Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle told executive Clay Tippins he supported “bad public policy” to deprive another rival of supposed help from an outside group, in a recording obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News.
Cagle’s conversation with Tippins, who finished fourth in the race, took place two days after the May 22 primary in Cagle’s campaign headquarters in DeKalb County. It was surreptitiously recorded on Tippins’ phone, which was in his coat pocket.
The recording begins with Tippins questioning the fallout involving Cagle and Tippins’ uncle, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, a Cagle supporter who resigned as Senate Education Committee chairman shortly after the legislative session ended.
Tippins: I know he’s had a good relationship with you, and I’m not dumb to the fact that it changed after that. Why did you do that? If you tell me it’s because of political necessities, dude, I get it. I walked into here saying, what I did to you is political necessity.
Cagle: It’s exactly what I told Lindsey, and I will tell you, too: Lindsey and I politically see things eye to eye.
Tippins: Because y’all are both pragmatists, as am I.
Cagle: Absolutely. And we know that we’ve got to move the ball. Public education, he and I — I wouldn’t say we are completely in agreement with everything, but I would say 95-plus percent.
Tippins: Which is a lot, if you agree 95 percent of the time.
Cagle: And listen, Lindsey — there’s a reason I put him as education chair. Because it is my biggest issue, and it’s the issue that I’m the most passionate about, that I care the most, it’s where I focus my efforts. And Lindsey is the guy I can trust to get it done. So, I just told Lindsey point-blank. I said, ‘Lindsey, the SSO bill, I’ve got to have it.’
Tippins: Why did you have to have it? I know you rely upon him, and he felt — he knows his (expletive). I know you trust his judgment on education, and he knows his (expletive). Why did you have to have that so bad? Because I love him, and I can see the pain on him …
Cagle: It was bad, it was bad.
Tippins: Why? You turned on him. And there are reasons for that. Why did you have to have it?
Cagle: Exactly the reason I told Lindsey, that you need to listen to: It ain’t about public policy. It’s about (expletive) politics. There’s a group that was getting ready to put $3 million behind Hunter Hill. Mr. Pro-Choice. I mean, Mr. Pro-Charters, Vouchers. …
Tippins: So someone’s going to put $3 million into his or yours and –
Cagle: No, no, no: They weren’t going to put it into mine. They were going to back Hunter. The deal had already been done. … Every year, every year I killed that bill with Lindsey. We beat it to a pulp …
Tippins: Who was he talking to that was going to do that for him …?
Cagle: The Walton Foundation.
Tippins: The Walton Foundation?
Cagle: Yes. Yes. … And that’s all they care about. It’s their only issue. And $3 million in an IE (independent expenditure) –
Tippins: Oh, no. If he got $3 million from the Walton Foundation, he’d have been money. That makes him formidable.
Cagle: Oh, yeah. Yeah. He ran out of money in his own campaign. He had nothing to spend down the finish line. But had he had $3 million behind him, against me?
Cagle: Back to Lindsey … I said, ‘Lindsey, I’ve got to have it. … This is not about policy. This is about politics.’ And he said, ‘Let me just resign so you can do what you want to do.’
Tippins: I think that’s what hurt him. He actually thought you were going to back him on it. …
Cagle: He’s upset with me. And I talked to him today. … This is the deal: I said, Lindsey, ‘I’ve got to have it. I’ve got to have that bill out of committee. Either you’re going to give me that bill out of committee, or I’m going to have to work around you. Because this is not about policy, this is about politics.’
I said, ‘I’m not going to let you resign, because you’re too good a friend. And I don’t want this thing blowing up on you and I on this. But what I really want you to do is give me a bill that you can live with and that I can live with. And I gave him some parameters he could never get comfortable with.
I said: ‘Lindsey, you need to understand this bill is going to happen. It’s going to happen.’
Tippins: Because it had to, to keep the money away from Hunter?
Cagle: Yeah. I mean, I was playing defense. I’m being honest with you.
Tippins: There are so many things I’d do different if I did my race over again. But the super PAC money is a really big deal. I mean, you know.
Cagle: That’s the reason there’s one out there. You just don’t know what’s coming.
Tippins: How do you keep Brian (Kemp) from getting that stuff? That $3 million they were going to shop around to the Georgia governor’s race — how do you keep him from getting that stuff in the runoff if Hunter goes to him?
Cagle: There’s just no way they could back anybody else. No way. No way. And again, because they wanted that $100 million SSO (Student Scholarship Organizations tax credit). And, you know, and I was the only guy standing in the way. Is it bad public policy? Between you and me, it is. I can tell you how it is a thousand different ways.
And Lindsey, to his credit, which I love and I value, is he’s a man of principle. And he’s at a place in his life where, you know what, he doesn’t give a (expletive), and he can go home and he’ll be fine. He ain’t looking for another race.
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.