By Jim Tharpefirstname.lastname@example.org and Aaron Gould Sheininemail@example.com
Gov. Sonny Perdue said Thursday he will appoint a “special attorney general” to challenge federal health care legislation signed into law this week by President Obama.
Perdue made the announcement a day after state Attorney General Thurbert Baker, a Democrat running for governor, told Perdue, a Republican, he would not pursue a lawsuit.
Meanwhile, Georgia Democratic Party chairwoman Jane Kidd this morning sent Perdue a lengthy Open Records Act request, demanding copies of correspondence between his office and Republican organizations around the country.
The governor said the state constitution gives him the leeway to appoint a special attorney general if the elected attorney general fails to carry out the wishes of the governor.
Perdue said several groups of attorneys have volunteered to handle the state’s lawsuit for free. He said he expects to make a decision on a team as soon as possible, but did not set a deadline. Perdue has the support of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and the Senate Republican Caucus, all of whom said late Wednesday the support the governor’s efforts.
The governor said the state will probably go it alone on the suit to avoid any costs. If Georgia joined with the other 14 state challenging the health legislation, it would incur some legal costs, Perdue said. One of Baker’s objections to filing a suit was its possible financial impact on the state during a time of withering revenues.
When asked if Baker broke the law by refusing to carry out his instructions to initiate a lawsuit, the governor said, “I think the (state) Constitution is is clear. I think the people of Georgia can make their own determination about that.”
Asked about talk in the state Legislature that Baker should be impeached, the governor said impeachment is a legislative perrogative and declined further comment.
Perdue appeared at a Buckhead press conference with former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Gringrich condemned attacks on Democratic congressman who support the health care bill, and urged voters to funnel their outrage toward the ballot box in the November elections.
The former congressman said “there’s no place in America” for political violence, threats or intimidation.
However, he said Democratic leaders must take some responsibility for the recent outbursts of anger. He blamed Democrats in Washington of using “corrupt tactics” and of “bullying”
He accused some Democrats of being “disingenuous.”
“This is a game they are playing,” Gingrich said.
The Democrats’ Open Records request to Perdue is for all documents “between the office of the governor and the Republican National Committee, the Republican Governors Association, Republican Attorneys General Association, FreedomWorks, American Solutions, National Republican Congressional Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, Republican National Conservative Caucus and insurance companies related to opposition to the federal health care reform legislation signed by the president on March 23.”
Perdue is embroiled in a showdown with Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker over Baker’s refusal to sue the federal government to block implementation of the national health care overhaul. Perdue wanted Baker to either sue on his own or join 14 other attorneys general in the country in their joint lawsuit.
Baker, a Democratic candidate for governor, said in a letter to Perdue Wednesday that the lawsuit is almost surely to fail and would be costly in a time of plunging state revenues.
“Georgia citizens have a right to know about Perdue’s motivations for overturning legislation that will assist 1.7 million uninsured state residents from obtaining affordable health insurance,” said Kidd. “We believe that Perdue is pursuing this strategy as a purely political calculation, and ignoring the needs of 2.6 million children in Georgia who are protected from insurance denial due to pre-existing conditions by this legislation.”
In response to the Democrats’ request, Perdue spokesman Bert Brantley said the governor’s office will “be glad to search for documents and respond, but given that many, many attorneys have offered to take up this case pro bono, which means free of charge for any Democrats who are reading this, we do not expect any state resources to be spent in this effort.”