The Jolt: David Perdue and the China connection

David and Bonnie Perdue on the Great Wall of China in the 1990s, from a 2014 biographical campaign video.

Credit: AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
David and Bonnie Perdue on the Great Wall of China in the 1990s, from a 2014 biographical campaign video.

Credit: AJC

There are reasons that some video ads appear via social media only, rather on broadcast or cable TV -- where they might be subject to more scrutiny.

U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s latest digital ad claims Democrat Jon Ossoff is “China bought.” The opening female narrator - U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee - accuses him of working for a “Chinese Communist government-owned company.” Which is not true.

Another voice - Dana Perino of Fox News - quickly theorizes that Ossoff is susceptible to Chinese subterfuge -- as a photo of U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Cal., was displayed. Axios recently reported that Swalwell and other California politicians were targeted by a suspected Chinese spy.

Perdue went even further on Monday. During a personal appearance on Fox News, the senator said that he is running “against a guy who worked directly for the Chinese Communist Party in China.” Again, this is a falsehood. You can find the actual facts here.

We have had a sitting U.S. senator falsely accuse people of having communist ties before. It did not end well for the senator, or the country.

The Perdue ad, released Thursday, comes days after The Huffington Post reported that Perdue’s new biographical campaign spot looks just like the 2014 version -- except that Perdue has erased the two years he worked in Hong Kong for Sara Lee. Also gone from the new bio video -- a photo of him and his wife Bonnie on the Great Wall of China.

Perdue and his allies have tried to tar Ossoff over his ties to China throughout the campaign, and the attacks have only intensified in the runup to the Jan. 5 runoff to decide control of the U.S. Senate.

They center on Ossoff’s disclosure that his company, which produces investigations for news agencies, received around $1,000 through a distributor for two investigations it made on Islamic State war crimes that were rebroadcast by PCCW in Hong Kong. PCCW has financial ties to the Chinese government.

The Ossoff campaign for months didn’t dispute reports that suggested his firm had accepted at least $5,000 from the Hong Kong firm, but disclosed the additional details when the candidate was targeted with an ethics complaint by the Georgia GOP.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reviewed quarterly payments Ossoff’s company received from Sky Vision, the global satellite communication service provider that licensed the two investigations in 2018.

It showed Sky Vision collected 1,047 English pounds from PCCW over the course of 2018 for licensing the films. After a 28% distribution fee, and converting to U.S. currency, it amounts to about $950 paid to Ossoff’s company. The records document the only transactions between the Democrat’s firm and PCCW, Ossoff’s campaign said.

But Perdue could come under the microscope for his own connections to China. When he was chief executive of the Dollar General chain, he led the chain store’s aggressive expansion into China. And while working at Sara Lee, he used Hong Kong as a base to build an Asian operation from the “ground up.”

The Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Guangzhou, important labor pools, border Hong Kong. Anyone who was doing business in mainland China in the early 1990s, just as today, was doing business with someone who had connections to the Chinese Communist Party. Just like today.

The Perdue campaign says there was no conscious effort to scrub his work at Sara Lee, which is listed on his campaign website. His spokesman John Burke said he’s “always been proud to talk about those achievements” -- while claiming Ossoff has tried to conceal his ties to China.

Ossoff spokeswoman Miryam Lipper referred to Perdue’s efforts as “one of the most laughable smear campaigns in Georgia history.

“It’s embarrassing how wildly desperate David Perdue looks as he tries to lie himself out of this losing campaign, especially when he is the one with deep ties to China,” she said.

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We’ve noted how Gov. Brian Kemp has flouted his own coronavirus restrictions at political news. Max Blau at Georgia Health News reports that Kemp has attended at least nine funerals, memorial services and public viewings that conflicted with restrictions. From the story:

Some of the gatherings — including one attended by over 1,000 people — violated the governor's own executive orders that require social distancing and limit large gatherings, GHN found. Most of the events Kemp attended were considered high-risk for spreading COVID-19, according to guidelines from the CDC.

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On that same topic, Jamie Dupree includes this stat on congressional COVID-19 infections, in today’s edition of a D.C. newsletter he’s just launched:

The rate for House and Senate Republicans is about 15 percent. For Democrats, it's over 4 percent.

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This morning, President Donald Trump again pressed Gov. Brian Kemp to call a special session of the Legislature and negate the votes of nearly 5 million voters. The Twitter link is here.

In an op-ed for today’s edition of the AJC, former state attorney general Sam Olens explains why Trump is wrong, and why Kemp is right. A taste:

[T]here have been two areas where some have pushed our governor to go far beyond the bounds of what Georgia's Constitution and laws allow. The first is a request that he call the legislature back into session, and retroactively change our laws so that enough votes for the Democratic nominee are not counted and the Republican nominee can win. This is plainly unconstitutional, would have no effect, and would simply obligate the state to spend significant sums of money defending a law that would not be allowed to ever take effect because it would get an immediate stay.

The second request has been that the governor leverage the Electoral College to reverse the election outcome by choosing a different slate of Electors than those chosen by the voters. Here again, state law provides no path to do this. Georgia law explicitly states that our Electors will be chosen by popular vote. If the General Assembly wanted to change this procedure, it has the power to do so, but can only Constitutionally exercise that power for future elections. This path cannot be used to reverse a past election.

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Already posted: Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will travel to Georgia on Monday to campaign for Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock. Suwanee and Columbus are the targeted cities.

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Vice President Mike Pence was in Georgia on Thursday -- the fourth time since the Nov. 3 general election:

Although Pence had allowed that a Republican majority “could be" the GOP's last line of defense against one-party rule, he never acknowledged that Biden won.

“As our election contest continues in courthouses across the land," Pence said, “We're going to keep fighting until every legal vote is counted. We're going to keep fighting until every illegal vote is thrown out, and we will never stop fighting to make America great again."

Politico.com has a piece today about the bifurcated Republican message muddied by President Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his loss. This paragraph stands out:

“Trump is helping our case," said Cliff Albright, co-founder and executive director of the voting rights group Black Voters Matter. “If he had just taken the loss and just gone into a corner and just been quiet, then people would still just be celebrating the general election.

“But because he's still out there actively trying to steal the election — trying to steal Black votes or discount Black votes — it has basically allowed it to still be a referendum on Trump. Because he hasn't shut up."

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Republicans talk a lot about voter fraud, but occasionally another motive rises up. On Thursday, in a Twitter exchange about voting with state Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, former state lawmaker Betty Price -- wife of former GOP congressman Tom Price -- wrote this:

“It should take effort and studied information for people to vote -- not just harvesting the votes of apathetic, low information voters, many of whom don't even know they were registered to vote. That's who we want making decisions for us!?!?! Instead you “cancel" capable people."

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The Democratic Party of Georgia has filed fresh ethics complaints against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, once again accusing her of using inside information to inform stock trading during the pandemic.

Democratic Party of Georgia executive director Scott Hogan sent two letters this week: one to the Securities and Exchange Commission and another to the U.S. Senate Ethics Committee.

Both allege that Loeffler made trades using information about tax breaks for businesses that were being added to the CARES Act, a $2 trillion coronavirus relief package the Senate approved in March.

The complaints say that Loeffler and her husband, Jeff Sprecher, invested in businesses at the same time that stood to benefit from the tax breaks. It is illegal for members of Congress to use nonpublic information to make a profit.

Loeffler’s campaign says the complaints are baseless and without merit. In the past, Loeffler has said stock trading on her behalf was handled by financial advisers who acted independently. Since April, she and Sprecher have divested from trading stocks in individual companies.

Though ethics complaints are often used by candidates and their allies to target opponents during contentious campaigns, the bipartisan Senate Ethics Committee rarely takes action.

An analysis by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found that not one of the nearly 1,200 complaints of alleged violations filed between 2007 through 2019 resulted in a disciplinary sanction. Only six resulted in letters of admonition — basically, a slap on the wrist — during that span.

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When President Donald Trump signs the Reducing Veteran Homelessness Act into law as expected, it will mark the third bill sponsored by U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., to make it to the finish line, according to her office. Loeffler is celebrating the accomplishment as a mark of her legislative success during her first year in office. She picked up several veterans-related issues from her predecessor, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

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His time in Washington may be limited, but that hasn’t stopped U.S. Rep. Kwanza Hall from filing a series of legislative proposals. The Atlanta Democrat was sworn in on Dec. 3 to fill the remainder of U.S. Rep. John Lewis’ term, a period of roughly three weeks.

The bills he decided to sponsor have slim chances of getting a single hearing before time runs out, let alone becoming law. But they provide an overview of Hall’s priorities that could come in handy if he runs for office again.

Hall has sponsored a measure to end qualified immunity in police misconduct cases, proposed a constitutional amendment to prohibit the use of forced labor at federal prisons and supported expunging the records of people charged with various nonviolent federal crimes.

He also filed a bill to ensure inmates released from federal prison regain their voting rights and another that would establish a feasibility study on bringing mass transit to south Atlanta. He also filed a proposal that would require states to tabulate ballots cast during early voting more quickly in hopes of speeding up the reporting of election results.

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Congresswoman-elect Carolyn Bourdeaux is staffing up her new office in Georgia’s Seventh District. Serving as her chief of staff will be Richardo Carbo, who years ago worked under U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., and more recently served as campaign manager and deputy chief of staff for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Arthur Tripp Jr., who is coming to Bourdeaux’ office from the University of Georgia, will serve as district director. Tripp is a former senior policy adviser to U.S. Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta.

Estefanía Rodriguez, who will serve as legislative director, comes from the Congressional Hispanic Caucus office, where she served under U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-Texas. Rodriguez is a former legislative assistant to U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Lithonia.

Other hires include Jesse Mayer as director of operations and scheduler, legislative counsel Thomaesa Bailey and staff assistant Kyla Miller.