Political Insider

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

The jolt: Kemp now faces calls for criminal investigation


Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle has already faced a round of calls for a criminal investigation from allies of his Republican opponent. Over the weekend, Secretary of State Brian Kemp’s critics made a similar demand for prosecutors to probe possible “quid pro quo.”

The allegations center on Massage Envy clinics that face at least four complaints involving therapists groping women during massages. The Board of Massage Therapy, under Kemp’s purview, has not sanctioned or revoked any of the accused therapists.

After an AJC investigation revealed the owner of those clinics is a donor to Kemp’s campaign for governor, and Cagle backers pounced.

State Sen. Renee Unterman, in a letter to U.S. Attorney B.J. Pak, said there “appears to be a direct connection between campaign support from Massage Envy franchisees in exchange for non-action and suppression” of the complaints.

And Barry Morgan, Cobb County’s solicitor general, asked Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to launch an investigation and “advise your client on the best practices to protect victims in cases like these.”

Kemp’s campaign has said he did nothing wrong in taking campaign cash from the clinic’s owner, Dr. Patrick Greco, and that it has refunded hundreds of thousands of other donations from industries his office regulates. And Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney called Unterman “mentally unstable.”

“It is our hope that, for her own sake, she will retract these baseless, politically motivated statements before facing serious legal action,” he said. “We also hope that Sen. Unterman will seek immediate medical attention before she hurts herself or someone else.”

Greco has repeatedly declined to comment on the claims. And the company has said in a statement that it cannot comment on specifics of the investigations.

If this rings a bell, there’s a reason.

Several GOP legislators and Democratic leaders earlier asked Pak and Carr to probe whether Cagle offered to trade legislative action for campaign funding after he was heard saying in a secret recording he backed “bad public policy” to undercut another rival.

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Another snippet of the covertly-recorded audio of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle emerged this morning - and this time it was released by Brian Kemp’s campaign. 

In the 50-second recording, Cagle talks to Clay Tippins about the party’s shift to the right in the primary. Listen to it here. 

“The issues you talk about are the issues I care about as well. The problem is in a primary - and you and I are just talking off the record frank - they don’t give a (expletive) about those things. Ok. In the general election, they care about it. Ok. But they don’t care about it in a primary. This primary felt like it was who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck, and who could be the craziest.”

It’s unclear what triggered his remarks, but it echoes a longer piece of the recording Tippins released in June. In that audio, Cagle said he backed expanding a private school tax credit that was bad in a “thousand different ways” to prevent Hunter Hill from getting outside support from a key charter school advocacy group. 

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Democrat Lindy Miller continues to flex her financial muscles in the race for Public Service Commission. 

Miller, who faces Republican incumbent Chuck Eaton in November, reported raising more than $700,000 in the latest fundraising report. Her campaign said that beats a record held by then-Commissioner David Burgess in 2006. 

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The ongoing water wars feud could mean higher utility bills. 

Fitch Ratings said the legal battle between Georgia and Florida - which got another lease on life after the Supreme Court kicked it back to an expert judge for more arguments - could have credit implications for water utilities “as it would raise the need for borrowing to create additional supply.” 

Any ruling that limits water supply, Fitch said, could force utilities to “strike a careful balance between charging higher water rates and/or assuming lower financial margins.” That also could mean they divert funding from infrastructure improvements, escalating future expenses. 

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A new tiff between the campaigns of David Kim and Carolyn Bourdeaux spilled into the open over the July 4th holiday week, with the two 7th District Democratic runoff candidates accusing the other of playing dirty politics.

It all started when the Kim camp said that Korean translators volunteering with the campaign were accused of illegally campaigning at a polling site in Lawrenceville by a Bourdeaux operative, an allegation they said amounted to “the vile philosophy of voter suppression.”

The volunteers in question, the Kim campaign said, were not handing out campaign literature or telling people who to support but were simply seeking refuge from the sun on a hot day as they waited for voters who needed translation services.

Kim on Friday tweeted a video of himself decrying what he saw as an “increase of harassment and intimidation incidents” at the polls. “We should be the shining example of the new South, not perpetuating the tactics out of the old South’s Jim Crow playbook,” Kim said. 

The Bourdeaux campaign offered a much different version of events. It said it received calls about potentially inappropriate electioneering and asked the authorities to check out the scene -- and not much else.

Bourdeaux later released a statement vehemently denying that her campaign participated in anything resembling voter suppression and said that Kim was “appropriat(ing)” the struggles of African-Americans in order to “score cheap political points.”

“Jim Crow era voter suppression was marked by extreme violence - fire hoses, dogs, buses that were firebombed -- and other repressive tactics like poll taxes and literacy tests,” Bourdeaux said. “David Kim comparing a request from election officials for volunteers to move a few feet to those violent actions is offensive and reflects a complete lack of understanding of history.”

 


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