The Jolt: Arthur Blank teams with voting groups to forge ‘Democracy Class Atlanta’

FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2019 file photo, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank speaks to the media after an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

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FILE - In this Oct. 27, 2019 file photo, Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank speaks to the media after an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Seattle Seahawks in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Credit: AP Photo/John Bazemore

Sports titans showed during the 2020 election they weren’t afraid to join the conversation over ballot access in Georgia.

Major League Baseball yanked the All-Star game from metro Atlanta. LeBron James’ group blasted restrictive elections laws in Georgia. Mercedes-Benz Stadium and State Farm Arena became massive early voting sites.

Now there’s a new development on that front. Rock the Vote is teaming with Atlanta Public Schools, the New Georgia Project and the parent company of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United to launch Democracy Class Atlanta.

The initiative will try to leverage the allure of professional sports teams to help educate students on the civic process. The Friday announcement coincides with the 56th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

“This is just the beginning,” said Carolyn DeWitt, the head of Rock the Vote, a nonprofit focused on voter registration. “We hope to build on this work here in Atlanta and take this model nationwide to empower young people across the country.”

So what will it involve? The program, which launches as Atlanta Public Schools students return to classes, offers lesson plans on the history of voting and the importance of local government. The goal is to reach 2,000 students in 11th and 12th grades across 10 Atlanta high schools.

It will culminate with the major event at Mercedes-Benz Stadium with professional athletes, musicians and other famous figures. Students will be encouraged to register or pre-register to vote, sign up to be a poll worker and get involved in other ways.

Arthur Blank, the owner of the sports teams, said the goal is to send the message that “every voice and every vote matters – and the right to vote is simply sacred.”

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Stacey Abrams cut a public service announcement with former First Lady Michelle Obama to coincide with the anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.

The spot encourages viewers to encourage members of Congress to pass federal election legislation but also has a voter registration push. “We need you, are you in?” they say in unison at the end.

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We don’t need to tell you that much of the state’s GOP establishment has abandoned Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger since he refused to go along with former President Donald Trump’s effort to overturn his election defeat.

Even the act of mildly praising the first-term Republican could be damaging.

Which is why Republican David Belle Isle is leveraging “recently discovered video” of his top rival in the act of commending Raffensperger.

The 48-second video spot focuses on U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, the Trump-endorsed frontrunner in the race, shaking hands with Raffensperger in a live-streamed discussion. The timing of the discussion isn’t specified, though it appears to be after the November election.

As the ad wraps, it zooms in on a picture of a smiling Hice standing alongside Raffensperger before cutting to a clip of the congressman embracing the secretary of state.

“We’re proud of you. Thank you for joining us.”

Watch the ad here.

Belle Isle’s campaign says it’s the ultimate act of political chicanery. His spokesman Dan McLagan said Hice “never said a word against Brad until he decided on a change of scenery by running for the office himself.”

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By now, you’ve probably seen your share of stories about Republicans wary of Herschel Walker’s edge toward a U.S. Senate run. If not, here’s a July 6 story from one of your Insiders on the topic.

The folks at CNN offer the latest update: Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has suggested that former Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue give it another go.

We’ve reported since the aftermath of the Jan. 5 runoffs that Loeffler hasn’t ruled out a rematch against Democrat Raphael Warnock. Perdue, on the other hand, has repeatedly shot down a 2022 comeback bid.

Some other revelations in the report:

  • Perdue was treated to lighthearted boos at a closed-door donor event when he said he had nothing new to report about a 2022 bid.
  • A trio of Perdue allies -- Nick Ayers, Paul Bennecke and Austin Chambers -- were in informal talks about working with Walker but each declined to join his political operation.
  • U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham seems convinced Walker will run. “I’d be surprised if he didn’t,” he told CNN.

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Former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins was involved in Donald Trump’s effort to contest his election defeat since the week after his November defeat. Now he’s taking on a more formal role.

The Gainesville Republican was quoted in media outlets this week as Trump’s attorney, and wrote a letter saying the former president won’t try to block former Justice Department officials from testifying to a Congressional panel probing his efforts to reverse his defeat.

We’re told Collins, who returned to private practice after losing a U.S. Senate bid, has been unofficially on the legal team since November. But this appears to be the first time he’s generated official legal communication on Trump’s behalf.

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A U.S. House committee investigating whether former President Donald Trump tried to influence the outcome of the 2020 election has decided to hand over its inquiry to a new panel designed solely to probe the insurrection attempt.

That means the Select Committee will now be charged with interviewing former Trump aides and Justice Department officials about “the big lie.” The list of witnesses is likely to include former U.S. Attorney BJay Pak of Atlanta.

The House Oversight Committee initially said it wanted to know from Pak whether his abrupt resignation in January was triggered by pressure from Trump and his allies to invalidate Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia.

Pak has already said he is willing to testify, and the Justice Department recently sent him a letter clearing him to do so. But the timing is still unclear, and Politico reported that two senior Justice Department officials were higher on the list.

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Georgians polled on how the state should spend its $4.8 billion in COVID relief funding said their top priorities were economic support for families and health care.

The AJC’s James Salzer reports that the poll of 1,000 registered voters was conducted by the University of Georgia Survey Research Center on behalf of the left-leaning Georgia Budget and Policy Institute think tank in late July.

Both Republicans and Democrats said economic support for individuals and health care should be the top priorities for spending the federal money. Republicans made infrastructure projects — on things such as roads and bridges — their third priority, while Democrats ranked education spending No. 3.

Expanding broadband in rural Georgia was fairly low on the priority list for both. In fact, more Republicans in the poll said the state should give the money back to the federal government than fund expansion of high-speed internet service.

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As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.