Last week, we got the news of a leaked memo authored by Ethics Commission chief Holly LaBerge that alleges staffers from Nathan Deal’s office pressured her to make ethics complaints about Deal’s 2010 campaign “go away. ” Now more than ever, Georgians deserve a full investigation of the cover-up that is costing Georgia taxpayers more than $3,000,000.
MORE THAN $3,000,000.
That’s the amount Georgia taxpayers are now on the hook for as a result of the Ethics Commission cover-up involving an investigation of Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign finances.
Friday, Nathan Deal’s administration announced that it reached a multi-million dollar settlement with the two remaining CIVIL lawsuits against the state Ethics Commission. The state will also pay more than $400,000 to an ex-Ethics Commission attorney who only THREATENED to sue.
Last month, we learned that the final amount awarded to the ex-Ethics Commission head by a Fulton County jury would total to $1,150,000.
This brings the total—so far—to more than $3,000,000. That’s more than double the Ethics Commission entire $1,350,000 annual budget.
WATCH OUR VIDEO BELOW
A few weeks ago, Nathan Deal suggested stripping state employees of whistleblower protections—the same protections that allowed former Ethics Commission employees to bring this cover-up to light!
Even in the face of criticism, just today Deal doubled down on the proposed restrictions, saying “None of us want a situation where you have any agency within state government where someone cannot be fired for legitimate reasons and could seek the protection of the whistleblower statute as a defense to their being removed from their position. From that standpoint it needs to be looked at.”
If Nathan Deal claims no involvement whatsoever, then why is the state breaking its neck to settle these whistleblower lawsuits?
And if Nathan Deal has nothing to hide, why is he advocating the restriction of whistleblower protections?
This just isn’t adding up…
Release: Friday, June 13, 2014
Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Responds to News of Multi-Million Dollar Settlements in Ethics Lawsuits Involving Nathan Deal
Atlanta, GA – Democratic Party of Georgia Chair DuBose Porter released the following statement in response to news that the State of Georgia will settle the two remaining civil lawsuits against its ethics commission. In May, the state agreed to pay former ethics commission head Stacey Kalberman $1.3 million. Reports say the second and third settlements will total $1.8 million—moving the final amount to more than $3 million. All three lawsuits are related to an investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign.
“What I really have to say is not fit for print. It must be nice to not have to pay for your own ethics violations—but after decades of living off of taxpayer money, why wouldn’t Nathan Deal expect us to pay for this too?
“It’s reprehensible that hospitals are closing, students are being cheated out of the education they deserve, our state agencies have been stripped of funding to the point that we can’t protect children in danger, yet our governor can find enough money in our state budget to sweep his election-year headaches under the rug.
“Apparently an aversion to embarrassing ethics trials and a win-at-all-costs mindset are enough to burden taxpayers with the consequences of Nathan Deal’s own unethical behavior. But avoiding accountability as a campaign strategy is just flat out wrong. Voters won’t—and should not—forget this.”
AJC 6/13/14 – State settles all remaining ethics commission cases
Release: Friday, June 7, 2014
Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Responds to News of Probable Million Dollar Settlement in Second Ethics Lawsuit Involving Nathan Deal
Chairman DuBose Porter calls on Nathan Deal to be held accountable for his actions
Atlanta, GA – Democratic Party of Georgia Chair DuBose Porter released the following statement in response to news that state officials are preparing to pay out another $1 million settlement in yet another disturbing whistle-blower lawsuit involving an investigation of Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign finances.
“The people of Georgia expect Nathan Deal to be held accountable for his actions—not taxpayers,” said Chairman Porter. “The Deal administration has now racked up a tab of more than $2 million in state funds and there are still more ethics lawsuits to be resolved.
“This week, the Muscogee County School District announced the loss of 69 teachers and school-based personnel. By my estimation, the taxpayer dollars used to bail Governor Deal out of ethics lawsuits could have been used to keep those teachers and other personnel in our schools. Voters and taxpayers have the right to be beyond angry at the Governor now.
“In addition to a multi-million dollar tab, Deal has given Georgians heartburn and proposals for even more secrecy in government. No wonder Nathan Deal wants to silence whistle-blowers—the more we learn about how Deal runs his administration, the more it costs the rest of us.”
The following is an op-ed published in the AJC by Senate Leader Steve Henson
Honesty and transparency in government should be a cornerstone of a democracy. Transparency is what protects us all from corruption. No one or nothing should be excused from this scrutiny. It is what the delegates to the 1787 Constitutional Convention had in mind when they framed our government.
In a transparent government, there is no place for sweetheart deals, cronyism, or pay-to-play legislation. There is no place for shady maneuvering in order to protect those in elected office. We are elected to represent the citizens, and no one’s political career or personal or business interests should trump the best representation we can provide to our constituencies.
The past few years have revealed an inadequacy of ethics enforcement in Georgia government. Allegations and findings of misconduct require our immediate attention. There is simply no reason not to have a government process that is open and transparent, unless you have something to hide.
The restoration of the public’s trust and confidence through meaningful ethics reform is imperative to restore and re-energize citizen participation in government. It is imperative to hold together our democracy.
Senate Democrats have renewed our call for an independent state ethics commission after a trial found the secretary general of the ethics commission was unfairly treated when she began investigating Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign fundraising. The jury found that Stacey Kalberman should be paid $700,000, in addition to legal fees.
Three additional cases, with similar sets of facts, will play out this summer. The cost to the taxpayers will likely exceed $2 million — money that could have been used to end the backlog of ethics cases and enhance the funding of the ethics commission.
Governor Deal and the Georgia Legislature must not allow the reality or perception that political and personal interests are placed over those of the citizens of Georgia.
The people of Georgia deserve ethics enforcement that is unbiased and not controlled by the very people it’s investigating. While the governor tries to distance himself from the case, saying this is an internal administration squabble, the truth is the squabble was created by an investigation of his actions. Is it in the best interest of government transparency that the governor appoints three of the five members of the ethics commission and recommends what their annual budget will be each year?
Democrats recognize that politics can never be fully removed from the political process, but we believe there are ways we can make our government more open and more transparent. We can create a more independent ethics commission. We can provide a funding formula so the commission’s budget is not dependent on political maneuvering.
For several years, we have proposed legislation that would legitimize ethics enforcement in Georgia by removing control of the ethics process from those subject to its power. Instead of a commission appointed by legislators or the governor, Democrats have proposed the creation an ethics commission appointed by the Chief Justice of the Georgia Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of the Court of Appeals, who would be instructed to strive for diversity on the commission and 180 days to adjudicate claims.
Georgia Democrats have been moving forward on improving ethics for decades by advancing financial disclosures of elected officials and lobbyists; capping the amount of political contributions; and, preventing campaign contributions during the legislative session. We were leaders in the introduction of legislation in the recent fight to limit lobbyist gifts to legislators, and we will continue to fight to make any state agency charged with the responsibility to watch over our activities to be independent and effective.
It is time to restore public trust in governance. The governor should ask for the resignation of the present members of the ethics commission and work with other leaders in the state to appoint new members that will restore public trust. He should support a new proposal that removes his office and the Legislature from the appointment process of this agency. Now is the time to act to improve the state’s government transparency and ethics.
Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman DuBose Porter Responds to News of Federal Subpoenas of State Ethics Commission Employees
Atlanta, GA – Tonight, news broke that at least five high-ranking employees of Georgia’s state ethics commission, including commission head Holly LaBerge, have received federal grand jury subpoenas for documents related to the alleged disappearance of evidence with regard to Governor Nathan Deal’s campaign finances.
Democratic Party of Georgia Chairman DuBose Porter released the following statement:
“The same behavior that forced Nathan Deal to resign from Congress has now shown up in the way he conducts his administration as Governor,“ said Democratic Party Chair DuBose Porter. “The issue of federal subpoenas is troubling. Every Georgian should pay close attention so that history does not repeat itself in the ethics commission.”
New York Times 5/29/10: Ethics Report Faults Ex-Congressman
Nathan Deal, a former Republican congressman who is running for Georgia governor, resigned from the House last week in a move that seemed certain to end an ethics investigation that could have proved politically embarrassing.
But on Monday, the Office of Congressional Ethics released its report anyway, concluding that Mr. Deal appeared to have improperly used his office to pressure Georgia officials to continue a vehicle inspection program that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for his family’s auto salvage business.
Washington Post 4/1/2010: Resignation ends ethics probe of ex-Rep. Nathan Deal
Georgia Republican Rep. Nathan Deal might have had that solution in mind when he resigned March 21, just minutes before the ethics committee faced a deadline to act in his case. Fortunately for the citizens of his state, and unfortunately for Mr. Deal, a new ethics watchdog, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE), did not drop the matter. The office, an independent panel created by a 2007 ethics and lobbying reform law, conducts investigations and makes recommendations for further action to the House Ethics Committee. Five days after Mr. Deal’s resignation, the OCE voted to release the review it had sent in January to the ethics panel, finding “substantial reason to believe” that Mr. Deal, who is running for governor of Georgia, might have violated ethics rules.
AJC 12/11/13: FBI subpoenas current and former state ethics officials
At least five current and former state ethics officials have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has learned.
Commission attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein told the AJC on Wednesday that she and executive secretary Holly LaBerge were served in the commission office. John Hair, a former ethics IT staffer, also said Wednesday he received a subpoena.
AP 12/11/13: Subpoenas related to Ga. gov’s ethics complaints
Two employees of the state ethics commission have received federal grand jury subpoenas seeking documents regarding ethics complaints involving Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, according to two people with knowledge of the case.
The commission’s executive secretary, Holly LaBerge, received a subpoena Wednesday, a person with direct knowledge of the case told The Associated Press. The AP obtained a copy of the federal grand jury subpoena for staff attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein from a person familiar with the case. The two individuals spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the case publicly.
The GOP continues to show Georgia their true values: reward your friends, attack your critics and never take responsibility for your actions. Governor Nathan Deal and the Republican Party of Georgia have blamed the AJC and liberals for a report of the facts. If telling the truth bothers the GOP, then Georgians should add that to this list of troubling facts.
Fact One: The state ethics commission has repeatedly raised the salary of Deal’s hand-picked leader.
Fact Two: The same hand-picked leader has been accused of making evidence against Governor Deal’s 2010 campaign activities disappear.
Fact Three: Governor Deal has yet to explain his REAL PAC investments from companies determined to deny health insurance to hundreds of thousands of Georgians facing sky-rocketing costs and closing hospitals.
Governor Deal and his cronies under the Gold Dome have spent the past decade driving up unemployment, giving tax breaks to their friends and ignoring the needs of our children and working families. Georgians deserve better – a better explanation, a better leader and a better deal than the one we’ve got today.
Democrats demand an independent investigation into Governor Deal’s unexplained role in the destruction of 2010 campaign documents. Whether it comes from the GBI or from an independent body – with bi-partisan appointments – Georgia deserves answers to these troubling questions. The time for tantrums is over. Now is the time to tell the truth.
Chair, Democratic Party of Georgia