Politically Georgia

The Jolt: Kemp says Secret recording raises ‘ethical and legal’ questions about Cagle’s role


There was swift political fallout from the release of a secret recording of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle acknowledging he supported a controversial education measure that was “bad public policy” to block another rival for governor from outside help. (Read the full story here.)

Former State Sen. Hunter Hill, who Cagle aimed to hurt by pushing a private school tax credit increase, said the recording proves that “career politicians are bought and paid for by special interests.”

“I worked hard in the state senate to advance conservative reforms like school choice with the intention of benefiting our citizens,” said Hill, who finished in third place. “It’s sad to see those same policies being sold to benefit a career politician’s political ambitions.”

Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee, said through a spokeswoman that “Republicans are showing us that they’re only out for themselves and their friends.” And she highlighted her votes against the tax credit program, known as the Student Scholarship Organization, while in the Legislature.

And Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who faces Cagle in the July 24 runoff, said the recording reveals “everything that’s wrong with politics.”

“Even worse,” he added, “it raises serious ethical and legal questions that must be answered immediately."

***

It always seemed unlikely that either Hunter Hill or Clay Tippins would back Casey Cagle in the runoff. Now that is unimaginable.

Look for both to either stay on the sidelines or endorse Brian Kemp closer to the July 24 runoff.

***

The recording may as well be an early Christmas gift for Brian Kemp’s campaign, which has long accused Casey Cagle of being an unprincipled conservative who puts politics first.

But it’s unclear how he’ll leverage it: Will it be featured in campaign ads and mailers? Will he let surrogates and allies throw the sharpest barbs at Cagle? And will it matter to the core conservative voters who tend to sway runoffs? 

The other big unknown: How will Cagle’s campaign respond? He issued a lengthy press statement saying that he “openly and honestly” answered Tippins’ questions and pledging he will “sign legislation that expands education options and opportunity.” 

But we suspect his campaign is going to try to change the conversation - and quickly. 

***

Yeesh. Geoff Duncan writes that it’s no surprise state Sen. Josh McKoon endorsed David Shafer, his rival in the GOP race for lieutenant governor.

“After all you’ve been one of his personally attorneys for yrs,” tweeted Duncan, a former state lawmaker. 

“Wondering if you told the other members of the Ethics Com that tidbit before you participated in Shafer’s sexual harassment investigation and cast a vote?”

He’s referring to an ethics committee vote in April that cleared Shafer, once a GOP leader in the Senate, of sexual harassment charges. 

McKoon said he didn’t participate in the Shafer investigation, and called Duncan’s comments part of an “increasingly desperate and overwhelmingly negative campaign.”

“For eight years, I have fought hard to reform the culture of the Capitol. Mr. Duncan was nowhere to be found,” McKoon added. “He has tried to talk the talk but he never walked the walk.”

Another Shafer supporter, state Sen. Jeff Mullis, called Duncan “embarrassing.”

“ His runoff opponent is desperate, with no support, spending all his time posting crazy rants on Facebook,” he said.

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Attorney General Chris Carr locked up a boatload of conservative GOP support for his November election campaign against Democrat Charlie Bailey. Among the supporters of his “Lawyers for Carr” event on June 28 are some of the biggest names in Republican politics.

Former U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Gov. Nathan Deal, House Speaker David Ralston and U.S. Rep. Doug Collins are all honorary chairs of the organization.

So are a pair of former AGs - Mike Bowers and Sam Olens - as well as ex-state Rep. Ed Lindsey of the Dentons mega-firm and Pete Robinson, who chairs Troutman Sanders Strategies.

***

Mr. Trump clearly recognizes the high stakes. In a recent White House meeting with lawmakers and governors from a number of farm states, he pledged that the federal government would support agricultural prices should retaliatory tariffs cause the price of soybeans, corn and other major exports to fall.

“He wasn’t specific, but he assured us Sonny Perdue has a plan,” Mr. Grassley said, referring to the secretary of agriculture. “Our response was unanimous. I’m paraphrasing, but the message was, we don’t want help from the Treasury. We want free and open markets.”

***

Speaking of the trade fight, U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson has joined a faction of Senate Republicans seeking to fight Trump’s plan legislatively. The third-term senator added his name to a bill that would require Congress to approve any tariffs levied in the name of national security, the legal authority employed by Trump recently to impose new duties on imported steel and aluminum. Isakson, as well as other Georgia Republicans such as David Perdue and Karen Handel, have been publicly critical of Trump’s decision. 

Signs point to the GOP senators’ gambit not having legs – Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill an “exercise in futility” on Wednesday. 

Perdue himself has taken a quieter approach, huddling with Trump earlier this week to convince him not to be as hard on the U.S.’ top trading allies. 

***

Atlanta Congressman John Lewis took another dig at President Trump and called for Congress to overhaul the country’s immigration policies in a new letter that seeks to highlight what he sees as overly harsh enforcement, detention and legal policies in metro Atlanta. 

He said lawmakers should investigate and end the sort of traffic stops, workplace and other sweeps designed to target illegal immigrants; end the practice of separating children from their parents who are seeking asylum; and review legal protocols for immigrants– he described Atlanta’s immigration court was particularly harsh. Lewis also targeted two detention facilities in South Georgia operated by private contractors. 

"If we fail to act," the civil rights figure wrote to several of his House Democratic colleagues," Georgia could become an unfortunate model for authorities to emulate across the country."

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