Better Georgia Steps on GOP’s Last Nerve; Faces Ethics Complaint; Dodges Another
With additional reporting by Matthew Charles Cardinale
(APN) ATLANTA — Better Georgia’s publicizing on Gov. Nathan Deal’s ethics scandals has upset Republican activists to the point that two Georgia Republicans filed ethics charges against the organization.
Cade Joiner of Macon, Georgia, complained on July 08, 2014 that Better Georgia was violating the standards of a 501(c)(4), or social welfare, organization. 501(c)(4) organizations are eligible for tax exempt status with the Internal Revenue Service.
“During the 2014 calendar year, Better Georgia, Inc. has posted 23 articles to their website. Of the 23 posted articles, 21 have directly attached Georgia Governor Nathan Deal or have advocated against his reelection as governor,” Joiner wrote.
“Also during the 2014 calendar year, Better Georgia, Inc. has sent 37 emails. Of the 37 emails sent, 32 directly attacked Georgia Governor Nathan Deal or advocated against his reelection as governor. Those 32 emails… represent 86% of the total emails sent as of June 27, 2014 by Better Georgia, Inc. These emails should be considered political activity intending to diminish the reelection chances of Governor Deal,” Joiner wrote.
“Between the emails and articles posted to their website, Better Georgia, Inc., has made it their primary purpose to prevent the reelection of Governor Nathan Deal. This is a violation of their status as a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization,” Joiner wrote.
In a letter dated July 11, 2014, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (GGTCFC) rejected Joiner’s complaint because violations pursuant to IRS Rule 501(c)(4) does not come within Commission’s jurisdiction. The Commission is charged with investigating finance disclosure, campaign finance, and lobbyist disclosure.
On June 26, 2014, James Burnham of St. Marys, Georgia, filed a complaint against Gov. Deal as well.
Burnham takes issue with an email sent out by Better Georgia on May 27, 2014.
“On May 27, 2014, Better Georgia, Inc…. sent an email that advocates directly for/against the elections of candidates and would thus be political activity that should be disclosed in some manner,” Burnham wrote in his complaint.
“The communication was paid for by Better Georgia, Inc. and thus Better Georgia, Inc. should have registered as an Independent Committee prior to circulating the May 27 email,” he wrote.
“In addition, earlier this year Better Georgia, Inc. registered Better Georgia Action, Inc. as an Independent Committee. Nothing in this particular Independent Expenditure communication indicated that it was paid for by Better Georgia Action, Inc.,” he wrote.
Burnham argues that either the email was paid for by Better Georgia, which failed to register; or that it was paid for by Better Georgia Action, which was not disclosed as required by law.
The Commission has not yet made a decision on Burnham’s complaint.
While Burnham does not appear to have included a copy of the email in his complaint, Better Georgia did distribute an email on May 27, under the name of Amy Morton, Chair, entitled, “Top conservative pollster: Deal trails by 7 points.”
“Plagued by multiple growing scandals, Gov. Deal shouldn’t be surprised by these numbers. But as an incumbent, Republican governor in a ‘reliably red state,’ he should be more than worried,” the email states.
“Poll after poll shows voters are fed up with Gov. Deal’s legacy of scandals and failures. We’re all tired of a government that works great for him and his friends, but not so well for the rest of us,” the email states.
“Make no mistake, Gov. Deal and his right wing corporate cronies will continue to spend millions to try and fool voters, but this time, if we work together, we can make sure that voters know the truth,” the email states.
“Join me, today, in promising to work hard, work together and do whatever it takes to make sure Gov. Deal doesn’t get another four years to destroy our state,” the email states.
The email also includes a large photograph of State Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur) with his wife and children, campaigning in a parade, sitting in the back of a pick-up truck in Dacula, Georgia.
“The frivolous ethics complaints filed against Better Georgia by Republicans party loyalists are nothing more than election year politics. Unlike Gov. Deal, who has cost Georgia taxpayers over $3 million because of his ongoing ethics scandals, Better Georgia has complied with the law and will continue to do so,” Bryan Long, Executive Director, Better Georgia, told Atlanta Progressive News.
Many news organizations, including APN, have reported on Gov. Deal’s ongoing problems with using his staff and office for personal business deals, both as a Representative to U.S. Congress and now as Governor of Georgia.
For example, when Deal was in Congress a Congressional Ethics committee determined that Deal had improperly used his public position to secure business contacts from the State of Georgia for his private business, Gainesville Salvage.
When Gov. Deal sold his company, Gainesville Salvage, to Copart, Inc., Copart ripped off the State of Georgia for nearly 74 million dollars in unpaid sales tax..
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, in April 2014, whistleblower Stacey Kalbermann, former Executive Secretary of the Georgia State Ethics Commission, was awarded 700,000 dollars by a jury, after being fired for investigating the Governor.
Since then, three additional whistleblowers have settled with the State of Georgia.
Recent revelations have made matters worse and have sent Deal plummeting in the polls.
“Just this week, Gov. Deal’s hand-picked ethics chief has exposed how the governor’s top staffers used threats and intimidation to cover up his campaign finance scandal. Gov. Deal’s team members are turning on each other as his ship is sinking,” Long told APN.
“We will continue to exercise our right to tell the truth and won’t be intimidated by those who want to shut us up,” Better Georgia said in a statement.