Political Insider

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

Whistleblower lawsuit targets 'unethical' behavior of Ga. National Guard head


 

 

 

Another whistleblower case is rocking state government. This one targets Adjutant General Jim Butterworth, Gov. Nathan Deal's pick to head the Georgia National Guard.

WXIA-TV told the story over the weekend of the lawsuit filed by Mary Therese Grabowski, the Guard's ex-director of public affairs, who claims she was forced from office after refusing to cover for his "unethical and inappropriate conduct." You can find your copy right here.

Grabowski makes a series of claims in the lawsuit. Among them:

  • She questions Butterworth's participation in a 2012 AFLAC Cancer Center charity drive in which he offered donors an invite to an "exclusive" barbecue and open house at Clay National Guard Center. She said the event, attended by 37 or so people, involved "significant use of Guard resources."
  • She claims Butterworth ordered her to ban WAGA-TV reporters from access or interviews with Guard staffers "until they get right with me."
  • She said she was inappropriately ordered by Butterworth's wife to help publicize a country singer, Kaley Caperton, who was a friend of the couple.
  • She said Butterworth violated federal regulations when he accepted free use of a Braves suite in June 2013.
  • And she questioned her boss' trip to the Paris Air Show in 2013 with Gov. Nathan Deal amid planned government furloughs. She said she was told at the time he was attending as a guest of the governor's office, but said he stayed overseas several extra days.

Butterworth, a former state senator, came under scrutiny in 2012 after he was boosted several ranks by the governor to lead the Guard. He was more recently praised for his handling of the February snowfall that ground much of Georgia to a halt.

The Guard's response said Grabowski's warnings "did not reflect negatively" on her and was not the basis for her termination. "The organization stands ready to defend its position in a court of law," read the statement.

The lawsuit was brought by Kim Worth, who is fast becoming a thorn in the Deal administration's side. You'll recall she also brought the whistleblower lawsuit for former ethics chief Stacey Kalberman, who won more than $1 million after a weeklong trial.

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A pair of new polls shows Jason Carter ahead of Gov. Nathan Deal and looking stronger than his Democratic ticket-mate.

Rasmussen has Carter at 45 percent and Deal at 44 percent.  Another 8 percent are undecided and 3 percent prefer a third-party candidate. The survey of 750 likely voters was conducted on July 23-24 - after the release of a bombshell ethics memo - and has a margin of error of 4 percent.

Landmark Communications, a GOP-oriented firm, conducted its second governor's race poll in as many weeks, and found Carter ahead of Deal 47 percent to 40 percent. The poll was of 750 active voters (defined as someone who filled out voting-related paperwork in the past three calendar years) with a 3.8 percent margin of error.

In both cases, Deal was weaker than Perdue. Rasmussen had Perdue up 46-40 on Nunn, and Landmark had Nunn up 47-43 on Perdue.

The crucial number to watch in polls this general election season is the vote share of African-Americans. Rasmussen had 25 percent African-American voters, while Landmark had 30.5 percent. In 2010 the vote share was 28 percent black, a number Democrats hope to push closer to 30 percent this year so it looks more like a presidential year.

The above link is to our Sunday story on the election math. Be sure also to check out digital ace Isaac Sabetai's interactive breakdown of Georgia voters by race since 2002.

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Gov. Nathan Deal's campaign has a more detailed defense of an invite that earned it an ethics complaint.

Late Friday, Democrat Jason Carter's campaign slapped Deal with an ethics complaint questioning an email sent to supporters promoting the annual Grilling with the Governor fundraiser. The invite was sent during the legislative session, when state legislators and statewide officials are banned from raising money.

Deal spokeswoman Jen Talaber wanted to elaborate over the weekend on the ethics complaint, which she said was simply a "save the date" and not a fundraising appeal. Her words invoke the GOP's attempt to depict Carter, who was born in Georgia but raised in Chicago, as an outsider:

"This is an attempt to wave a shiny object at voters, to distract them. Now, Jason Carter hasn't spent much time here to understand this, but Georgians are smarter than what he gives them credit for."

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Savannah surgeon Bob Johnson, who came up short in a GOP runoff in the First Congressional District, wrote an email to supporters Friday vowing to press on with politics despite not winning in his first run for office. But he's going to need a few bucks in order to do so.

"We will keep the campaign open at least until the general election. And we may persist beyond that date. I will remain VERY active in the politics of the District, amplifying the message of Constitutional government, a smaller government that serves, rather than burdens our people, and the elevation of our sublime Judeo-Christian values. ...

"Finally, I am embarrassed to share with you that we have finished our campaign about $35,000 in debt. If you can help us once again we would be most grateful. You can use the DONATE button below or mail a check ..."

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We've already seen a taste of this in Georgia, with more on the way. The New York Times puts a staggering number on the outside ad spending nationwide on the midterms: $2 billion:

An explosion of spending on political advertising on television — set to break $2 billion in congressional races, with overall spots up nearly 70 percent since the 2010 midterm election — is accelerating the rise of moneyed interests and wresting control from the candidates’ own efforts to reach voters.

In the first full midterm cycle where outside groups have developed a sophisticated infrastructure, the consequences are already becoming apparent: a harshly negative tone dictated by the groups and a nearly nonstop campaign season that could cause voters to tune out before Election Day.


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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.