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Lobbyists’ clients 3-for-3 in landing Deal earmarks



Gov.-elect Nathan Deal put his name on three earmarks in his last year in Congress, funneling $2.1 million in federal money to three Georgia recipients. All three are represented by lobbyists who are now serving on his newly-appointed transition team.

Nothing in the public record suggests that Deal, the lobbyists or their clients acted improperly. North Georgia College hired its lobbyist after receiving the earmark and now wants him to get more federal money for the same project, registration papers show. A second recipient was represented by a different firm that employs yet another lobbyist on Deal’s inaugural committee.

The relationships, though, illustrate the potential for conflicts as some of the best-connected lobbyists in Georgia help Deal prepare for taking office in January. All told, the former congresman has named nine lobbyists representing more than 130 special interests to serve on his transition team and/or inaugural committee.

An database of congressional earmarks, maintained by Taxpayers for Common Sense and the Center for Responsive Politics, shows Deal sponsored or co-sponsored FY2019 appropriations of:

  • $1.2 million to North Georgia College & State University for an ROTC and Reserve Component Strategic Language Hub Pilot,
  • $500,000 to the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District for water and wastewater system improvements, and
  • $392,000 for streetscape improvements in downtown Dahlonega.

Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist Rob Leebern Jr. counts Dahlonega and the North Georgia College Foundation among his clients, according to lobbyist registration records filed with the secretary of the U.S. Senate. Dahlonega has paid $260,000 to Leebern’s firm since 2007, records show, while North Georgia College has paid $30,000 this year.

Leebern formerly served as chief of staff to then-U.S. Rep. Saxby Chambliss, now a senator, who co-sponsored the latter two earmarks.

Joe Tanner, once Georgia’s commissioner of natural resources, is the water district’s lobbyist for its dealings with state and local officials.

Leebern and Tanner were among nine lobbyists — representing more than 130 clients — that Deal has named to his transition team and inaugural committee. Also serving on the transition team are former state Sen. Pete Robinson, now chairman of Troutman Sanders Strategies; former Sen. Dan Lee; and Monty Veazey, president of the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals. Deal’s peeps say all have suspended lobbying activities while working on the transition.

Four other lobbyists who have not suspended their lobbying are serving on Deal’s inaugural committee. They include Jay Morgan, former executive director of the Georgia Republican Party; Robert Highsmith, former counsel to Gov. Sonny Perdue; Jerry Usry of Albany and Steve Croy of Richmond Hill.

Health-care interests figure prominently on the client lists. They include hospitals (Grady, Wellstar, Phoebe Putney), insurance companies (Aflac, Cigna), pharmaceutical manufacturers (Merck, Proctor & Gamble), nursing homes (Pruitt Corp.), health care professionals (nurses, chiropractors) and others (dialysis provider, PPOs).

Firms offering financial services — ranging from Prudential and Amerigroup to title-pawn lenders — also pop up frequently on the client lists.

Here’s the full list of clients:


Pete Robinson, former 10-year state legislator and state Senate president, now chairman of Troutman Sanders Strategies

  • Aflac
  • American Concrete Pipe Association
  • American Lawyer Media Inc.
  • Association of Professional Tax Services
  • Camp Dresser & McKee Inc. (construction & engineering)
  • Cancer Treatment Centers of America
  • Center for Civil and Human Rights
  • Cigna Healthcare of Georgia (insurance)
  • Citigroup Management Corp. (banking)
  • Coca-Cola Co.
  • Foley Products Co. (precast concrete)
  • General Electric Co.
  • General Motors LLC
  • Georgia Crown Distributing Co. (liquor distributor)
  • Georgia Press Association
  • Government Tax Solutions Inc. (tax collections)
  • Home Builders Association of Georgia
  • Lender Processing Services Inc. (mortgage services)
  • Medco Health Solutions (pharmacy, medical supplies)
  • Merck Sharp & Dohme Corp. (pharmaceuticals)
  • Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
  • Primerica Financial Services Home Mortgages
  • Prudential Financial Inc.
  • Recording Industry Association of America
  • Synovus Financial Corp. (banking)
  • Total System Services Inc. (electronic financial transactions)
  • Underground Atlanta
  • Verizon Wireless
  • Youth Services International Inc. (juvenile justice)

Joe Tanner, former commissioner of the Georgia departments of labor and natural resources, now president of Joe Tanner & Associates

  • American Council of Engineering Companies of Georgia
  • Emory University
  • GreenFirst LLC (environmental permitting)
  • Heritage and Wildlife Conservation Council
  • IBM
  • LLI Management Co. LLC (hospitality & recreational facilities, does business as Linger Longer Inc.)
  • Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce
  • Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District
  • Pruitt Corp. (nursing homes)
  • Republic Services of Georgia (waste management, landfills)
  • South Fulton Municipal Regional Water and Sewer Authority
  • Tenaska Georgia Partners LP (wholesale electric power generation)
  • WellStar Health System

Monty Veazey

  • Atlanta Motor Speedway
  • Atreus Homes & Communities
  • Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals
  • Georgia Association of Nurse Anesthetists
  • Georgia Industrial Loan Association
  • Millercoors LLC
  • Pilot Travel Centers LLC
  • Walters Management Co. (real estate)

Rob Leebern Jr., president of federal affairs for Troutman Sanders Strategies

  • AGCO Corp. (farm equipment)
  • Anheuser Busch Companies
  • Armstrong Atlantic State University
  • City of Dahlonega
  • City of Forsyth
  • Georgia Southern University
  • Lake Oconee Infrastructure Alliance LLC
  • Montgomery Watson/Khafra (engineering)
  • North Georgia College and State University Foundation
  • Southern Company Services (electric utility)
  • Total System Services Inc. (electronic financial transactions)

Dan Lee, former three-term state senator and Gov. Sonny Perdue’s floor leader

  • American Medical Response (medical transport)
  • AMI (juvenile justice)
  • Anheuser Busch Companies Inc.
  • Avaya Inc. (software)
  • City of College Park
  • Corrections Corporation of America (private prisons)
  • Delaware North Companies Travel Hospitality Services Inc.
  • Forum MDS (space management)
  • Georgia Academy of Family Physicians
  • Georgia Chapter, American College of Physicians
  • Georgia Mentor (residential foster care issues)
  • Georgians for the Brain Train (commuter rail)
  • Imperial Sugar Co.
  • Industrial Developments International (tax credit issues)
  • Joseph M. Still Burn Center Inc. (workers compensation issues)
  • Keefe (prison commissaries)
  • KGen Power Management Inc.
  • MHM Services (mental health policy)
  • Microsoft Corp.
  • Southeast Cement Association
  • Systems and Methods Inc. (human resources information technology)
  • Tintoria Piana (textile manufacturing)
  • Titlemax (auto title pawn)
  • Trane (heating & air-conditioning)
  • United Healthcare
  • Woodard & Curran (wastewater treatment)

Jay Morgan

  • Affordable Equity Partners (tax credits for developers)
  • AGL Resources (natural gas)
  • AT&T
  • Centene Corp. (health care)
  • The College Board
  • CompuCredit (subprime credit cards)
  • Crown Cork and Seal (beverage packaging)
  • DaVita (dialysis)
  • Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
  • Generic Pharmaceutical Association
  • Georgia EMC
  • Georgia Motor Trucking Association
  • Georgia Nurses Association
  • Grady Health System
  • The Grow Network/McGraw Hill Education (education)
  • KPMG, LLP (accounting)
  • McKesson Corp. (health care information technology)
  • Moneygram Payment Systems Inc. (money wire transfers)
  • Philips Arena/Atlanta Spirit Inc.
  • Procter & Gamble (pharmaceuticals & consumer products)
  • Public Consulting Group (education, health care)
  • Transurban (USA) Inc. (toll roads)

Robert S. Highsmith

  • American Association of Preferred Provider Organizations
  • AT&T
  • Atlanta Development Authority
  • Coventry First LLC (life insurance settlements)
  • Express Scripts (prescription management)
  • Gaia LLC (real estate management)
  • Georgia Chiropractic Association Inc.
  • Ideal Image Development Inc. (cosmetic laser hair removal)
  • Kaplan Higher Education
  • Liberty Healthcare Corp.
  • Maxim Healthcare Services Inc.
  • Tracfone Wireless Inc.
  • Vanguard Car Rental USA Inc.
  • Wellcare
  • Cobb County (federal client)
  • Henry County (federal client)
  • Paulding County (federal client)
  • MARTA (federal client)

William G. “Jerry” Usry

  • American Peanut Shellers Association
  • City of Bainbridge
  • Darton College Foundation
  • Georgia Rural Water Association
  • Phoebe Putney Health System
  • The Peanut Institute
  • United Poultry Growers Association

Steve Croy

  • Cable Television Association of Georgia





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One Response to “Lobbyists’ clients 3-for-3 in landing Deal earmarks”

  1. SpaceyG on Twitter says:

    Unlike the general citizenry, pay-to-play has never been healthier in Georgia politics!