Over the weekend, Congressman Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, became the second major GOP candidate for governor to be dinged by an AJC investigative piece.
The first, of course, was John Oxendine, when the paper revealed back in May that our state insurance commissioner had accepted $120,000 in arguably illegal campaign contributions from dummy PACs controlled by an insurance company CEO whom Oxendine had repeatedly appointed to an influential industry board.
That didn't look too good for Oxendine, a politician who's long been dogged by whispered allegations of influence-peddling.
Deal, on the other hand, is a former judge who's enjoyed a pretty clean reputation. But his free ride may have ended Sunday. Here's the lead from the AJC piece:
U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, a Republican candidate for governor in 2010, personally intervened with Georgia leaders to preserve an obscure state program that earns his company nearly $300,000 a year.
The article goes on to describe how Deal seemed to be using his office and that of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle his fellow Gainesvillian to intimidate state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham from altering a program through which Deal's auto-salvage business had enjoyed two decades' worth of no-bid state patronage.
The program itself sounds like the very definition of old-boy connectivity: Deal's business is one of a handful around the state designated as "inspection stations" for salvaged cars that have been repaired and are being readied to be resold. The state provides the inspectors; the private stations provide a garage bay, a hydraulic lift and a worker to help move cars. Deal's company collects $100 per car inspected, the highest rate in the state. No one seems to know how any of the stations, including Deal's, got these contracts in the first place. I dont know there was much of an official thing, Deal told the AJC. Yes, I'm sure that's true.
The paper also cites evidence that, although Deal tries to argue that he simply acted as a private businessman trying to protect his interests, the Congressman's chief of staff attended meetings and made calls that related to those interests.
It's all quite fascinating and this bit is especially damning:
(Deal) said he hadnt intended to pressure or intimidate Graham.
Asked if he felt pressured or intimidated, Graham demurred.
Im not going to answer that, he said.
Deal was apparently so worried about the fallout that he personally wrote a response to the friendly folks over at Peach Pundit. Here's a tidbit:
The implication that I intervened with state officials to benefit myself is completely false and outrageous. It is nothing more than a cheap political shot using back alley, in-the-shadows tips from one of my political opponents to damage my good name and reputation.
Now, I don't doubt that the article came from a tip from a political opponent. Nor do I care. Political operatives call reporters offering dirt all the time, and for every juicy tip like this one, there are half a dozen more that aren't worth following up. But if you've got a troop of Boy Scouts buried in your basement, why should it matter that it's your bitter ex-wife who called the cops?
(Photo from Deal for Governor campaign)
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