About that O’Neal letter and what it means for Perdue

When Rep. Larry O’Neal (R-Bonaire) revealed to his his fellow House Republicans last night that the IRS cleared him in the handling of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s purchase of land in Florida, he also revealed something of perhaps greater importance: The governor himself was the subject of the audit.

O’Neal is running for House speaker and the Republican caucus will gather at the Capitol tomorrow to choose between four men seeking the post. But O’Neal’s bid has resurrected speculation over his role in both Perdue’s land deal and in legislation passed in 2005 that gave the governor a retroactive $100,000 tax break for the purchase. O’Neal, as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, sponsored the legislation, although it was a Senate amendment that made Perdue a beneficiary.

In his Tuesday letter to the GOP caucus, O’Neal said the IRS “sent a team of federal auditors to conduct a full forensic audit of every aspect of this land issue transaction. It was a multi-week, full-blown, on-site examination.”

The result, O’Neal wrote, “was that the IRS made zero adjustment to the taxes involved and exonerated me once and for all for any wrongdoing in this matter.”

That last sentence must be read carefully. Because it would be Perdue’s taxes, not O’Neal’s, that the IRS saw fit not to adjust. And while O’Neal says he was exonerated, he does not explicitly say Perdue was also fully cleared. That is, however, the implication. As O’Neal writes, the governor did not have to pay any additional taxes, which would seem to mean the IRS found nothing wrong with how the governor handled the tax implications of the Florida land purchase.

Unfortunately, nobody involved will say anything more on the matter. O’Neal has not returned repeated requests for an interview. Perdue’s top spokesmen referred reporters to O’Neal’s letter and declined further comment. And IRS spokesman Mark Green could not be reached for comment.

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21 comments Add your comment


December 16th, 2009
11:04 am

wonder why they won’s show you the letter or discuss until after the vote? seems if they were doing full disclosure, the letter would be good evidence.

Aaron Gould Sheinin

December 16th, 2009
11:05 am

TC, that’s kinda the point I’m trying to make to them as well. Let’s just clear it up for goodness sake. It SEEMS like the governor was cleared, but I can’t make that assumption on my own.


December 16th, 2009
11:15 am

at least their timing is good with the holidays most folks don’t care….what a shame.

Capitol Hack

December 16th, 2009
11:40 am

One of the first rules of public service is, “if it even LOOKS bad, don’t do it.” But this crowd seems to have rewritten the rules to do whatever they want for selfish gain with blatant disregard for propriety and for the taxpaying public. Shameless.

Tom in Roswell

December 16th, 2009
12:14 pm

Who says crime doesn’t pay? Larry O’Neal escapes prosecution and pounds his chest that he has been totally exonerated simply because the Feds didn’t have enough hard evidence to get a conviction. I really am looking forward to seeing PROOF that the IRS exonerated Larry and Sonny. Something stinks here.


December 16th, 2009
3:56 pm

So he gets a law passed that makes what they did legal and now wants everyone to be happy because they couldn’t get in trouble because now it is… legal?

Mark Taylor

December 16th, 2009
3:59 pm

Look, I may not have gotten elected governor, but I am an attorney. As anyone knows, when the IRS does an audit, they don’t care what is “legal.” The IRS can and does look at “intent.” So if something is legal but accomplishes the effect of “improperly reducing tax liability,” the IRS has full authority to rack somebody up for it.

That’s why people’s butts pucker when an IRS audit is performed. They have the power of God, and the law itself doesn’t really protect you.

If this thing passed muster with the IRS with zero adjustment, that means it was as clean as a whistle.

At some point, there is no shooter on the grassy knoll…


December 16th, 2009
4:11 pm

tax expertise…no; where to eat …yes

Crooks Rule

December 16th, 2009
4:25 pm

The georgia government is filled with a bunch of crooks, getting rich off sweetheart side deals with powerful companies and people looking for favors. What a joke of a state. I may move back to New Jersey soon and get out of redneckville.

Aaron Gould Sheinin

December 16th, 2009
4:32 pm

Yeah, Crooks Rule, ’cause there’s no crooks in Jersey, right?

georgia voices

December 16th, 2009
5:05 pm

Will any of the legislators even bother to ask Larry O’Neal his position on the corruption and unethical practices known statewide by the Board of Regents of the University Sytem of Georgia (first revealed by Bill Shipp in 2003)? Perdue steps around answering the emails from Georgia taxpayers (following the Oct. 5, 2009 report by Jim Wall’s in Atlanta Unfiltered that confirmed over $7 million in under the table compensations to just 7 USG presidents and chancellors). Perdue states that the BOR has “exclusive authority” to do what they want with state and Foundation funds. We can only assume that O’Neal (Perdue’s neighbor and former lawyer) feels the same – especially because their other neighbor Larry Walker – is a new Regent! It is speculated that Walker will be Perdue’s boss within the year and Sonny will have a “Sunny” retirement at the BOR for sure – and if O’Neal is, indeed, elected the new House Speaker, Perdue’s legacy will live on……
Link to full story:
Lobbyists, interests donated $400,000 to non-candidate last year
By James Salzer The Atlanta Journal-Constitution 1:00 p.m. Saturday, November 28, 2009
One of the leading fund-raisers at the Statehouse last year was somebody who can’t even run for re-election: Gov. Sonny Perdue.Perdue, who will be finishing his second and final term in office next year, took in about $400,000 last year through PerduePAC, a political action committee his former staffers formed in 2007.
Much of it was given a few days before the legislative session by some of the same Capitol lobbyists ……….$25,000 from Donald Leebern, chairman of Georgia Crown Distributing and a Perdue re-appointee to the University System of Georgia Board of Regents..

Mills backs O’Neil « Left on Lanier

December 16th, 2009
5:14 pm

[...] According to the old guards, O’Neil is actually a pretty good guy.  Even democratic officials can’t say much bad about him.  Of course there is the one piece of unethical legislation that he helped pass.  [...]

Red Foreman

December 16th, 2009
5:51 pm

Crooks Rule, please feel free to leave at anytime…


December 16th, 2009
6:29 pm

Looks like the GOP would want to avoid anyone who had even the whiff of scandal surrounding him, and O’Neal has more than one whiff….but the Good Ole Boys running Georgia don’t figure the rest of us are paying enough attention for them to worry about it….especially right now with it being Christmastime and all….


December 16th, 2009
6:36 pm

And unfortunately, too many of us get distracted by “shiny things” too easily….

Crooks Rule is right about the crooks and the sweetheart deals, but no point in worrying about that when you can worry about the fact that he claims to be a yankee and called our state “redneckville”…yeah, THAT’S what’s important here.

C'mon now

December 17th, 2009
9:28 am

Sheesh Aaron, I expect more out of you? If the IRS made zero adjustments to the taxes owed, then there is more than an “implication” that the Governor was clear on this, it’s a certainty. If the IRS can’t find that you owe them even a nickel then rest assured that the seal is cleaner than a whistle. Those guys are very thorough.

Why all the stuff on O’Neal and nothing on Ralston and his previous tax issues?


December 17th, 2009
9:35 am

This is the last time Republican crooks will rule in Georgia and they know their time is ending. What a mistake it has been for Georgia to be run by these creeps. Taxpayers are sick of their incompetence and greed. They are unashamedly grabbing everything they can before their ship sinks and just further dragging down their party, themselves and Georgia and it stinks.

Aaron Gould Sheinin

December 17th, 2009
9:37 am

C’Mon now, did you see the other article that talked about Ralston’s tax situation? Also, as to whether the governor is clear, I want to say that is the case. But O’Neal was very careful to say that HE was exonerated. He didn’t use any language anywhere close to that to describe the governor. And if the governor is in fact in the clear, which, again, I reckon he is, why wouldn’t O’Neal or the governor just clarify it when we called to ask? Two seconds is all it would take: “Yes, he was completely cleared.”


December 17th, 2009
10:09 am

The issue is that a retroactive STATE law was passed which benefited Gov. Perdue, and the appearance of impropriety of a state legislator who was also the Governor’s lawyer intervening to change Georgia State Law which yielded an immediate benefit to his client the Governor.. The federal IRS would not be looking into THAT issue. In fact, they wouldn’t be looking into a state tax filing based on state law, or a federal tax filing based on a duly enacted state law, as long as the state law was duly enacted and not in conflict with federal tax law on the same subject..So the statement that O’neal passed an audit is very strange. Why would the federal IRS be auditing O’neal? His only part in this was supposedly propounding a change to Georgia tax law. Or did he prepare Perdue’s taxes also? Or did this tax break benefit him also so that he would be audited on the same issue as Perdue? This is all very mysterious. A lot of red herrings swimming around in O’neal’s statement.

Aaron Gould Sheinin

December 17th, 2009
10:11 am

Matt, you nailed it.

Sick of Republicans

December 31st, 2009
3:58 pm

There is not one single Republican that cares about the little guy; it is all about them. They screw the teachers over; they screw the seniors over; and before long there won’t be anyone left to screw over and then they will turn on each other.