OZY analyzed the finances of candidates in the 56 most competitive U.S. House districts and made a comparison with Democratic candidate for governor Stacey Abrams, who has set up a payment plan with the Internal Revenue service. The analysis found a large number of the office seekers carried significant amounts of debt, but “of the nearly 400 House candidates, only three owed back taxes — and none near the $54,000 Abrams owed.” KENT D. JOHNSON/kdjohnson@ajc.com

Capitol Recap: Analysis finds Georgia hopeful’s tax debt sets her apart

There’s nothing unique about Stacey Abrams having debt, even as a candidate for higher office.

An analysis OZY conducted of the 56 most competitive U.S. House districts showed that roughly two-thirds of the candidates owed money to somebody, and at least 65 of those aspiring Congress dwellers carried more than $50,000 in non-mortgage debt.

But the type of debt — federal taxes — is a difference-maker.

OZY’s Nick Fouriezos, who can claim a number of bylines in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s archives, wrote that the same analysis found that “of the nearly 400 House candidates, only three owed back taxes — and none near the $54,000 Abrams owed.”

“What’s more,” Fouriezos wrote, “Abrams has already donated $50,000 to her own campaign, opening her up to criticisms that she would rather fund her political ambitions than pay back the federal government (her campaign notes she is on a payment plan to pay back that debt).”

Abrams’ debt, which the Democratic candidate for governor has attributed in part to helping pay her parents’ medical bills, has been the subject of attacks by Kemp and his allies. Meanwhile, Abrams made it part of her stump speech with the aim of showing she faces the same problems many Georgians do.

Fouriezos captured this scene:

“In a live Atlanta taping of the popular liberal podcast Pod Save America in June, Abrams deadpans to the crowd, unprompted: ‘You may have heard I have some debt,’ she says, adding that she has made good money, and spent it on others. When a woman in the audience starts to cheer loudly, Abrams breaks off her sentence, lifts a fist and smiles: ‘Yes – yay, debt!’ ”

Southern offensive: Georgia U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson took notice of at least one nugget from reports about Bob Woodward’s new book looking at President Donald Trump’s White House: the president’s treatment of U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In the book, “Fear,” Woodward describes Trump as calling Sessions a “traitor.” Then it gets nasty.

“This guy is mentally retarded. He’s this dumb Southerner. … He couldn’t even be a one-person country lawyer down in Alabama,” Trump is quoted as saying.

Isakson, in an interview with The Washington Post, had a message for Trump, delivered with a Southern accent.

“I’m a Southerner, people can judge my intellect, my IQ, by my product and what I produce rather than what somebody else says,” Isakson told the Post.

“We’re a pretty smart bunch. We lost the Civil War, but I think we’re winning the economic war since then. … I’m not gonna get into name calling because I don’t think you should be allowed to call names — including the president,” he added.

Trump apparently recognized the damage that section of the book could have on his strong support in the South, highlighting it in a tweet attacking the book.

“The already discredited Woodward book, so many lies and phony sources, has me calling Jeff Sessions ‘mentally retarded’ and ‘a dumb southerner.’ I said NEITHER, never used those terms on anyone, including Jeff, and being a southerner is a GREAT thing,” the president wrote. “He made this up to divide!”

He said “good job”: The president did take his dispute with his attorney general to a more public arena — Twitter, of course.

This time, he was apparently referring to recent indictments against U.S. Rep. Chris Collins of New York on charges of insider trading and U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California on allegations that he misused campaign funds.

“Two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well-publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department,” Trump wrote in a tweet. “Two easy wins now in doubt because there is not enough time. Good job Jeff……”

Atlanta’s Sally Yates, the former acting U.S. attorney general, saw a need for rebuttal and also took to Twitter.

“Repeatedly trying to pervert DOJ into a weapon to go after his adversaries, and now shamelessly complaining that DOJ should protect his political allies to maintain his majority in the midterms, is nothing short of an all-out assault on the rule of law,” she wrote.

Wray and wrath: Longtime Atlanta resident Christopher Wray, now the FBI director, has apparently joined Sessions on the president's naughty list for not protecting him.

Trump is “in the worst mood of his presidency and calling friends and allies to vent about his selection of (Attorney General Jeff) Sessions and Wray,” an insider told NBC News.

Wray, who used to make his living at King & Spalding, has drawn attacks from the president in the past, but he’s made a great effort to avoid the public eye during his first year as head of the FBI.

Does this need to be addressed? If you go to the internet and type “briankemp.com,” you find it’s a shortcut to Abrams’ campaign website.

It belonged to another Brian Kemp, a public relations strategist in California, who bought the domain around 1999, before the current Republican candidate for governor ever ran for public office.

Earlier this year, the California Kemp redirected it to Abrams’ site.

If you want to see the Georgia Kemp’s campaign website, type in “kempforgovernor.com.”

An honor with a time limit? U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the brakes on an effort to rename the Russell Senate Office Building after John McCain, but Bloomberg’s editorial board advanced a new idea: the 50-year do-over.

Every five decades, structures on Capitol Hill — like the Russell Building, which was named to honor Georgia U.S. Sen. Richard B. Russell Jr. the year after he died — could be renamed. Or not.

“A 50-year sunset clause would allow for more new greats to be recognized,” the board wrote. “Critics will call this an attempt to erase men like Russell from the history books. It needn’t be that — and shouldn’t be that. A statue of him inside the building ought to remain, reminding visitors of his legacy, good and bad. In other buildings, plaques can provide information on their prior names, which can enrich public understanding of history. All names on federal public works should be subject to a similar sunset clause, and states would do well to adopt the same approach. And bear in mind: Congress could always vote to leave things as they are and not change a name.”

Follow closely: So, if we have this right, this is Allen Buckley’s thinking: They weren’t deserving of this prize, but where does he get off taking it away from them?

Buckley, a Libertarian who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016, seems conflicted about Trump's decision to not give scheduled pay increases to federal employees.

In a Facebook post, Buckley wrote:

“Trump signed into law a large tax cut and large spending increases. Now, he wants to unilaterally stop cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for federal employees. What a fiscal conservative. Seriously, what is he thinking? The apparent standard for such a unilateral action is ‘a national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.’

“There is no national emergency. If he claims the debt is a serious economic condition affecting general welfare, then why did he sign into law changes in taxes and spending that are tens to hundreds of multiples greater than the COLAs to go to federal employees? FYI: I think most federal employees are overpaid — see reporting by the CBO on several occasions. However, Trump has no right/power to do what he is trying to do.”

Rally set: Musician and actress Janelle Monae will headline a rally Sept. 27 at Spelman College to urge people to volunteer to register voters and encourage others to become politically involved. Former first lady Michelle Obama’s nonprofit When We All Vote is planning the rally. Obama intends to host similar rallies in Las Vegas and Miami, her group said.

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