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House Majority Leader Larry O’Neal

House Majority Leader Larry O'Neal
December 7, 2012 --

Larry O’Neal would probably prefer to be remembered for anything other than a tax break seemingly engineered specifically for then-Gov. Sonny Perdue, a client of O’Neal’s law practice. Nevertheless, O’Neal is best known for authoring the 2005 bill that allowed his fellow Houston Countian to retroactively shelter capital gains by reinvesting the money in property in Florida. Perdue, who thus saved about $100,000 in taxes, said he signed the bill into law without realizing it would apply to him. IRS auditors later investigated and exonerated O’Neal, he said in a 2009 email to House Republicans. Neither Perdue nor O’Neal released IRS documents or correspondence that would back up that assertion. A 2007 ethics complaint about O’Neal’s conduct went nowhere.

O’Neal went into business with another Sonny from Houston County, former state Rep. Roy “Sonny” Watson Jr., in 2001 when they formed SONLAR LLC. In 2005, Sonlar bought a 61-unit assisted-living facility at auction for $2.5 million after the previous owner defaulted on revenue bonds issued by the Houston County Development Authority. SONLAR sold the property in August 2012 for $5.1 million.

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones
December 4, 2012 --

Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, it would appear, is a giver. Her campaign committee since 2007 has donated $379,000 — nearly half of the funds it raised during that period — to other campaigns and political organizations. That’s more than any House member other than Speaker David Ralston and Majority Leader Larry O’Neal. Like most other campaign donors, though, she likes a sure thing, contributing almost exclusively to incumbents who would decide whether she would hold a leadership position in the House.

Georgia’s two largest title-pawn lenders represent the largest single special-interest sector among Jones’ political donors. Select Management Resources, TitleMax and their CEOs — who have lobbied to keep Georgia’s regulation of the industry among the weakest in the U.S. — have given more than $33,000 to her campaign.

Playing the odds: The rise of Sen. Chip Rogers

Playing the odds: The rise of Sen. Chip Rogers
December 4, 2012 --

Dec. 5, 2012 — Sen. Chip Rogers resigned Tuesday, a month after winning re-election, to take a job at Georgia Public Broadcasting. For those curious about what might have led to his decision — or those just looking for a fascinating read — we re-present our exclusive May 25 report about Rogers’ prior broadcasting experience:

Years before Chip Rogers became majority leader in the Georgia Senate, the Woodstock Republican was “Will ‘The Winner’” Rogers, advising callers for a fee how to bet against the pointspread on pro and college football. Once billed as one of the nation’s “premier handicappers,” Rogers says today he was nothing more than on-air “talent” reading a script for a client. Our nine-month investigation – a collaboration with The News Enterprise, a student reporting initiative of Emory College’s Journalism Program – reveals how Rogers got started in the industry and how he met the veteran handicapper who would take a $2.2 million eyesore off his hands two decades later.