Matt Lieberman, an entrepreneur and son of former U.S. Sen. Joseph Lieberman, on Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019, became the first Democrat to enter the race for retiring Republican Johnny Isakson s seat. (CONTRIBUTED)

The Jolt: When a U.S. Senate candidate’s dad is a lobbyist for a Chinese tech giant

Just three weeks ago, Matt Lieberman became the first – and so far, only – Democrat to announce for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Republican Johnny Isakson.

Already he’s got a relativity issue.

Roll Call, the D.C. newspaper, reports that former U.S. senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut is both an informal advisor on his son’s campaign, and a “hired gun” for ZTE, the Chinese tech giant whose 5G network is considered capable, by U.S. national security experts, of spying on users. From Roll Call:

As a registered ZTE lobbyist, Joe Lieberman has played a behind-the-scenes role in the company’s efforts in Washington. Matt Lieberman promises there is a wall between his father’s ZTE work and his campaign advisory role.

“If I am fortunate enough to be trusted with this Senate seat by the people of Georgia, I will, of course, abide stringently by all Senate ethics rules,” he said. “If there’s ever a gray area, I will err on the side of propriety.”

***

An interesting thought this morning from conservative pundit Erick Erickson, via Twitter:

I say this understanding his condition is frail and the trial would be burdensome, but I wonder if there is any thinking about Johnny Isakson staying in the Senate through an impeachment trial to spare the new guy having to deal with it.

***

The Democratic Party of Georgia will hold its biggest event of the year tonight. Two women, chairwoman Nikema Williams and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, will headline the annual fundraiser at the downtown Hyatt Regency in Atlanta.

Other speakers include House Minority Leader Bob Trammell of Luthersville, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Senate Minority Leader Steve Henson of Tucker. Another interesting name on the roster: The Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church and a potential U.S. Senate candidate. 

The event will focus on the push to “turn Georgia blue up and down the ballot in 2020” but the room will be buzzing about a few other developments:

-- The Nov. 20 presidential debate in Georgia, which -- as of this moment --has yet to find a home. That fact has begun to worry some Democrats.

-- President Donald Trump’s plan to visit Atlanta on Nov. 8. There’s also discussion of Trump appearing at local event designed to energize black Republican voters. In which case, the president’s Tuesday morning description of himself as a “lynching” victim will make a fine talking point.

-- Then there’s the matter of which Democrat will run in the race for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat. We’re hearing that DeKalb CEO Michael Thurmond and former U.S. attorney Ed Tarver are leading candidates.

Which could explain why Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton, an African-American Republican, compared notes with the governor last week about the possibility of his replacing Johnny Isakson in the U.S. Senate.

***

Last month, all nine U.S. House Republicans from Georgia stood behind President Trump as Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry. Four weeks later, we can't see any cracks in their support -- at least not publicly. 

Eight of them voted last night to advance a GOP resolution to censure House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who's leading the investigation. (Gainesville’s Doug Collins, a co-sponsor of the measure, was absent as he tended to a sick family member back in his district.)

Democrats ultimately blocked the non-binding measure in a narrow 218 to 185 party-line vote.

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Already posted this morning: Following a joint weekend appearance, U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff is drawing criticism from a rival’s campaign for trumpeting the support of one of the state’s most influential Democrats.

“Let me be clear ... every question should not be answered with, ‘John Lewis was hit by a brick 55 years ago,’” wrote Kendra Cotton, Teresa Tomlinson’s campaign manager, referring to Lewis’ presence on the Edmund Pettus bridge in Selma, Ala., during a bloody 1965 protest.

There’s a definite parallel here to complaints by rivals of former Vice President Joe Biden – about his frequent references to an eight-year relationship with President Barack Obama.

***

Our AJC colleague Scott Trubey reports that Attorney General Chris Carr filed a complaint late Monday, on behalf of Gov. Brian Kemp and state regulators, to temporarily shut down sterilization operations at the Becton Dickinson plant in Covington, days after air test results near the plant showed elevated levels of ethylene oxide, a known carcinogen:

The complaint alleges violations of the Georgia Air Quality Act and faults BD for failing to report the leak of 54.5 pounds of ethylene oxide from Sept. 15-22.

The complaint alleges BD “failed to recognize or disclose the duration and extent of the release,” initially stating it lasted only one day and totaled two pounds.

The company points that hospitals and other medical institutions rely on its sterilization process for many of the implements and materials they use. But crisis management types might find something excessive in this line from its official company response to the legal action:

As BD stated in a letter to Governor Kemp last week, the EPD has aided consistent misunderstanding and misplaced public hysteria about ethylene oxide.

Locals have just the opposite opinion of the state Environmental Protection Division. At a meeting with state lawmakers last week, Karen Hays, the head of the EPD’s air protection section, apologized for not publicizing the hazard sooner:

“If we had to do this over again, we would notify the public much sooner than we did,” Hays said. “We have learned. There are some lessons we will not forget.”

***

In a new op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, former U.S. senator Sam Nunn urges the Trump administration not to withdraw from a 27-year-old treaty that allows 34 countries -- including the U.S. and Russia -- to fly unarmed surveillance planes over one another's territories. Exiting the so-called Open Skies Treaty would "undermine trust between the U.S. and Russia and endanger American allies," the former Georgia senator says. 

"This important tool, known as overflight, has been especially useful for the U.S. and our allies to monitor Russian military activities. Even when relations between Moscow and Washington are tense, the Open Skies Treaty helps preserve a measure of transparency and trust," Nunn writes with former Secretary of State George Shultz and ex-Defense Secretary William Perry. 

***

Another new left-leaning political group has surfaced in Georgia ahead of the 2020 election season.

Emerge Georgia launched this week with plans to offer its signature training program -- a six-month, 70-hour regimen -- to Democratic women seeking elected office. 

The group, founded in 2002, has trained more than 4,000 women to run and now boasts 747 women in elected office across the nation. Among them are five Georgians: U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, state Sens. Jen Jordan and Zahra Karinshak and state Reps. Becky Evans and Shelly Hutchinson.

***

Another attorney has entered the race for an open Georgia Court of Appeals seat. Judy Farrington Aust, a veteran lawyer and founder of the Goodman McGuffey firm, joined the contest this week. 

“Having spent 30 years in the courtroom advocating for clients from practically every background, I am running to bring this wide range of experience to the bench,” she said. 

Her campaign is co-chaired by former Republican state lawmaker Ed Lindsey of Dentons and W. Ray Persons of King & Spalding. 

*** 

The Daily Report’s Jonathan Ringel opened his daily newsletter with this message:

The loud thud heard outside the state Supreme Court on Monday was the sound of 89 decisions getting tossed out the proverbial window. They were victims of a flawed precedent the justices are trying to fix around how to handle appeals from guilty pleas.

The court’s nine justices appeared split over what should happen next. Justice Nels Peterson was joined by three others in a concurring opinion urging the General Assembly to step in and “save us from ourselves.”

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