Karen Handel's tax return challenge gets two takers -- but not the big fish

On the GOP side of the U.S. Senate race, Karen Handel's challenge to disclose tax returns has landed two takers, while the rest won't go further than the legally required financial disclosures.

Handel's offer was targeted mostly at businessman David Perdue, a millionaire who is running as a financially savvy outsider against Handel and three sitting congressmen. But Perdue's not releasing any more than the standard U.S. Senate candidate disclosure, which shows his net worth between $11.9 million and $48 million.

“I’d be happy to do that,” he said, adding: “My tax returns for the last five, 10 years, if she wants to do 10 years I’d be glad to do that. I think people want to know and they deserve to know. I’m all for that.”

Gingrey's financial disclosure showed that in 2012 he made between $490,000 and $1.65 million in salary and investment income and his assets were valued between $2.72 million and $6.29 million.

Rep. Jack Kingston also is expected to reveal his tax returns soon. His financial disclosure with the U.S. House is unusually thick as it includes investment account statements. His wealth stands in the range of $2.18 million and $3.19 million.

But Rep. Paul Broun is declining the offer, citing the voluminous financial details he's provided since joining Congress in 2007. His most recent disclosure shows more liabilities than assets.

Handel's tax returns show that she and her husband Steve consistently earned well into the six figures. Steve Handel runs a few firms, including the Techgov mobile technology company, and Karen heads Handel Strategy Group. Their joint income fluctuates, ranging from a low of $129,000 in 2012 to tallies of $265,000 in 2011 and roughly $300,000 in 2013.

The filings show she has earned about $9,000 in royalties from her book, "Planned Bullyhood."

In 2013 the Handels paid $80,446 in taxes, for an effective rate of 26.3 percent. If Perdue released his returns revealing his rate is much lower (a likely scenario given that capital gains are taxed at a lower rate) it would be an invitation for the kinds of attacks that dogged Mitt Romney when he released his returns in 2012.

Perdue's decision not to release his returns could be construed as a shift from an interview with Channel 2 Action News' Lori Geary when he first got in the race last year and Geary asked how much of Perdue's financial information we would see. Perdue's response:

"Everything. I have no problem in that. I'm not the wealthiest guy, probably even in this race, but I'm going to tell you that I want to get there and make a difference. And if that's what it takes, I'm going to be totally transparent."

Here's the video:

Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey replied with this:

"In the time since his first interview as a candidate last year, David has produced detailed personal financial information for the public. After going through that process, at this point it seems that anything more only satisfies some folks' voyeurism. "

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The seven Republican Senate candidates met for an Easter Eve matinee debate on Saturday, No. 6 of 7 scheduled by the Georgia GOP. Subscribers can read the Malloy take here, Bill Barrow from the AP rundown here or a compilation of tweets from the folks at Peach Pundit here.

Left on the cutting room floor of the AJC piece was a discussion we haven't heard much about in this primary: Global warming. Karen Handel, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey cast doubt on whether human-caused global warming is real. David Perdue and Jack Kingston -- perhaps thinking of the general election -- did not address climate science in their answers.

Perdue went for the economic argument:

"Of course we don't want to pollute our streams and destroy our air, but we also have to be picky. We have to have a way of life. We have to have an economy. And there's a balance. And when you politicize this the way it's been done over the last 20 years you lose that balance, and we've lost our competitive edge because of it. ...

"CO2 is the remaining problem with carbon -- with coal, sorry. But natural gas can produce 50 percent of the CO2 of coal and yet going to that strategy is not what the president wants. The Sierra Club and the EPA have joined forces to basically fight that, and wind and solar are nowhere near, technically, being the core provider of our power."

Jack Kingston talked about promoting nuclear energy, natural gas and more domestic oil production:

"If we can reduce the cost of gasoline, what a boon it would be to the economy and every Republican and conservative ought to be reminding everybody that this was the president who choked off our energy supplies. Ladies and gentlemen, let's build the Keystone pipeline."

By the way: The Obama administration's decision to delay a decision on the Keystone re-route, until the Nebraska state Supreme Court weighs in, likely will keep the pipeline issue unresolved through the November elections.

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From a New York Times article on Jeb Bush and the divisive role of Common Core in this year’s GOP primaries:

Some other former Republican governors who pushed the adoption of the Common Core agree with Mr. Bush. “There is a great deal of paranoia in the country today,” said Sonny Perdue, a former governor of Georgia, who was also instrumental in creating the program. “It’s the two P’s, polarization and paranoia.”

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Sonny’s cousin, U.S. Senate candidate David Perdue, is the subject of this attack website that popped up this week. Freelance detectives are welcome to tell us who’s behind it.

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On the other hand, David Perdue appears to be the candidate favored by Herman Cain, the former GOP presidential candidate and current WSB Radio host. Georgia Tipsheet captured the sound:

“You have a businessman who, like me when I ran, had never been in office, he is truly the outsider, and his name is David Perdue….The choice, in my mind, boils down to – do you want a congressman or do you want an accomplished businessman who has turned around a company, he has run corporations, he knows how to solve problems.”

Which means WSB Radio's talk crew is all over the map in the U.S. Senate race. Cain likes Perdue, Sean Hannity has endorsed Jack Kingston, and Erick Erickson has had nice things to say about Karen Handel.

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David Perdue also is getting some outside ammunition. We told you Friday about Citizens for a Working America, the Super PAC whacking Jack Kingston on the television airwaves.

In its public filing with the Federal Communications Commission, the group reveals it will "independently advocate for the election of David Perdue and/or for the defeat of his opponents." It lists Norm Cummings, a George H.W. Bush campaign and Republican National Committee veteran, as chairman and David Langdon, who has been involved in efforts to ban gay marriage, as treasurer.

The PAC had $91 on hand at the end of March, so the $500,000 for the Georgia race arrived quickly. The PAC won't report donors again until mid-July.

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Today is the last day to register to vote for the May 20 primaries. The Rev. Joe Lowery's group, Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, sends word that they'll have a table within the Five Points MARTA station from 2 to 6 p.m. today.

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One aftermath of David Pennington's ill-fated  "major announcement" came to light on Friday: He hired more help to corral us reporters.

Pennington's camp hired Megan Matteucci, a veteran public relations specialist and recent law school graduate who once worked at the AJC, to handle his public relations. We're told she'll be working with him part-time.

Deal's spokesman Brian Robinson welcomed her to the campaign in his own special way:

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The New York Times' Jonathan Martin paid Atlanta a visit to write about the tricky politics for Democrats when confronting Obamacare, and how Georgia's ticket-toppers are not using the issue to galvanize their base:

As of last month, about 140,000 Georgians had signed up for coverage through the law’s exchanges, and about 28 percent of those were ages 18 to 34. Of the uninsured population in the state, 47 percent are white, 37 percent black, 10 percent Hispanic and 4 percent Asian, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

Turnout among blacks in the state, who make up 30 percent of the registered voters, typically drops by about five percentage points in a midterm election, when the gap in black and white voter participation widens.

Increasing turnout beyond what is typical in nonpresidential years is particularly crucial to Democrats’ hopes here. But two Democratic scions in Georgia, Jason Carter, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, who is running for governor, and Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Senator Sam Nunn, a candidate for the Senate, are not invoking the health law as a way to stoke voter energy.

They have spoken in public about the law mostly to criticize it, did nothing to promote enrollment for insurance before last month’s deadline and declined interviews to even discuss the law. In a state where nearly 1.8 million people still lack medical insurance, the word “health” can scarcely be found on either candidate’s webpage.

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A robocall that was probably intended to measure support and test messages for Bob Barr in his effort to return to Congress hit Cobb County homes on Friday night. The automated survey made a quick pass at the GOP race for governor, but then devoted itself to the 11th District congressional race.

Why link Barr’s name to it? Because it asked if we’d be more favorable to his candidacy if a) we knew he’d been part of the Congress that balanced the budget in 1994; b) had years of prior service that would be counted as seniority when it came to committee assignments, c) that he had spent 17 years on the governing board of the National Rifle Association; and d) had been endorsed by Georgia Right to Life.

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Elsewhere in the 11th District race, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins of west Cobb County has endorsed Barry Loudermilk, a former Capitol colleague. Said Tippens: “Barry has a strong foundation, a stiff spine and a unique ability to find common ground when needed.”

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You could say rookie state Rep. Chuck Efstration is having quite a first few months in office. The Gwinnett Republican, elected in a special session just a few months ago, says Gov. Nathan Deal plans to sign three proposals he introduced later today.

One, House Bill 770, creates a new criminal offense called home invasion which gives judges the discretion to give life sentences to some offenders who break into homes. Two others make the offices of chief magistrate judge and probate judge nonpartisan in Gwinnett County.

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