Political Insider

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Jason Carter's campaign questions Nathan Deal's salvage yard sale

The controversial sale of Gov. Nathan Deal's salvage yard business resurfaced Thursday as both campaigns traded shots over Democrat Jason Carter's plan to go after tax cheats.

Carter pledged this week that his administration would seek to recoup an estimated $2.5 billion in back taxes highlighted by a recent Georgia audit, and that he would funnel those proceeds into education. Deal's camp saw it as another sign that Carter didn't have a "serious" plan to fund education, and called on him to outline specifics.

The Democrat's campaign took that as an invitation to open a new line of attack against Deal invoking the sale of his Gainesville Salvage & Disposal business to Texas-based Copart, which netted the governor and his business partner $3.2 million apiece. Days later, it was revealed that Copart was locked in a lengthy dispute with the state over as much as $74 million in back taxes.

Carter spokesman Bryan Thomas previewed the campaign's new angle in a press release on Thursday that accused the governor of collecting checks for himself while not pushing to resolve Copart's case.

“He pockets $10,000 every month from a major tax cheat," said Thomas. "Why would he want to go after them?"

Deal has said he had no knowledge of Copart's tax woes because the property he sold was run in a blind trust, which means the assets are controlled by a third party. His spokesman Brian Robinson said the governor "expects Copart to pay every cent that it owes to the state."

"This is yet another example of how Jason Carter will say absolutely anything to change the subject when he gets caught making hollow promises that he can't back up," said Robinson. "Carter says he welcomes a debate on cutting 'waste,' but weeks have passed and he still can't name one thing he's cut. Quite the contrary, it seems like every time he opens his mouth he promises to spend millions more."

Better Georgia, the left-leaning group boosting Carter's bid, unveiled an online ad last week trying to draw a line between the Copart sale and the struggle of everyday Georgians. Today's broadside from Carter's campaign was a sign that this line of attack will likely become a mainstay during the election's final weeks.

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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.