Politically Georgia

The Jolt: An Embattled EPA chief and a hunt for Delta SkyMiles


Last month’s NRA flap made Delta Air Lines plenty of Republican enemies in Georgia and beyond. But the Atlanta-based airline appears to have at least one high-flying GOP fan: embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt.

That’s according to a scathing letter five Capitol Hill Democrats sent to Pruitt on Thursday. The group outlines what Pruitt’s former deputy chief of staff told them about Pruitt’s lavish spending in recent months. 

In addition to a round-the-clock security detail and $43,000 soundproof phone booth, they wrote to Pruitt, the former aide detailed “that you direct your staff to book flights on Delta, even when they are not the federal government’s contract carrier for the route, because you want to accrue more frequent flyer miles.”

A spokesman for the EPA told The New York Times: “We will respond to members of Congress through the proper channel.”

No word yet on whether he qualified yet for the coveted Delta Diamond Medallion status. 

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On a similar note, our AJC colleague Kelly Yamanouchi reports that Delta chief executive Ed Bastian received an outpouring of positive emails after lawmakers jettisoned the airline’s tax break because it cut ties with the National Rifle Association. 

Said Bastian:

“People respect the fact that we make our own decisions and we stand by them and we’re not ‘selling out’ relative to political interests, and I think we gained a lot of fans.”

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We told you earlier this week about liberal megadonor Tom Steyer’s upcoming town hall event in Atlanta. The billionaire has sunk tens of millions of his own money into building public support for impeaching President Trump. He’s similarly reached into his wallet to aid Democratic gubernatorial candidates in this year’s elections, and one question high on the minds of local politicos is whether Steyer plans to invest in the Georgia’s own closely-watched contest. 

Neither Steyer nor his main advocacy group NextGen America have spent much money in Georgia in recent years, but Steyer said in a recent interview that he plans to hang around the state for a few days next week. “For me, this is going to be incredibly educational and fun,” he said. “I’ve obviously talked with people running for office in Georgia, talked a lot about Georgia. I think that Georgia is increasingly going to be a very competitive state.”

There is at least some fear on the GOP side. The political arm of the Republican Governors Association blasted out a statement last week declaring Steyer’s upcoming Atlanta visit as a “clear sign that he plans on making Georgia’s gubernatorial race a key focus for 2018”: 

“With Steyer already setting his sights on Georgia as a key state for his Super PAC this year, indicating that he plans to funnel money toward Democrats willing to back his radical policies, he should organize a debate between (Stacey) Abrams and (Stacey) Evans and explain to Georgia voters why they should support his far-left agenda.”

Steyer does have a fundraising program with environmental groups, GiveGreen, that allows donors to give to candidates in Georgia and other states with “strong stances on clean energy and climate issues,” money the group will then match.  

We also asked Steyer about whether he plans to get involved in next month’s Democratic gubernatorial primary, in which Evans and Abrams are testing out two very different political strategies. Steyer indicated he would likely stay out of the contest but wouldn’t rule it out either:

“We have tried to avoid D-on-D races. We have broken that intention very, very, very rarely because we’re basically a grassroots organization trying to get as broad participation as possible …. We have obviously heard a lot, talked a lot and thought a lot about this Democratic primary in Georgia. We haven’t decided that this is one that would break our rule, although we understand that it’s a very important primary.”  

As we mentioned earlier this week, appearing publicly with Steyer has its benefits and risks for Evans and Abrams. Both candidates have already said they plan to skip his town hall. (TH)

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Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax will join Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, on her coastal swing on Friday and Saturday. The duo will make stops in Brunswick, Jesup, Hinesville and Savannah. Fairfax is the second African-American to be elected statewide in Virginia, and he won his race last year as part of a Democratic wave that also lifted Ralph Northam to the state’s top job.

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Despite announcing his retirement at the end of the year, House Speaker Paul Ryan plans to serve out the remainder of his term. But there are some Capitol Hill Republicans who think that is unwise, including Ranger Congressman Tom Graves. A top ally of Kevin McCarthy, the second-ranking Republican who’s considered the front-runner to replace Ryan, Graves is quoted in Politico arguing that a lame duck speaker could hurt GOP fundraising efforts: 

“We would have more success if there’s no ambiguity as to what the leadership structure might look like,” said Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ga.), one of McCarthy’s closest allies, who is pushing for a vote to replace Ryan sooner rather than later. “Certainty is important. ... From the conversations I’ve had, everybody wants our ‘A team’ in place, our strongest team in place, so we have the strongest outcome going into the election cycle.” 

As we noted in our own Ryan story Wednesday, Graves could personally gain from his friend McCarthy becoming speaker. Graves is looking to run the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and it no doubt helps him to have an ally running the Steering Committee, which has first say in which lawmakers will serve as chairmen. (TH)

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Federal campaign finance filings are only now beginning to trickle in, but the camp of 7th District candidate Carolyn Bourdeaux says the Democrat raised just shy of $220,000 in the first quarter. That’s not a shabby haul for the race, which has been a bit sleepy money-wise, and nearly double what the GSU professor raised in the last three months of 2017. For comparison, the incumbent, Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, raised $151,000 in the fourth quarter. We’ll have the full list of numbers on Monday. (TH)


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