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Sen. Charlie Bethel (SD 54): Here come da judge
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Charles Jones Bethel (R-Dalton)
District 54 (Whitfield, Murray, Gordon & Pickens counties)
Gov. Nathan Deal has appointed Charlie Bethel, a former floor leader of his in the Senate, to the Georgia Court of Appeals. Bethel was among 79 lawyers nominated for the job. The appointment, coming one day after he was re-elected to a fourth term, will necessitate a special election to fill Bethel’s seat in the Senate.
Bethel’s campaign paid The Sassafras Group, a consulting firm founded by Deal’s daughter-in-law Denise Deal, $3,100 for fund-raising in May 2016.
The insurance industry, led by BlueCross BlueShield, has chipped in more than $54,000 to Bethel’s campaign fund since he became Senate Insurance chair in 2015, and more than $82,000 since 2010. Health-care interests have donated $63,000 to Bethel, including $33,000 since 2015.
Bethel was one of about a dozen freshmen whose votes were sought in late 2010 by Senate leaders who took control of that chamber from Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle; the freshmen’s votes may have been decisive. Bethel was an early supporter of Cagle’s bid for governor, but switched to Nathan Deal in 2009 after Cagle backed out of the race.
- Served 2006-10 as a member of the Dalton City Council.
- Elected to an open seat in the Senate in 2010 after winning the Republican primary with 58% of the vote.
- Re-elected in 2012 and 2014 without opposition.
- Re-elected in 2016 after winning the Republican primary, 75-25%.
- Appointed one day later to the Georgia Court of Appeals.
- Appropriations (2015 – 2016)
- Government Oversight (2013 – 2014)
- Insurance and Labor (2011 – 2016; chair, 2015 – 2016)
- Judiciary (2011 – 2016)
- Judiciary Non-Civil (2013 – 2016)
- Reapportionment (2011 – 2016; chair, Oct. 2011 – 2012)
- Retirement (2011 – 2012)
- Special Judiciary (2011 – 2012)
- Former director of corporate affairs at carpet manufacturer J&J Industries Inc.
Business ownership interests
- Shareholder, J&J Industries.
- Investor, Hardball Chattanooga LLC, professional baseball.
- Partner, South Creek Properties LLP (real estate; owns 10 acres valued at $2.1 million at 622 S. Thornton Ave., Dalton)
- Partner, Bethel Holding Co. (family farming; owns 1,175 acres valued at $2.97 million in Whitfield County)
- Partner, MXM Properties Inc., real estate venture, owner of an industrial building in Dalton valued at $1.29 million.
- Board member, Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership, non-profit.
Real estate holdings
- Personal residence in Dalton valued at $249,000
- Bank of America Corp.
- Coca-Cola Co.
- Dominion Resources Inc.
- Exxon Mobil Corp.
- General Electric Co.
- IBM Corp.
- Intel Corp.
- Johnson & Johnson
- Proctor & Gamble Co.
- Royal Dutch Shell PLC
- Southern Co.
- bonds issued by Atlanta; Bleckley, Coweta, Fulton and Lowndes counties; and the Georgia Municipal Electric Authority
- numerous investment funds
Business transactions with state government
- None disclosed.
Friends & family
- Bethel’s father, James, is retired CEO of J&J Industries; his grandfather, Tom Jones, was co-founder of the company. Jones served on the Dalton Board of Education for 28 years.
- James R. Jolly, J&J’s former chairman and CEO, served 2003-11 on the State Board of Regents following his appointment by Gov. Sonny Perdue. J&J, which won Georgia Trend magazine’s Family Business Award in 2009, provided carpets for Nathan Deal’s 2011 inauguration as governor.
- Bethel’s campaign paid The Sassafras Group, founded by Gov. Nathan Deal’s daughter Denise Deal, $3,100 for fund-raising in May 2016.
Bethel has raised more than $433,000 in political donations. The breakdown by election cycle:
- 2010: $57,053
- 2011-12: $63,725
- 2013-14: $78,154
- 2015-16: $235,050
- Reported cash on hand (Oct. 2016): $201,973
- $41,200 Sen. Tommie Williams and other Republican legislators
- $10,000 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
- $7,500 Georgia Association of Insurance & Financial Advisors
- $6,900 Jim Bethel & James Jolly, retired executives J&J Industries, carpet manufacturer
- $6,500 BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia
- $6,400 Georgia Health Care Association, nursing homes
- $6,350 Georgia Dental Association
- $6,350 Georgia Pharmacy Association
- $5,500 The Doctors Co. (DOCPAC), Napa, Calif., malpractice insurance
- $5,350 AT&T
- $5,100 State Farm Insurance
- $5,000 John Deere Co.
- $5,000 Workplace Injury Network
- $4,900 Altria / Philip Morris USA
- $4,500 American Federation for Children
- $4,500 Georgia Highway Contractors Association
- $4,400 Georgia Association of Realtors
- $4,250 Georgia Apartment Association
- $4,250 Georgia Chamber of Commerce
- $4,000 Centene Management Co. / Peach State Health Plan
- $3,850 TitleMax, title-pawn lender
Candidates may give campaign funds to other candidates, a practice that some say provides a legal means to circumvent contribution limits. A 2003 bill to ban such transfers altogether passed in the Senate but died in the House. Bethel’s campaign made these donations:
- 2011-12: $7,300
- 2013-14: $31,550
- 2015-16: $1,000
Lobbyists have reported paying for meals and other gifts for Bethel valued at more than $5,800 since 2010. The big spenders:
- $656 Georgia Association of Manufacturers
- $571 Medical Association of Georgia
- $349 Georgia Power Co.
- $290 BlueCross BlueShield / Anthem
- $228 J.L. Morgan Co.
Committee days & travel expenses
When out of session, legislators may collect $173 per diem plus mileage for committee meetings or other official business. Lawmakers living within 50 miles of the Capitol are taxed on these payments, which were originally intended to cover out-of-town members’ food and lodging. Here’s the annual breakdown:
- 2011: $2,139 (9 days)
- 2012: $0
- 2013: $173 (1 day)
- 2014: $0
- 2015: $2,730 (13 days)
Posted Dec. 26, 2011; updated May 15, 2016