Living in Spin City: The rapid aftermath of a judge's denunciation and $20k in fines

Oh, the spinning that took place within minutes of a Fulton County judge's decision to fine the top aide of the state ethics commission and the attorney general's office $20,000 for withholding evidence:

-- Edward Lindsey, the hired lawyer for the state’s office of lawyers, heaped blame on Holly LaBerge, executive secretary of the state ethics commission, disagreeing with Judge Ural Glanville’s verdict, but expressing gratitude for the jurist’s recognition of “the ethical dilemmas faced by the Department of Law when confronted with a ‘dishonest and nontransparent client.’”


-- The re-election campaign of Attorney General Sam Olens pushed out a statement signed by several former State Bar presidents, including Jay Cook, Ben Easterlin, Jimmy Franklin, and Robert Ingram and current president Charles “Buck” Ruffin.

They note that the attorney general was not named in the judge’s condemnation:

“It is clear that this was a good faith discovery dispute that is very common in civil litigation. It should also be noted, that both in the plaintiff’s motion and in the judge’s order, AG Sam Olens is not mentioned. This was a decision by a career attorney in the department of law who was constitutionally and ethically bound to zealously represent his client. The department's attorneys have no choice in picking their clients when it comes to state employees. Today's ruling shows just how difficult at times that task can be.”

-- Greg Hecht, the Democratic candidate for attorney general, declared that the omission of Olens’ name in the order matters not a whit:

"Today’s sanctions are further proof that Sam Olens has once again failed Georgia as a lawyer and a leader. As Attorney General, Olens failed to prosecute corruption and has been sanctioned for misconduct.

"Because Olens failed to investigate corruption in 2011, taxpayers have already paid over $3 million to whistleblowers in this case. So I am calling for Attorney General Olens to pay the $10,000 sanctions fine out of his own pocket.”

-- Per usual, Democrat Jason Carter's gubernatorial campaign was quick to jump. The Atlanta state senator said he was "deeply troubled" with the state's top lawyers and ethics official who "worked so hard to keep Gov. Deal from testifying."

“Georgia taxpayers are now on the hook for millions of dollars related to this case and Gov. Deal’s cover-up, and we still don’t have answers," said Carter. "Georgia deserves honest leaders and the kind of strong ethics reform that I’ve advocated for years.”


Fred Hochberg, chairman of the Export-Import Bank, will make a swing through Atlanta on Friday, touting the credit agency’s support for 205 Georgia companies and their exports, to the tune of $5 billion. The agency/bank requires congressional re-authorization by the end of this month, or it disappears.

The Export-Import Bank underwrites deals between U.S. companies and businesses and governments from countries with limited or no access to capital. U.S. aircraft manufacturers are major benefactors – but tea partyers have criticized the bank’s role as another example of crony capitalism.

Hochberg bill be visiting Purafil, a Doraville manufacturer and exporter of air filtration systems.


James Richardson, an Atlanta resident and former spokesman and adviser for the Republican National Committee and two governors, has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post, in which he argues that he and his partner have a right to marriage. It includes these paragraphs:

It’s not always easy to love Georgia, or love in it. Our state constitution explicitly forbids same-sex unions, and the local economy remains defiantly sluggish. Yet in spite of its blemishes, my would-be groom and I are deeply committed to our community, one whose values of faith and family we share.

On Saturday we huddled with 90,000 of our closest friends in approaching-100-degree heat to cheer on the University of Georgia Bulldogs in the season opener. And this Sunday, as those before it, we’ll be in the pews of the same evangelical church we’ve quietly attended for years. We bless our suppers, we pay our taxes, and we own a home in the suburbs. Norman Rockwell would have thought us boring, because, frankly, we are.

But even if we failed, or refused on principle, to cross straight America’s bourgeois threshold for normalcy, gay people deserve the same the legal and moral considerations — and rights — enjoyed by all others. They are Americans whose rights were granted by God and the grit of their forbearers, yet they are forced to defend their love, and the various planes on which it may be judged (constitutional, cultural and economic), to distressing and revolting ends.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce will endorse U.S. Rep. John Barrow again, one of few Democrats the business lobby gets behind. The Chamber endorsed Barrow in 2012 and spent $100,000 on a TV ad on his behalf.

Roll Call reports that the endorsement is coming Friday:

"Barrow is the fourth Democrat this cycle to receive the backing of the chamber, a pro-business group that spends millions in federal elections usually in support of Republicans. The others include Rep. Scott Peters, D-Calif., a top GOP target who was endorsed Wednesday, along with Reps. Henry Cuellar of Texas and Jim Costa of California."


Earlier this year, Georgia Right to Life broke with National Right to Life in a schism that had a lot to do with the more aggressive personhood movement and the personality of GRTL president Dan Becker.

Well, now Personhood USA is cutting ties with Becker in an apparent trademark dispute. From a Personhood USA email to supporters, obtained by Zpolitics:

"From everything Dan Becker had told us about his vision of NPA while he was in our employment. We had great hopes that it would be a complement to the Personhood movement, a counterpart to Personhood USA. Instead it appears that National Personhood Alliance is trying to replace Personhood USA by using our structures and Intellectual property.

"NPA has incorporated in Georgia as a 501c4 under the name “Personhood Inc.” and will be doing business as “Personhood”, Violating Personhood USA’s trademark of Personhood. In addition, the emails and documents we have seen indicate that they intended to use our logos, branding, and intellectual property.

"One of the main concerns here is duplication of focus and confusion among all grassroots supporters.

"When we contacted Dan and asked that NPA stop using our logos and name, he agreed to stop using our logos and to allow us to preview any new logos before they are implemented, but he has refused to un-incorporate Personhood Inc. and suggested we enter into arbitration."


U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss took a whack Wednesday at President Barack Obama's comments on the Islamic State. From a prepared statement  by the Georgia Republican and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee:

“As I have stressed for some time, the United States must destroy ISIL now so that this dangerous terrorist organization cannot continue to carry out attacks against Americans or on American soil. That’s why I’m extremely disappointed in the president’s comments today indicating his goal to make ISIL a ‘manageable problem.’ 

"His statements and mixed messages failed to show the strong leadership and clear strategy needed to eliminate ISIL as a growing threat to the west. After meetings with NATO leadership and our allies in Brussels, it is of the utmost importance that the United States works with our partners to find a resolution now. The west cannot continue to stand by while this group continues to kill innocent persons as it has already done with the appalling murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. The time to stop and destroy ISIL is now.”


Citizen-journalist Nydia Tisdale and her new attorney, William Finch, were on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show” on Wednesday, to discuss her travails at a GOP rally in Dawsonville last month. The pair made little news, except for the part where Finch said federal lawsuits are in the works against the Dawson County sheriff’s department and the owner of Burt’s Farm:

Far more entertaining was video posted by Tisdale from an Aug. 2 GOP event in Roswell, in which she catches Gov. Nathan Deal greeting a Democratic tracker:

From her transcript:

GOV. DEAL: Hey, how are you doing?

DEM. TRACKER: Good morning, Governor.

GOV. DEAL: Very nice to meet you.

DEM. TRACKER: Thank you.

GOV. DEAL: I hope my people treat you with respect. That’s what we expect.

DEM. TRACKER: That’s good to hear. I appreciate that.

GOV. DEAL: When it’s all over with, I’ll appreciate your footage.

The Deal campaign says he actually said he appreciates her vote, but the audio is muffled. Good times.


Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball has a worthwhile explainer on why a Democrat’s decision to drop out of the U.S. Senate race in Kansas actually jeopardizes the Republican push for control of the chamber. It begins thusly:

Washington Republicans were reaching for the Pepto-Bismol Wednesday night when the already intriguing Kansas Senate race took a dramatic turn: Chad Taylor, the Democratic candidate, is leaving the race. This gives independent businessman Greg Orman a clean shot at incumbent Sen. Pat Roberts (R). It’s been clear for much of the summer that national Republicans were going to have to spend substantial sums to save embattled, divisive Gov. Sam Brownback (R) in his reelection contest. Now they will have to mount a parallel rescue operation to save Roberts, too.


"Honestly, we don’t even know how to begin telling you about this." That was the Democratic Party of Georgia's dispatch to supporters after the video emerged of GOP bigwig Randy Evans' attempt to draw a line between President Barack Obama's administration and the tumult in Ferguson over the shooting death of an unarmed black teen.

The party also tried to connect the dots between Gov. Nathan Deal and Evans, who is his attorney. From the release:

This is Nathan Deal’s lawyer. This is Nathan Deal’s Georgia. This is Georgia’s Republican Party. And this is not okay.  

This kind of behavior from Nathan Deal’s administration is unacceptable and does nothing to advance a substantive conversation about the fact that a young, unarmed African American man was shot to death by local authorities. And the remarks certainly give no comfort to a family and community that just laid that young man to rest.


Forbes magazine singles out your state in a look at Tesla Motors’ all-electric car and a direct-to-consumer business model that cuts out traditional retailers:

Automobile dealers are not amused, since this leaves them completely out of the process, with no chance to earn profits either from the new car sales or the potential trade-ins. The Tesla sales model does not give me or you a chance to profit either, but the difference between the National Automobile Dealers Association and us is that NADA has access to politicians in state capitols all across the country.

So far, Tesla’s direct sales have been blocked in New Jersey, Texas, Colorado, and Arizona, with battles ongoing in New York, Massachusetts, Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Georgia, and Ohio. Expect the battlefield to continue to spread as auto dealers use their political power (and campaign contributions) to secure a piece of the action.

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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.