan Martin reports that Georgia GOP strategist Scott Rials was recently recruited a Scott Walker campaign consultant, but Rials did not want to leave Atlanta:

A consultant to Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin’s presidential campaign telephoned a Georgia-based Republican strategist last week to sound him out about working for Mr. Walker, a sign that he is considering staff changes at a moment when his campaign has been eclipsed by Donald J. Trump.

Mike McElwain, a partner at the media consulting firm that Mr. Walker has retained, called the strategist, Scott Rials, to ask whether he was available to move to Madison, Wis., to join the campaign.

“It was more of a, ‘would you be interested call,’” said Mr. Rials, who worked for Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry in the 2012 campaign. “It wasn’t clear what exactly the job was.” He stressed that no formal offer was presented.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.

About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
X