Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines. Hyosub Shin/hshin@ajc.com
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Delta CEO Ed Bastian on NRA flap: ‘Our values are not for sale’

On Thursday, the Legislature gave final approval to a tax bill after deleting a $40 million-a-year sales tax exemption on jet fuel -- an effort to punish Delta Air Lines for dissing the National Rifle Association.

This morning, we obtained a note that Delta CEO Ed Bastian has sent out to employees. The key line: “Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale.” Read the entire note here:

“This week, you have likely seen Delta in coverage of the national debate over gun control and security in U.S. schools. I want to take the opportunity to update you on how we got here and where we stand.

“On Saturday, Delta rescinded a one-time group travel discount for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, and asked the organization to remove our name and logo from their website. This decision followed the NRA’s controversial statements after the recent school shootings in Florida. Our discounted travel benefit for NRA members could be seen as Delta implicitly endorsing the NRA. That is not the case.

“I have heard from many of you over the last few days. Our people and our customers have a wide range of views on how to increase safety in our schools and public places, and we are not taking sides. Our objective in removing any implied affiliation with the NRA was to remove Delta from this debate.

“While Delta’s intent was to remain neutral, some elected officials in Georgia tied our decision to a pending jet fuel tax exemption, threatening to eliminate it unless we reversed course. Our decision was not made for economic gain and our values are not for sale. We are in the process of a review to end group discounts for any group of a politically divisive nature.

“None of this changes the fact that our home is Atlanta and we are proud and honored to locate our headquarters here. And we are supporters of the 2nd Amendment, just as we embrace the entire Constitution of the United States.

“I have tremendous respect and admiration for Governor Nathan Deal, and thank him for the work he has done on the jet fuel tax exemption. He is a great friend to Delta. I know this action by the state legislature troubled him as it does all of us.

“I know it is not comfortable to be caught in a highly emotional debate, and many of you have received questions from customers. We are at our best when we bring our customers and our world closer together. Hopefully, our decisions this week will serve this ultimate cause.

“I want to thank every one of you for your professionalism and continued focus on taking care of our customers every day.”

***

There are few cardinal sins in politics, but Houston Gaines may have violated one of them.

Last year, the Athens Republican was the 22-year-old wunderkind in a special election to fill the House seat of fellow GOPer Regina Quick, who had been tapped for a judgeship.

Only recently had Gaines been elected as president of the University of Georgia’s student government. He managed the 2014 re-election campaign of Athens Mayor Nancy Denson while still a college freshman.

But last Nov. 7, Gaines finished 424 votes behind Democrat Deborah Gonzalez, a local attorney.

That’s not the sin. Gaines raised more than $200,000 for his race, including maxed-out contributions from the likes of House Speaker David Ralston and state Rep. Terry England, the House Appropriations Committee chair.

When election night arrived, Gaines still had $96,863.60 in his campaign kitty. And still does. That’s the sin. Returning the cash to some specific donors might have assuaged a few hard feelings at the state Capitol, but that hasn’t happened.

Qualifying begins Monday. Gaines is expected to make another bid for the seat, but assistance from within the state Capitol may be harder to find this time around.

***

God, guns and proof of citizenship are what U.S. Rep. Tom Graves is about, according to our AJC colleague Alexis Stevens:

Two guns, a driver’s license, credit cards, birth certificates, a laptop and a Bible were among the items stolen from a parked SUV belonging to U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ga., according to Atlanta police.

Graves and a staff member, Travis Loudermilk, had just left a Baker Street deck Saturday night when the two realized items were missing from the GMC Yukon, according to an Atlanta police report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Loudermilk is the son of U.S. Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Ga.

***

We’ve written at length about U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s Donald Trump strategy: embracing the president but also keeping him at arm’s length. That was not the case on Thursday evening, when the three-term Republican senator came out firmly against the administration’s new, steep tariffs on steel and aluminum imports. 

Isakson warned the new duties would harm local manufacturers: "Georgia has made great strides in attracting manufacturing jobs and building our workforce to meet that new demand,” Isakson said in a statement. “These tariffs on aluminum and steel are not only a new tax on American consumers, but also an impediment to economic growth."

But it’s not just manufacturing that has Isakson and plenty of others worried. Georgia is a major exporter of poultry and soybeans. Both commodities could become retaliation targets.

***

State Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, has landed yet another endorsement in his bid for lieutenant governor. From the press release:

Former U.S. Senator Mack Mattingly, the first Republican elected statewide since Reconstruction, has endorsed David Shafer for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia.

“David Shafer is a Republican stalwart who has worked tirelessly to build our party and elect our candidates,” said Mattingly.

***

We’re late in reporting this, but Jim Gillis – a quieter member of the once-powerful Gillis family based in Soperton – died this week at the age of 101. The funeral was Wednesday.

Gillis served a single term as a state senator, from 1945 to 1946. But he was a Democratic heavyweight and served as Georgia campaign manager for Lyndon Johnson in his 1964 presidential election bid.

***

The right-leaning Washington Examiner breaks down the way Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue is approaching his role on a newly-created bipartisan panel tasked with finding ways to overhaul the budget process. Many of the Republican’s ideas overlap with those included in a bill he introduced in 2016 that didn’t gain much traction, such as penalizing lawmakers for not completing their annual government funding work on time.

***

Speaking of Georgia’s senators, both David Perdue and Johnny Isakson made the top 50 in Roll Call’s annual rankings of the wealthiest members of Congress.The Capitol Hill newspaper ranked Perdue as the richest member of the state’s delegation and Congress’ 31st wealthiest lawmaker overall, with a net worth of $15.8 million. Isakson is 47th overall, with $9.7 million. Six of Georgia’s 16 federal lawmakers have negative net worths, according to the list.

***

Jon Ossoff said he’d stay involved in politics even after he decided not to run for Congress this year. And since that announcement, the former Sixth District candidate has made a flurry of endorsements. We’ve already told you that Ossoff is backing Democrat Lucy McBath in her challenge to state Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta. Ossoff has also announced his support for Democrat Mike Wilensky’s bid for the open Dunwoody-based House seat being vacated by Republican Tom Taylor, as well as and Josh McLaurin’s campaign for a Sandy Springs-centered House seat being given up by Wendell Willard, a Republican.

***

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