Sen. Steve Gooch (SD 51): Road builders pave way with $93K
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Stephen Wade Gooch (R-Dahlonega)
District 51 (Dawson, Fannin, Forsyth, Gilmer, Lumpkin, Pickens, Union & White counties)
Steve Gooch’s most generous bloc of campaign contributors reflect his service since 2011 on the Senate Transportation Committee, which he chaired in 2013 and 2014. Highway contractors have donated more than $103,000, while railroads, billboard companies and other transportation interests have kicked in $20,000 more.
His largest single donor, at $24,700, is Mike Cottrell, a Lumpkin County property owner and founder of a company that makes trailers for hauling automobiles. He was a longtime member of the Lumpkin County Development Authority, which employs Gooch as executive director. Other authority members have donated $4,550.
Gooch’s campaign raised $147,000 in 2013-14 as Senate Transportation chair. After trading that job in late 2014 for Senate majority whip, he more than doubled that amount in 2015-16.
Since 2015, Gooch and Rep. Bruce Williamson have served as Georgia co-chairs of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which promotes pro-free market legislation at the state level but which some criticize as a rightwing “bill mill.” ALEC has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars from special interests to subsidize Georgia legislators’ attendance at its conferences. Gooch and Williamson have not responded to requests for lists of the donors and recipients. Documents that we previously obtained show the fund paid more than $350,000 to Georgia legislators from 2004 to 2012.
- Ran for the House in 2008, losing to Amos Amerson 63-37% in the GOP primary.
- Named to the state Transportation Board in 2009, when he told a reporter he planned to serve a full five-year term.
- Elected in 2010 to the Senate with 82% of the vote; re-elected twice without opposition.
- Re-elected in 2016 after winning the Republican primary 73-27%.
- Elected majority whip by Senate Republicans in 2014.
- Appropriations (2013 – present)
- Finance (2015 – present)
- Regulated Industries and Utilities (2015 – present)
- Rules (ex-officio, 2017 – )
- Transportation (2011 – present; chair, 2013 – 2014)
- Assignments (2015 – 2016)
- Economic Development (2011 – 2014)
- MARTA Oversight (2013 – 2016)
- Natural Resources & the Environment (2013 – 2014)
- State & Local Government (2011 – 2012)
- State Institutions & Property (2011 – 2012)
- Executive director, Development Authority of Lumpkin County.
Business ownership interests
- Partner, Discover Properties and Investments LLC, real estate investments.
- Manager member, Gooch Enterprises LLC, real estate investments.
- Principal, The Water Authority LLC, consulting service for water and wastewater systems.
Other fiduciary positions
- Executor, The J.M. Duckett Estate.
- Executor, The Zora Jarrard Estate.
Real estate holdings
- Personal residence in Dahlonega valued at $361,000
- Single-family home in Dahlonega valued at $150,000
- One-quarter interest in 2 unimproved acres at Ga. 400 & Lumpkin County Parkway valued at $180,000
- Ten acres of undeveloped land in Lumpkin County valued at $109,000
- Two unimproved lots in Sky County subdivision valued at $40,000.
- One-quarter interest in three lots in South Hampton subdivision valued at $22,500
- One-third interest in 2.4 acres in Jacobs Ladder subdivision valued at $37,000
- IRA-held real estate, 1.7 acres in Lumpkin County valued at $26,000
- Half-acre lot on Blue Ridge Lake, Fannin County, valued at $152,000
- Foothills Bank of Georgia
- Prime Vest America — Real Estate IRA
- The Norton Commercial Group
- United Community Bank Inc.
Payments from state agencies
- None disclosed.
Friends and Family
- Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle hosted a 2008 fund-raiser for Gooch when he challenged Amos Amerson, a Republican member of the House.
- Gooch was among a group of investors who founded First Citizens Bank of Georgia (now Foothills Bank) in 2006. Other founders included Dawson County Commission Chairman Mike Berg, former Sen. Chip Pearson and Rep. Kevin Tanner.
Gooch has raised more than $728,000 in political donations since 2008. The breakdown by election cycle:
- 2008: $61,142
- 2010: $89,345
- 2011-12: $89,558
- 2013-14: $147,028
- 2015-16: $341,890
- Reported cash on hand (Oct. 2016): $179,259
- $49,550 Sen. David Shafer & other Republican lawmakers
- $24,700 Mike Cottrell, owner Cottrell Inc., trailer manufacturer
- $16,100 CorrectHealth LLC, state prison contractor
- $12,400 Georgia Highway Contractors Association
- $9,000 John D. Stephens Inc., highway contractor
- $7,500 C.W. Matthews Contracting Co., highway contractor
- $7,000 Select Management Resources LLC, title-pawn lender
- $6,900 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association
- $6,600 Yancey Brothers Co., heavy equipment sales, state contractor
- $6,500 Georgia Beer Wholesalers Association
- $6,500 United Parcel Service
- $6,450 TitleMax, title-pawn lender
- $6,375 Georgia Chamber of Commerce
- $6,000 David Bowen, home builder
- $6,000 JM Family Enterprises Inc., car distributor
- $5,990 Coca-Cola and the Georgia Beverage Association
- $5,844 Outdoor Advertising Association of Georgia
- $5,500 Glendon & Krista Gooch, owners Gooch Trucking Inc.
- $5,400 Georgia Apartment Association
- $5,101 Georgia Automobile Dealers Association
- $5,000 American Council of Engineering Companies
- $5,000 Grizzle Grading & Contracting Inc., Dahlonega, Ga.
- $5,000 Pittman Construction Co., highway contractor
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 passed in the Senate but died in the House. Gooch’s committee made these contributions:
- 2011-12: $4,762
- 2013-14: $23,600
- 2015-16: $750
Since 2010, lobbyists have reported paying more than $24,000 for meals and other gifts for Gooch. The big spenders:
- $2,785 Capitol Policy Group
- $2,696 Georgia Chamber of Commerce
- $2,035 Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia
- $1,641 Google
- $1,141 Association County Commissioners of Georgia
- $1,060 Georgia Automobile Dealers of Georgia
The American Legislative Exchange Council also gave Gooch $940 in “scholarships” in 2011 to help pay for airfare and lodging to attend ALEC functions. Corporate donors — including petroleum, pharmaceutical, utility, tobacco and health-care interests — fund the scholarships, which are not disclosed as lobbyist gifts since ALEC has no lobbyists in Georgia. Most donors to the fund, however, employ lobbyists here.
Committee days & travel
When out of session, legislators may collect $173 per day plus mileage for committee meetings or other official business. Those living within 50 miles of the Capitol are taxed on these payments, originally intended to cover out-of-town members’ food and lodging.
- 2011: $6,819 (30 days)
- 2012: $6,929 (30 days)
- 2013: $15,835 (68 days) #5 in the Senate
- 2014: $9,726 (41 days)
- 2015: $9,761 (41 days)
Updated Jan. 10, 2017