Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Cherokee Co. tea party chief on track for a $450,000 year

You might not know it, but one of the most active tea party groups in the nation has an official business address of Woodstock, Ga. It's co-founder, Jenny Beth Martin, is a resident of Cherokee County.  And so this Washington Post report is worth noting:

When the Tea Party Patriots threw its support last month behind Matt Bevin, the underdog conservative challenger trying to unseat top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, President Jenny Beth Martin vowed the group would be “putting our money where our mouth is.”

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So far, its super PAC has mustered just $56,000 worth of mailers in Kentucky on Bevin’s behalf — less than half the amount it has paid Martin in consulting fees since July.

The Post looked at other groups as well, but notes that of the $7.4 million raised by the TPP's super PAC since 2013, only $184,505 has gone directly to candidates. More:

Martin, the super PAC’s chairwoman, oversees all its expenditures, according to [Tea Party Patriots spokesman Kevin] Broughton, meaning she sets her own $15,000 monthly fee for strategic consulting — payments that have totaled $120,000 since July.

She also draws a salary as president of the Tea Party Patriots’ nonprofit arm — getting more than $272,000 in the 2012 fiscal year, according to the group’s most recent tax filing.

Her twin salaries put her on track to make more than $450,000 this year, a dramatic change in lifestyle for the tea party activist, who had filed for bankruptcy in 2008 and then cleaned homes for a period of time to bring in extra money.

Here’s the final verdict:

Three well-known groups — the Tea Party Patriots, the Tea Party Express and the Madison Project — have spent 5 percent or less of their money directly on election-related activity during this election cycle. Two other prominent tea party groups, the Senate Conservatives Fund and FreedomWorks, have devoted about 40 percent of their money to direct candidate support such as ads and yard signs.


When we asked Gov. Nathan Deal about the half-dozen or so letters he received from sheriffs warning that the sweeping new gun bill could cause them a host of new legal problems and lead to more bloodshed, the governor said, “I have not had those concerns expressed to me.”

One of those sheriffs, Howard Sills of Putnam County, informed us of a rather gaping hole in Deal's argument. He passes along a letter signed by Deal on April 16 that thanks him for his opinion and says he will "keep in mind the counsel you have offered me."

"I appreciate you making me aware of your interest in this matter, and if I can be of any further assistance to you, please feel free to contact me again," Deal said in the letter.

Sills said in an interview that he was hopeful Deal would heed the advice from sheriffs who raised alarms about the sweeping new measure. Their biggest worry involves a part of the bill that bans police from demanding to see the weapons permit of someone carrying a gun, which they argue would lead to more lawsuits and put officers in unnecessary danger.

We asked Deal spokesman Brian Robinson whether the governor, indeed, did take into consideration the sheriffs' concerns. He said that the office received more than 4,000 messages from constituents and that the governor took into account the concerns, as well as the "avid support," from law enforcement officers.

"The governor receives weekly reports on what constituents are calling or writing him about," said Robinson. "Every one gets an appropriate response, and we're pleased to see that's what happened here."


Sunday's print topic was the dilemma that Georgia's new gun law poses for state Sen. Jason Carter, who voted for HB 60 and will soon be formally named the Democratic nominee for governor. In the course of our research,  we reached out to Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who is a top name in Michael Bloomberg's anti-gun violence movement,  for his opinion on the measure. Spokesman Carlos Campos sent word that Reed is "very much opposed to this new law."


Tucked below its endorsement of Gov. Nathan Deal on Sunday, The Marietta Daily Journal weighed in on a particularly heated primary unfolding in one of Cobb's most conservative corners.

The newspaper endorsed Marietta lawyer Bert Reeves, who it said was a "traditional conservative with a well-demonstrated passion for serving this community." The support came at the expense of Charles Gregory, a freshman lawmaker who has quickly taken up the late Bobby Franklin's mantle as an assured "no" vote.

From the editorial:

"Incumbent Charles Gregory ran a “stealth” campaign in 2012, making little mention of his allegiance to Ron Paul and his movement and upsetting Rep. Judy Manning. Gregory repeatedly has been the sole vote (or one of just two or three votes) on his side of various issues. But voters send representatives to the Capitol to represent them and their district, not to embark on quixotic crusades. Gregory has carved a niche as the most ineffective legislator in Atlanta and shows no sign of changing. District 34 voters would be well-advised to make a change May 20."

A thread needs to be noted here. Reeves is an associate attorney at GMHC360, a bipartisan law firm in Marietta whose partners include Heath Garrett, former chief of staff to U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. Garrett is among those Georgia Republicans who have publicly worried that more extreme candidates pose a long-term danger to the GOP. His wife, Lee B. Garrett, is general manager of the MDJ.


An Associated Press look at why tea party groups haven’t rallied around Paul Broun in the Senate race includes this passage with Sal Russo, chief strategist for the Tea Party Express, one of the largest tea party groups in the country:

Russo said there aren't "huge differences" among the candidates on important issues. Russo's group, the Tea Party Express, has yet to endorse and is waiting to speak with Kingston and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, also considered a front-runner, before making a decision.

"In 2010, it was important to take a stand, to say "No, we are not going to vote for someone just because they are a Republican,'" Russo said. "Now our goal is winning elections. It's important to take the gavel away from (Senate Majority Leader) Harry Reid. That is our number one priority."

Tea Party Express has weighed in on one Georgia race: It’s backing Barry Loudermilk in the 11th District Congressional race.


On WGAU 1360-AM this morning, Tim Bryant and Martha Zoller had all seven Republican U.S. Senate candidates on to mark the first day of early voting. Rep. Paul Broun sidestepped a question from Zoller about the lawsuit to overturn Georgia's same-sex marriage ban:

"Martha, I believe in traditional marriage but that’s a state issue. And what I’m fighting is for families to be able to have the money that they need. We’ve got to shrink the size and scope of government, send the powers back to the states or the people, leave money in people’s pockets and that’s what I’ve been fighting for in Washington, so that families – all families – will be able run their lives without all this government intrusion."

Is it a sign of the times that even the candidate who says he uses the Bible as a guide to vote-casting does not want to engage on this topic?

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.