Jury to begin deliberating ethics trial as Gov. Deal keeps his distance

Nathan Deal - The Elephant in the Courtroom from Georgia Democrat on Vimeo.

A jury is set to begin deliberating this morning in the civil lawsuit of the former head of the state ethics commission who claims she was forced out for aggressively investigating Gov. Nathan Deal's 2010 campaign. The governor's political opponents have been closely watching.

The above video was produced by the Democratic Party of Georgia, which labels a judge's decision to prevent Deal from testifying in the trial as one of his few bright spots in the past week.

Our colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin has been in court every step of the way, and reported last night how Stacey Kalberman, the aforementioned agency head, testified she would take her old job back "in a heart beat" despite her misgivings.

No matter the jury's verdict, expect Deal to continue to attempt to distance himself from the ethics agency. His office has brushed aside allegations that surfaced in lawsuits that the current head, Holly LaBerge, bragged of helping the governor skirt his problems and convincing him to give her a raise. His office sent over a statement earlier:

"We have no knowledge of what one employer said to another, but we can speak to the underlying facts," said Deal spokesman Brian Robinson. "The governor has said numerous times that he has never met with Holly LaBerge, nor has she ever discussed her salary with anyone in the governor's office."


Sarah Palin and Karen Handel did their best to depict David Perdue as an out-of-touch elitist on Thursday in the wake of his dismissive comments about his GOP rival's high school education. Someone sent us over a web review Perdue wrote to try to echo that point.

It's a review from Hayes & Hayes Outfitters, a premier dove hunting outpost in Argentina where rooms run thousands of dollars a night.

"The rooms, food, wine, entertainment and massages were each fantastic and really complemented the hunting. The hunting was better than anything I had heard or even imagined. It was truly unbelievable. Thanks you so much for making this the best hunting trip I ever had."

Karen Handel's camp had a little fun with the review this morning. From campaign manager Corry Bliss:

"David Perdue says you need foreign experience to serve in the US Senate. We know that Perdue's 'foreign experience' consist of shooting doves and getting massages at resorts in Argentina."


FoxNews talking heads took a few whacks at Perdue as well. You can take a gander at the entire clip above, but here's a few choice quotes:

Analyst Bob Beckel: "I tell you, it never ceases to amaze me, I’ve done over a hundred campaigns, there’s always somebody who says something stupid. And you’re right, what you said at the break, men generally about women.  What is this guy thinking?"

Pundit Dana Perino: "Apparently this guy is well liked by some people in the state. But one of the reasons you have a primary is to figure out who’s going to be your best candidate to run against an opponent. This is a Republican primary we're talking about. I think that the voters in Georgia who are going to vote in the Republican primary have their answer. Not him."


The biggest applause at Palin's "surprise visit" to Handel's event was actually for a comment the former Secretary of State made about a potential November matchup.

"I would really love to see Michelle Nunn drop the 'war on women' on me," Handel said.

The AP got Handel backer Sue Everhart, the former Georgia GOP chair, to riff on that statement. Says Everhart:

"Karen can go toe-to-toe with (Nunn) because the men cannot," Everhart said. "Michelle Nunn looks like a Sunday school teacher. You go and be mean to her and people are going to say the men are beating up on her. But she and Karen can go toe-to-toe and it will just be two women in a catfight."


Meanwhile, the two Senate candidates who have been bombarding the TV airwaves for weeks are showing no signs of slowing down.

David Perdue is out with a new ad, which shows only a brief flash of his infamous babies and features a lot of him talking straight to camera about how he's going to bring a "bucket full of common sense" to Washington.

Rep. Jack Kingston, meanwhile, went a little more off-the-wall with an ad imagining a voicemail from President Barack Obama telling Kingston to "back off" Obamacare.

The approach lends itself to parody, though. We're told to expect a web-based rebuttal soon from the campaign of Rep. Paul Broun, in which House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calls to thank Kingston "for not being like those conservatives."

UPDATE 11:12 a.m.: Here's that Broun parody, featuring hits on earmarks and the debt ceiling.


MyAJC subscribers get a deep dive today on the First Congressional District primary race to replace Kingston, the first story in our statewide tour of the competitive U.S. House races this month.

Bob Johnson, a Savannah surgeon, becomes the third candidate in that race to go on the airwaves today with a bio ad in which he pledges: "I'll fight every day to stop Obama's liberal assault on our values."

Here's a snippet from the subscriber story on Johnson, the "most aggressive foil" to front-running state Sen. Buddy Carter of Pooler:

"No I wouldn't," he replied.


Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss voted Thursday to declassify a Congressional report about the CIA's enhanced interrogation program that includes accusations that the methods were ineffective and the agency lied about how useful they were.

Chambliss did so not because he agreed with the report, but because he wanted the public to judge it and everyone to move on. Here's what he told WABE-Radio's Denis O'Hayer about it this week:

"This is gonna be a political document that seeks to move the conversation away from Obamacare as we head into the election and talk about some ugly things that happened -- and I assure you, they are ugly. But when you say were they successful? Did we glean information from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed that helped us get Osama bin Laden? You bet we did."