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    3 reasons why Real PAC deserves a closer look

    Dec. 9, 2014 — A complaint against a political committee supporting Gov. Nathan Deal may be dismissed without investigation tomorrow by the state ethics commission. An attorney for Real PAC, founded by two longtime friends of Deal’s, contends it didn’t have to file financial disclosures for the $970,000 it raised and spent in Georgia, nor did it have to operate independently of the governor’s re-election committee.

    A review of campaign filings and other public documents, however, suggests the issue is not so clear-cut.

    5 questions the Nathan Deal ethics investigation never answered

    Oct. 22, 2014 — Ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal were officially resolved in 2012, when he paid $3,350 in administrative fees for filing defective campaign and personal finance disclosures. But a review of the state ethics commission’s files shows the investigation leading to that settlement was never really completed. Staffers abandoned inquiries into tens of thousands of dollars spent on air travel and credit card charges, and questioned no one but lawyers for the campaign accused of wrongdoing. Rather than ensuring transparency in a state with a legacy of graft and corruption, the ethics commission settled for the easy answers, and sometimes none at all. Read the full story.

    Braves stadium critic: “Constitution … like a speed bump”

    July 8, 2014 – A Cobb County judge will decide by the end of the month whether Cobb County can sell revenue bonds to finance a new stadium for the Atlanta Braves. Cobb’s lawyers say it’s all perfectly legal, while critics accuse the county of making an end-run around the Georgia Constitution. “We’ve treated the Constitution as an obstacle,” said one, software developer Chris Peters, “just like a speed bump that we can just climb over.”
    Here are links to my latest story and my other recent posts on the topic for Atlanta Magazine’s Daily Agenda:

    Money, transparency questions linger over Braves’ move

    Feb. 26, 2014 – As Cobb County proceeds with plans to subsidize a $672 million stadium for the Atlanta Braves, questions continue to surface about the transparency of county leaders’ deliberations and the accuracy of the projected public benefit and cost to taxpayers. Here’s what I’ve written on the subject recently for Atlanta Magazine’s Daily Agenda:

    Money, transparency questions linger over Braves’ move

    As Cobb County proceeds with plans to subsidize a $672 million stadium for the Atlanta Braves, questions continue to surface about the transparency of county leaders’ deliberations and the accuracy of the projected public benefit and cost to taxpayers. Here’s what I’ve written on the subject recently in  for Atlanta Magazine’s Daily Agenda:

    Proposed law could cloud spending details on Braves, Falcons stadiums
    What Cobb businesses might be taxed to help cover Braves stadium costs?

    Did Cobb commissioners’ briefings on Braves violate Open Meetings Act?

    Braves may seek even more millions in public assistance

    Who knew about Tim Lee’s ties to turf company before Braves deal?

    Rookie rep eats crow for sex offender bill

    Rookie rep eats crow for sex offender bill

    Feb. 24, 2014 — All eyes at the Capitol fell on Rep. Sam Moore today as he tried to explain his bill to allow sex offenders to hang out next to elementary schools and day-care centers.

    Performance audit OK’d for ethics commission

    Nov. 14, 2013 – State ethics officials Wednesday embraced a plan for an independent performance audit to help solve their structural and public-image troubles. Voting 5-0 to seek the outside scrutiny, members of Georgia’s ethics commission expressed confidence that the state auditor would thoroughly investigate charges that the agency’s top staffer interfered in a 2012 investigation of Gov. Nathan Deal. If the audit finds “even a hint or a whiff of criminal misconduct,” chairman Kevin Abernethy said, “this board and I will ensure that appropriate prosecutorial action is taken.”

    Ethics panel revisits Deal case today

    Nov. 13, 2013 — Today, Georgia’s beleaguered Campaign Finance Commission decides just how badly it wants to learn about itself and its 2012 ethics settlement with Gov. Nathan Deal. On the table when the commission meets at 9:30 a.m.: A motion to formally ask State Auditor Greg Griffin to conduct a performance audit of the agency. Then the question will be: Should the commission do more to address allegations that Deal’s office dictated the outcome of an investigation into his 2010 campaign finances? “I’m certainly not taking anything off the table,” chair Kevin Abernethy said.

    State auditor, not Olens, to review Deal investigation

    State auditor, not Olens, to review Deal investigation

    Oct. 22, 2013 — State Auditor Greg Griffin, rather than the attorney general’s office, will try to sort out charges that a 2012 ethics investigation of Gov. Nathan Deal was compromised. Griffin agreed to investigate allegations that the director of the state ethics commission, after talks with key staffers in Deal’s office, ordered the case closed with a minimal penalty. The commission, which announced Griffin’s role late today, had voted last month to ask Attorney General Sam Olens to name a special assistant to review its handling of the case.

    Olens, as it happened, had been mentioned as one possible factor in Deal’s resolve to settle the case in 2012 rather than let it reach a public hearing. A commission attorney has testified she was told that the governor didn’t want Olens, a potential rival in the 2014 governor’s race, to play any role in the proceedings.

    Ralston’s legal stance could gut ethics panel’s powers

    Ralston's legal stance could gut ethics panel's powers

    Oct. 8, 2013 — Georgia lawmakers touted their 2013 ethics bill as historic, noting that they’d restored rule-making authority to the Campaign Finance Commission. Now, though, House Speaker David Ralston’s lawyer, Doug Chalmers, contends the commission can’t enforce a key disclosure rule on campaign spending. That interpretation, if it prevails, could muzzle the watchdog charged with policing campaign finance and disclosure in Georgia. Politicians could obscure details of countless dollars in campaign spending simply by using a personal credit card and getting reimbursed with campaign funds.

    Deal recruited new ethics chief as probe of his campaign heated up

    Sept. 19, 2013 – Gov. Nathan Deal’s office recruited a new director for the state ethics commission just as it was ramping up a high-profile probe of his 2010 campaign, Atlanta Unfiltered has learned. A year later, the new ethics chief is alleged to have closed the investigation with a minimal penalty on orders from the governor’s office. The new, behind-the-scenes accounts of the Deal probe, emerging in two whistleblower cases, resurrect concerns about the independence of the state’s ethics enforcers and the integrity of its investigations. They also contradict denials that Deal had any role in the shake-up that cost the state’s top two ethics enforcers their jobs.

    GPB’s Rogers took back radio license without telling FCC

    GPB's Rogers took back radio license without telling FCC

    Sept. 11, 2013 – Former Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers took back control of a Cartersville radio station last year, apparently without notifying the Federal Communications Commission or his employer, Georgia Public Broadcasting. The station, tiny WYXC-AM, is at the center of an ongoing drama that’s spilled over into the courts and lit up Cartersville message boards. The current operators filed suit last month, alleging their partner had surreptitiously bought the station and kicked them out. They soon turned the tables by obtaining a court order restoring their access and denying his.