Thursday, August 17, 2006

Perdue vs. Taylor Gets Ugly In A Hurry

I'm sure we all remember that in 2005, Sonny Perdue became the first sitting Georgia governor to be fined by the state ethics commission. So one might be tempted to think that his campaign would not want to bring up the issue of state ethics in his battle against Mark Taylor. But that's not the case as the Georgia GOP has filed a complaint against Taylor with the State Ethics Commission.

The Republicans are accusing Taylor of taking $35,000 more in donations from a corporation than he was allowed to in December of 2005. And they go on to say that the ethics commission should take this matter up before their next business session to stop Taylor from using those funds to "influence voters." The Taylor campaign says they've done nothing wrong, and that this is all a question of the timing of a law change affecting corporate donations. This one seems like it should be an easy one to sort out. But the question is whether or not the state ethics commission will call a special session to deal with this allegation before the November 7th election. I doubt it.

However, Gov. Perdue has a new worrisome bee in his ethics bonnet as well. Unlike past governors, Perdue decided not to put his holdings into a blind trust when he took office. This has traditionally been done to make sure that no decisions made by the governor can influence personal affairs. Perdue says that the types of assets and interests he has would not do well in a blind trust. So he took advantage of the fact that Georgia law does not require him to do so. But, Perdue's land deal with an appointee of his may have given us an example of why that law needs to be changed.

From the AP:

Perdue bought the land from Stanley Thomas, a Georgia mega-developer with a fleet of planes that the governor used at least once to get to a West Coast fundraiser. The 2004 purchase came a little more than a year after Perdue appointed Thomas to the state Board of Economic Development. About a year after the purchase one of Thomas' companies, Fourth Quarter Properties, donated a whopping $250,000 to the state Republican Party.

Perdue said there was nothing improper about the deal. The Republican governor said that he bought the land in Florida because purchasing property in Georgia while he was governor would have created a conflict of interest.
"I like land," Perdue said following an environmental speech Wednesday in Savannah.

"I determined to buy out of Georgia because I didn't want it to ever be said that I influenced anything. If I bought land within 100 miles of a new road construction, I'd be accused by the other side of influencing that. So I chose to go out of state."

But Democrats questioned whether Perdue - who spent a quarter of his net worth on the land without ever seeing it - had violated federal anti-corruption laws. They called for an investigation.

"It appears as though Gov. Perdue sold his office to make himself wealthy," Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn said.

Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey called Kahn's assertions "laughable."

Perdue bought the land, which borders the luxury Reunion Resort, for $2.038 million in December 2004 from Fourth Quarter Properties, one of Thomas' many companies. But although Perdue ponied up that much money for the land it is appraised at only $185,700. The property was assessed at the lesser amount because the land is partly composed of wetlands and lacks an access road, said Jerry Williams, supervisor of commercial assessments for Osceloa County, Fla.

We haven't even made it out of August yet. So who knows what else is bound to come up? Reportedly, Taylor ran into Perdue at a tv studio the day after his primary win, and the two exchanged congratulations and wishes for a clean race. So much for that..........

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