Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Gov. Brian Kemp Credit: GPB News

Money and politics

From a Stetson Bennett football jersey autographed by Gov. Brian Kemp and a heavily wooded tract of land near Kingsland to congressional pork and cuts in funding for free meals for Georgia school children, money tops the political news in Coastal Georgia:

Four days after Brian Kemp and his political action committees hosted a meeting of high-dollar donors and GOP grandees at Sea Island, Georgia’s governor traveled last week to another Darien — Darien, Connecticut, that is — where he was the special guest speaker at the annual Lincoln Reagan Dinner put on by the New Canaan Republican Town Committee.

A New England town seems an improbable destination for the Georgia governor. But what it represents for the politically ambitious Kemp is a potential mother lode of political contributions to his two fundraising vehicles — the political action committees Hardworking Americans and Georgians First, The Current’s Craig Nelson writes.

It isn’t known how interested donors at the Darien event were directed to send their contributions. But the forays outside Georgia by Kemp, the state’s most prominent Republican, certainly will mean more political heartburn and financial worry for Georgia’s state GOP.

At a silent auction held in conjunction with the Lincoln Reagan dinner to raise money for local Republicans, Kemp’s team offered a framed 2023 national championship Stetson Bennett autographed jersey, also autographed by the governor. That sold for $400. (Starting price: $100). And men’s and women’s University of Georgia hats, also autographed by Kemp, went for $150 (Starting price: $60.)

Last week, The Current’s Mary Landers reported that Rep. Earl “Buddy” Carter has put up for sale a 500-acre parcel of land he bought for $2.05 million in 2018. Asking price: $4.25 million.

The heavily wooded tract is located 10 miles from the site of doomed Spaceport Camden, a project Carter championed but which local voters rejected in a referendum last year.

The sale of what Carter’s real estate broker is calling a “plantation” (“That’s just for marketing.”) again calls attention to the wealth that Carter amassed as the former owner of a chain of pharmacies in the Savannah area. It undermines Carter’s claim to be “comfortable but not wealthy” and his repeated references to himself as a “small businessman” promoting other small businessmen.

Last year, the non-partisan group Open Secrets, which examines the role of money in politics, estimated his median net worth at $32,346,527. Carter himself has refused to disclose an exact number.

In the latest debate over raising the debt ceiling, Rep. Carter and other House Republicans have been adamant about tying any agreement to do so to budget cuts.

Our credit cards are maxed out” and “It’s time for Washington to cut up the credit cards,” are just two of the talking points Carter has repeated in recent weeks, after months of bemoaning that debt as nothing but intergenerational theft” in his unsuccessful campaign to be elected chair of the House Budget Committee.

But Carter’s tough line on the budget didn’t stop him from requesting federal funds for local projects in the FY2024 budget. He is one of five U.S. representatives in Georgia’s 14-member House delegation who have put in for the so-called “earmarks.”

In the Senate, Democrats Raphael Warnock submitted earmarks totaling $1.7 billion and Jon Ossoff, $898.8 million. For a complete listing of the earmarks compiled by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, click here.

Depending on your point of view, Brian Kemp took a scalpel or axe to the $32.4 billion state budget approved by the Georgia General Assembly before he signed it at the site of the Hyundai electric vehicle plant in Bryan County earlier this month.

His 33 pages of vetoes included $26 million for retiree raises, $6 million for bonuses for school custodians, $4 million to boost the pay of psychiatric hospital workers, and $1 million for agriculture positions to help peach, blueberry, and citrus farmers.

Perhaps most surprising was his veto of $6.3 million for free meals for school children. That was on top of the $66 million cut to Georgia’s university system, which lawmakers approved and Kemp did not reverse.

Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington has urged the Federal Election Commission to sanction Republican U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker and his company, HR Talent, for “direct and serious violations” of campaign finance laws.

That follows a report that Walker wrote emails asking Montana millionaire, Dennis Washington, for a $600,000 donation, then funneled $535,200 of that amount to HR Talent. Washington subsequently said the money had been returned.

According to his latest financial disclosure report filed to state election authorities in Atlanta, Savannah Mayor Van Johnson has raised more than $351,986.28 for his reelection bid. To date, he has campaign expenditures totaling $228,163.51.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s main rival in this November’s contest, councilwoman Kesha Gibson-Carter, has raised $6,320.26 and spent $2,307.98.

Pro-Abortion Rights Rally, Savannah, July 12, 2022

Democrats: Not just an abortion message

Georgia has 73 women in the General Assembly, or 30.5% of the legislature’s total seats. Two of those women, Reps. Edna Jackson (D-Savannah) and Anne Allen Westbrook (D-Savannah), joined a group of political donors in Savannah last week to discuss the policy issues that successfully championed during the spring legislative session — and what they plan to focus on in the upcoming year.

The audience of some 60 people, hosted by the Georgia WIN list, also dug into the intricacies of access to health care, reproductive rights and the hottest of current political hot potatoes: abortion, reports The Current’s editor in chief, Margaret Coker.

It is the issue of abortion that will determine how quickly congressional seats flip from Republican to Democrat in Georgia, both in 2024 and beyond, believes Melita Easters, founder and executive director of Georgia WIN List.

For Black voters, in particular, to keep casting ballots for Democrats, the state party needs to expand its message about abortion access into an overarching concern about health care access in general, warns Fenika Miller, deputy national field director for Black Lives Matter.

Half of Georgia’s counties do not have an OB/GYN, and Black Georgian women have the highest rates of maternal mortality in America, noted Miller, who lives in Warner Robbins. “Black Georgians are among the most conservative people in the state,” she said. “That might not be a popular take, but it’s true. Abortion by itself isn’t going to animate these folks. Health care will.”

Credit: Unsplash


  • End of COVID emergency leaves a black hole of health data” (Axios, May 11, 2023) “‘It’s this continued trend of loss of information and that’s going to make it harder and harder to understand exactly what’s going on with the virus,’ said Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina who has helped lead the COVID-19 Scenario Modeling Hub. . . . More than 1.1 million Americans have died from COVID over the course of the public health emergency, or about 980 peoplea day. . . . COVID deaths . . . peaked during the week of Jan. 13, 2021, when the U.S. was averaging nearly 3,400 Americans dying per day, according to CDC data. The average now is about 158 daily COVID deaths or more than 1,100 per week.”
  • Historically Black medical schools urge more spending in hearing with Bernie Sanders” (Associated Press, May 12, 2023) “To train more Black doctors, the federal government needs to bolster funding and make more training slots available for historically Black medical schools, leaders of those universities told U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders on Friday. . . . Morehouse School of Medicine President Valerie Montgomery Rice told Sanders that Black medical schools have less money and fewer academic affiliations, making ‘support from federal programs that are specifically designed to level the playing field’ very important.”
  • Democrats in Georgia, seeking stricter gun laws, must court Republican support” (Associated Press, May 10, 2023) “For people seeking to tighten gun laws in Georgia, the task comes down to changing Republican minds or changing the Republican majority.”
  • “‘He is confessing on live TV’: Legal experts say Trump’s CNN town hall could badly backfire in court” (Salon, May 11, 2023) “During another exchange, Collins asked Trump about his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, demanding he ‘find’ enough votes to swing the state’s election. Trump said he believed it was a ‘rigged election’ and said he told Raffensperger ‘you owe me votes because the election was rigged.’ ‘File this clip under new evidence for Fani Willis,’ tweeted Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor. ‘This sure sounds like an admission of corrupt intent to me.’”

Georgia politics: Money is the tie that binds

Politicians, donors work toward their futures with fundraising. Savannah mayor’s race shapes up as first reports arrive.

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Will abortion affect Democratic turnout in Georgia in 2024?  

Panel looks at successes, failures and future at recent recap of Georgia legislative session.

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State regulators poised to OK steep Georgia Power rate hike request this week

The PSC may approve an agreement that would have ratepayers reimburse $2.1 billion in under-budgeted fuel expenses and another $4.4 billion in projected fuel costs for the next three years.

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Health insurance claim denied? See what insurers said behind the scenes.

Federal regulations require most health insurance plans to give people an opportunity to review documents related to their claim for free. So if your insurer talks to your doctor, if a nurse takes notes, or if two people speak about it on the phone, all of those records should be available to you.

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In public comment period, commissioners who voted to delete ‘diversity’ from lessons filtered out public

Commission chair said the changes came at the request of the University System of Georgia and are intended to remove words that “have taken on multiple and unintended meanings” but not change the care teachers show for their students.

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Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...