The Jolt: Before QAnon, there was Cynthia McKinney

Former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney is a featured speaker at a convention of conspiracy theorists this weekend at the Jekyll Island Convention Center.

According to our AJC colleague Chris Joyner, speakers at the Red Pill Expo will promote everything from conspiracies about the Federal Reserve, the JFK assassination, vaccines – there’s even a speaker who thinks the sinking of the Titanic didn’t happen.

But the thread connecting the speakers appears to be a belief that the COVID-19 pandemic is a hoax. McKinney, a 9/11 “truther,” is promoting a book of essays she edited about the virus.

McKinney, as a Green Party presidential candidate in 2008, also once claimed that thousands were executed under the cover of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, their bodies dumped into the swamps of Louisiana. Suffice it to say that this is not so.

The expo has been promoted by adherents of the wide-ranging QAnon community that believes President Donald Trump is fighting a secret cabal of elite pedophiles for control of the world. “Red Pill” refers to a scene in the 1999 movie “The Matrix” where the main character takes a red pill is suddenly aware of the hidden world around him.

On Friday, members of both parties in the U.S. House overwhelmingly supported a resolution condemning the false QAnon conspiracy theories that have spread on social media and seeped into mainstream Republican politics. News reports that one of their own, Tom Malinowski, D-N.J., a sponsor of the measure, had death threats might have contributed to the lopsided and largely symbolic vote.

Georgia’s Marjorie Taylor Greene is currently opposed in the 14th District and expected to become Congress’s first QAnon supporter.


China is getting quite the work-out as the electoral season reaches what we think could be an apex.

We told you on Friday that U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler has quickly blamed China for Donald Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis -- not the president’s preference for rallies and public events that incorporate no social distancing, and at which masks are considered a Democratic political statement.

“Remember: China gave this virus to our President @realDonaldTrump and First Lady @FLOTUS,” she said Friday on social media. “WE MUST HOLD THEM ACCOUNTABLE.”

Intercontinental Exchange, the Atlanta-based financial firm where she was long an executive - and that her husband Jeff Sprecher runs, is the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange.

This morning, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins has called on his Republican rival to urge her husband to oust companies owned by the Chinese government from the trading platform. His campaign pointed to info that says 10 Chinese state-owned companies are listed on the NYSE.

“Mashing caps-lock to get retweets isn’t getting tough on China,” said Collins, one of 19 candidates challenging Loeffler. “You want to actually ‘hold China accountable’? Delist every company owned by the Chinese Communist Party from you and your husband’s exchange immediately.”

In the past, Intercontinental Exchange has had a more specific tie to China. In 2010, Intercontinental Exchange bought a 25% stake in a climate exchange firm based in Tianjin, China. The majority owner of the company was controlled by a state-run energy conglomerate run by Jiang Jiemen, a senior member of the Communist Party with close ties to Chinese leaders.

Sprecher told investors in August 2010 the company is “very, very excited about that particular footprint” because it was a joint venture with a Chinese oil company that offered a foothold in China.

It proved to be a short-lived venture. By late 2011, Intercontinental Exchange reported it had “sold our minority stake in an exchange located in China.”

Loeffler at the time was a vice president of investor relations of the firm, which only later gobbled up the New York Stock Exchange.

Campaign spokesman Stephen Lawson said ICE sold off its minority stake in the climate exchange after the extent of its ties with the Chinese government became clear. Any attack on the venture, he said, would be a “swing and miss.”

“No matter how hard they try, they aren’t going to silence Kelly Loeffler for speaking out and holding China accountable,” he said of her critics.

Loeffler voted for a Senate bill that would impose stricter requirements on publicly-traded companies with ties to the Chinese government, a measure that’s pending in the U.S. House.

“Maybe if Doug showed up to work instead of being a hypocrite, the bill might actually pass,” said Lawson.


We’ve been told to assume that a rally scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today headlined by Donald Trump Jr. is a no-go.


Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue both reported that they tested negative on Friday for COVID-19, even as cases began to mount among their Republican colleagues in the U.S. Senate.

There is reason for them -- and us -- to remain vigilant. Although both of their rapid tests showed no signs of the virus, symptoms and positive results can sometimes take days to appear after exposure.

Perdue’s last interaction with President Donald Trump was at a Sept. 25 rally in metro Atlanta. Loeffler also attended the Rose Garden ceremony at the White House the next day to witness Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Several at that event have now tested positive for COVID-19.

Loeffler chatted with Trump indoors prior to the ceremony. The event itself was outdoors, but not socially distanced. She sat behind U.S. Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, who is now one of those positive cases. Loeffler was not wearing a mask.

In addition, Senate Republicans often have lunch together on work days, and it happened at least once last week.


If you want to get a sense of how the ground is shifting in suburban Atlanta, pay attention to the District 56 race for the state Senate, where GOP incumbent John Albers of Roswell is attempting to weather a challenge from Democrat Sarah Beeson.

As the weekend arrived, Beeson sent out, via Twitter, a copy of a form that Albers had filled out – apparently for a pro-life organization. Wrote Beeson:

John Albers opposes abortion with “NO EXCEPTIONS" — including in cases of rape, incest against a child, and when the mother's life is in danger. Take it from my opponent in his own handwriting: John Albers is too radical for North Fulton.

Clearly, the attack is intended to bring to mind President Donald Trump’s nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. But two years ago, Democrat Lucy McBath used access to abortion as an issue to help her defeat U.S. Rep. Karen Handel, R-Roswell.

Beeson appears to be building on that.


Errin Haines, formerly a journalist in Atlanta, has a piece in Harper’s Bazaar magazine looking at Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and such things as her consideration as a Democratic nominee for vice president, and something called “the Atlanta way.” The best quote from Bottoms:

“If we don't remind people that this is more than shine in Atlanta, that there is a responsibility to uphold who we are and this legacy as a city … Atlanta will be known for lemon pepper wings and great strip clubs if we're not careful."


U.S. Rep. Tom Graves woke up this morning no longer a member of Congress. He submitted a letter last week that said his retirement would become official as of 11:59 p.m. on Sunday.

The Republican lawmaker didn’t even attend Friday’s session to say good-bye. Instead, he submitted a letter to be read out loud that extolled the virtues of collegiality.

“Tone, rhetoric and civility are crucial to opening doors to new and unexpected relationships with lawmakers from across the political spectrum,” Graves, R-Ranger, wrote. “Often the best policies are the product of broad perspectives and creativity, with input from people who bring experience from different walks of life.”

By stepping down early, as he told us in September he would do, Graves is leaving the seat empty even as the House potentially faces contentious voters later in the year on government funding and another round of coronavirus.

A special election to fill the 14th District congressional seat appears unlikely. Instead, it will remain open until after the election, where Marjorie Taylor Greene is currently unopposed and likely to be sworn in after the New Year.


As a former White House policy advisor and more recently as regional administrator of the Small Business Administration, Ashley Bell has been one of the higher-ranking African Americans in the Trump administration. He’s just become a partner in the Atlanta office of Dentons, the world’s largest law firm. He’ll be specializing in public policy.


The late U.S. Rep. John Lewis’s only child, John-Miles Lewis, has endorsed Kwanza Hall in the runoff to select his father’s successor. But the younger Lewis took it a step further by also encouraging the competition, former Morehouse College President Robert Franklin, to bow out ahead of the Dec. 1 runoff.

Franklin said the results of the September primary — he received 29% of the vote compared to Hall’s 32% — are far from a mandate and he has no plans to step aside.


New hire alert: Mia Arreguin, the former digital director for Stacey Abrams' campaign for governor, is now working for the Democratic Party of Georgia as deputy director for the Legislative Victory Fund initiative aiming to flip control of the Georgia statehouse.


Gov. Brian Kemp is the latest real-life politician to be featured in the Doonesbury comic strip, and Sunday’s episode was rather biting. A bird, “Jimmy Crow,” describes Kemp as his “personal hero” and accuses him of mishandling the response to the pandemic and suppressing voter turnout. ""How does he sleep at night? Like a baby, I’m told!" the strip concludes.


Georgia attorney Lin Wood has taken aim at former Vice President Joe Biden, accusing him of damaging the reputation of his teenage client who killed two people and wounded a third during a racial justice protest in Kenosha, Wisc.

Wood wrote in his letter to Biden’s campaign that the presidential candidate’s social media posts featuring photos of Kyle Rittenhouse while depicting counter-protestors as white supremacist or militia members amounted to defamation. Wood, like many conservatives who have defended Rittenhouse, said he was led to act in self defense and went to Kenosha to render medical aid although arriving heavily armed.

Mother Jones reports that Wood may be using Rittenhouse’s case to further a more troubling agenda:

“One of Rittenhouse's other attorneys, L. Lin Wood, has been pushing a conspiracy theory to his 191,000-plus Twitter followers that liberals are planning a violent coup against the White House, and that freedom-loving Americans will need to fight back. Defending Rittenhouse seems to be just one front in the broader war."

Attendees at last week’s Faith and Freedom Convention applauded Wood during a speech where he described Rittenhouse as a martyr and described his beef with Biden. Wood’s letter demands Biden take down the posts depicting Rittenhouse and apologize, and indicates he may sue for damages.