Author: Mike Hassinger

The Dirty Political Pool Of The “RFRA” Advocates

::UPDATE:: State Rep. Teasley says in the comments that he won’t be there, and that the information is “incorrect.” I take the Representative at his word, but here’s a screen-cap of what the Gilmer Tea Party sent out:


Perhaps he should give those folks a call.

Scaring religious people to mine their votes is a political practice at least as old as Ralph Reed. But there’s always been a protocol about raising cain, religious or otherwise, in somebody else’s backyard. It’s poor form for instance, for one State Representative to hold even something non-controversial, like a town hall meeting, in another State Representative’s district -especially without inviting or notifying the potential host.

Which is why an invitation from the “Georgia Constitutional Coalition” and The Tea Party of Gilmer County seems so… odd.

Here’s what it said: “The Georgia Constitutional Coalition will be hosting an afternoon of issues and answers concerning RFRA with special guest speakers Senator Josh McKoon – sponsor of SB129, Virginia Galloway – Faith and Freedom Coalition, Rep. Sam Teasley – House Sponsor of RFRA and David Stover, Georgia State Representative District 71. Senator McKoon will be addressing the attack on religious freedom in our state and our country and what we can do to make a difference.”

The event is to take place in Ellijay, in House Speaker David Ralston’s district, just down the road from his home. That makes it odd, because the Speaker has taken a very cautious approach to the issue, trying to distill any legitimate fear of attacks on religious freedom from the ambitions of those who seek only to whip their coreligionists into a political frenzy, rather than a spiritual one. Read more

DeKalb Scandals – How We Got Here And Where We Might Go

We may not know much that’s new about the various corruption scandals that have plagued Georgia’s third-largest county –most of the information contained in Mike Bowers’ report was has been available for more than a year. But Richard Belcher at WSB-TV Channel 2 filed a report that sheds some light on how DeKalb found itself mired in very public (and chronic) corruption scandals.

The calls for the resignation of interim CEO Lee May are apparently misdirected. There was one person with the authority and the responsibility to look into allegations of mis-spending public funds –DeKalb District Attorney Robert James. He hasn’t looked at anybody –because apparently he was doing the same thing.

Now we know how we got here -our watchdog needed to be watched. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess.

Stacey Abrams plans to challenge incumbent Democrats, Run for Governor?

A couple points of interest came out of the Blue Institute yesterday. What’s the Blue Institute? Well, everyone thought it was a way to train minority campaign professionals to put them on Democratic campaigns. But what it may have been is a recruiting device to challenge incumbent Democrats and a preliminary announcement of Stacey Abrams for Governor in 2018.

It is news when the sitting Minority Leader throws down a gauntlet to a bunch of up and comers that the old democratic guard needs to be taken out, which is probably why her spokesman is attempting to clarify/change/walk back her comments in the Jolt this morning, but really how else can this be taken?

Wake up, Sandra Scott. Get ready, Mike Glanton. Here comes the squeeze, Valencia Stovall. Heads up, Calvin, Carolyn, and Virgil. Stacey may be coming for you. On the Governor front, the evidence is a bit weaker. Here’s the tweet that came out.

That could just be excitement, or this entire Blue Institute could just be a prelude to her run for Governor. It certainly seems to be a plan to put her back in the good graces of the national establishment.

Rumor Du Jour of the Day…

UPDATE: Kristina Torres of the AJC has the sad confirmation that Senator Tolleson has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Tolleson remains determined: “Serving the place your family has called home for generations is an incredible experience and there wasn’t a day I didn’t give thanks for the opportunity to strengthen our state and change lives for the better. This diagnosis was a disappointment, but I’ve never been one to shy away from a challenge and will meet it head on,” he said.

Word is being passed around that State Senator Ross Tolleson (R-Perry) may be resigning his seat this week, possibly due to health reasons. (If that is indeed the reason, we wish him well and hope for his speedy recovery.)

Since no rumored impending vacancy in Georgia politics is complete without a list of potential replacements, here’s what we’re hearing: Larry Walker (who just lost a special election) might jump in, along with Kelly Burke, (who also lost in that same special election,) and Laurens County Commissioner Jon Martin, is also expected to announce a long-planned campaign. 

That’s three. Who else? Special Elections to the State Senate are pretty rare, and most anyone with any kind of political ambition would jump at the opportunity. Feel free to post your own rumors in the comments.

Lo-o-o-o-ong Awaited Report On DeKalb County Is Out

Even though most DeKalb County officials are still reading and digesting the long-awaited report from Mike Bowers, the AJC seems to have been given an advance copy. The early reviews are not good, and Bowers has lots of criticism aimed squarely at DeKalb CEO Lee May, who commissioned the report in the first place. Bowers thinks May should resign. From the AJC:

Former Attorney General Michael Bowers and investigator Richard Hyde also called on other DeKalb officials to resign, citing numerous examples of improper and potentially illegal spending by five of the county’s seven district commissioners.”

Frankly, that’s not really surprising. What’s kind of surprising is this: “He hired us and gave us a mission of uncovering fraud, waste, abuse and corruption and we took that on in good faith,” Bowers said of May in an interview Wednesday. “But then he hides from us that he himself is engaging in what I can only call sinister conduct.” “Sinister?”  What an odd word.

There will be much more to come on this. In the meantime, the(40-some page pdf) report is available for download at this link.

Banned Words In The Peach Pundit Daily

We’ve gotten an unusually high number of reports that today’s edition of the Peach Pundit Daily has been flagged as “spam” by various email service providers. That’s probably because we used a word banned by the USDA in this story:

USDA Bans “Gay” In Applications – From Randy Travis at WAGA Fox5 “The US Department of Agriculture rejected a Georgia cattle farmer’s application for a special interstate transport license because his address contained “a banned word.” The banned word was the name of the town where cattle rancher Gene King lives: Gay, Georgia. “In a statement, the USDA said they created a database of words with “bad connotations” because they worried people would try to sabotage an earlier animal ID registration system. That was in 2004. They promise a future upgrade will ensure that “this will no longer be an issue.” At some point, our sense of the absurd will be so highly developed that we could have made this up. Until that happens maybe they’ll just change their name to “Fabulous, Georgia.”

So check your spam folders if you’ve missed today’s Daily. Or read the whole thing, banned words and all, at this link. And if your email service provider has unsubscribed you for banned words or any other reason, you can sign back up at this one.

Working On Property Tax Relief

From State Senator Fran Millar:

For the past two years I have worked with Attorney Walter Hotz (appeals to level the playing field for homeowners and businesses when they appeal their property tax valuations.

Gwinnett, Fulton, DeKalb and all other county commissioners need to remember that the property tax bill is the largest obligation that many of their constituents face. I introduced Walter to Commissioner Nancy Jester -who gets it- and she recently had him appear at two of her townhall meetings. We want to make sure the provisions outlined below are followed in all counties:

HB202 became law on July 1, 2015 and I want to summarize the improvements that we made.

Effective January 1, 2016 the taxpayer can request certain information on how the board of tax assessors arrived at the new assessment value. There are now penalties if the board of tax assessors does not respond or responds with less than candid information within ten business days.

The tax assessor representative must now meet with the taxpayer at the taxpayer’s request within thirty days of the taxpayer’s request and there are monetary penalties to the tax assessor for failing to comply. Also the taxpayer can record the interview.

The taxpayer should now put in their opinion of the assessed value when they appeal. If the tax assessor fails to do certain things, then the taxpayer opinion becomes the assessed value (Section 15). Read more

Help Wanted: Special Master To Oversee Investigation Of Speaker

From Aaron Gould Sheinin in the AJC: “A second overseer in the State Bar of Georgia’s case against House Speaker David Ralston has resigned less than a week after he was appointed, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.

Retired DeKalb County Judge Robert Castellani stepped down last week after Ralston’s attorney — former Gov. Roy Barnes — questioned whether Castellani had a conflict of interest because his pension and pay as a senior judge are set by the Legislature.”

The State Bar seems to be gunning for Speaker Ralston. Discuss.

Another Shoe Drops In Boyer Case

From Johnny Edwards at the AJC: “Rooks Boynton, the evangelist who posed as a legislative consultant in Elaine Boyer’s kickback scheme, has been indicted on federal theft charges.

Boynton, 73, is charged with federal program theft and federal program theft conspiracy. The indictment says that over a two-year period, he accepted more than 35 checks from then-DeKalb County Commissioner Boyer, totaling about $85,000, for consulting services he never performed.”

Quick thoughts: It’s a little overblown to call this theft partnership a “scheme,” a word that implies systemic planning. Submitting fake invoices and keeping +/- 30% seems a little too simple to be called a scheme.

Also, indicted doesn’t mean convicted, and one is left to wonder if Boynton will be required to pay back his part of the stolen money.

Finally: What took the feds so long? Elaine Boyer confessed over a year ago. If you have any insight as to why federal investigations seem to drag on forever, please offer them up in the comments.

DeKalb DA Faces Two Complaints (Really Just One)

DeKalb County District Attorney Robert James is facing two complaints about his campaign finances -though technically, it’s one complaint filed with the DeKalb County Ethics Board and then again with the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (fka the State Ethics Commission).

The complainant complains that DA James failed to file Personal Financial Disclosures in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, failed to file affidavits required of a public officer in 2012, 2013 and 2014, and underreported his campaign debt to the tune of $23,000.

Them’s the facts. Read the complaints for yourselves here, and here, to see if you draw some conclusions similar to these. Comment below the break. Read more

Updated: More Interesting Reading In Complaint Against Ralston


It seems that the version of the petition for voluntary discipline provided by FetchYourNews was incomplete. In addition to being a photograph of a .pdf document (which makes it impossible to search) the version of Ralston’s petition they provided didn’t include all the documentation that went with it, and couldn’t be printed or downloaded. One can only speculate why a news site would be so, umm, “selective.”

Here’s a link to the exhibits that FetchYourNews didn’t include. It’s a 267-page pdf, but it’s downloadable and searchable. There are some investigative notes that may tickle a prurient interest in some of you, and lawyers may have some questions about responses to some interrogatories.


Coming out of the complaint filed against David Ralston by a former client are some details that make the matter look appear to be a bad case of “snake-bit.” From Aaron Gould Sheinin’s piece in the AJC: “Ralston is accused of violating nine State Bar rules and of allowing his duties as a legislator “to adversely affect his representation” of his client.” Ralston has submitted a “Petition for Voluntary Discipline” in the matter, but the state Bar wants to dish out more punishment to Ralston than he is willing to accept.

The Bar contends Ralston’s petition suggesting some reprimands for himself to resolve the complaint were “inaccurate, incomplete or immaterial,” and want an evidentiary hearing “where the proof of each party can be tested for accuracy.”

Ralston’s petition can be found via this link (provided by the website -and it has some interesting footnotes. Read more

McKenna Long + Dentons = Expansion

Dentons, the largest law firm in the world that recently swallowed up McKenna-Long, has announced the addition of Jeff Hamling as Senior Managing Director, and James Richardson as Managing Director, in the Firm’s bi-partisan government affairs practice.

Hamling has most recently served as the Vice President of State and Federal Affairs for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the former Deputy Chief of Staff to US Congressman Tom Price (R-GA), and Richardson is a strategic communication and public affairs professionals with broad experience as an advisor for national Republican candidates and office holders, such as former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour and Presidential candidate and former Governor of Utah John Huntsman. Most recently, Richardson served as Vice President of Public Affairs for a digital and online communications firm.

“Jeff has a track record of proven success as a lobbyist at the State Capitol and with the Georgia US Congressional delegation,” said Eric Tanenblatt, Co-practice Leader of Dentons US Public Policy and Regulation practice. “He has expertise on business related issues, such as tax, healthcare and transportation policies, which will bring great value to our clients. James has a great reputation around the country as an effective strategic communicator on complex issues.”

This is pretty big news for Georgia, especially at the federal level. Full release below the fold, discuss in the comments.  Read more

DPG Issues Statement Regarding Special Election for HD 55

There’s a special election next week in House District 55, and the contest is brimming with shenanigans. First, Tyrone Brooks, Jr., was off the ballot, but a judge stayed the order to remove him. A scary mailer arrived in district mailboxes, warning of one candidates’ “close ties” to a local nudie dancing club. Several recorded phone messages of dubious veracity have been delivered, the latest causing the issue of the following statement:

“Today, Democratic Party of Georgia spokesperson Michael Smith released the following statement regarding negative campaigning in the special election race for State House District 55.

“It has come to our attention that a phone number associated with the Democratic Party of Georgia was illegally used—and without authorization—as the caller ID number for a negative robocall attacking a State House candidate in district 55. These actions—uncondoned, unethical, and unacceptable—are currently under scrutiny by our attorneys and appropriate legal recourse will be taken at the end of the investigation.

“The Party’s attorneys have also been in contact with the FCC and will assist with their investigation regarding the robocalls.”

Oh, and there’s also an Independent in the race, asking Republicans in the district to “…band together [so] we can sneak up on ‘em and corral ‘em.”

Local politics in the summertime. Yee-haw.