Your morning jolt: Chambliss coached for refinery witness

The 2008 refinery explosion near Savannah still has a few aftershocks left.

In today’s Savannah Morning News, reporter Larry Peterson has this:

Imperial Sugar Co. prepped U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss to rebut testimony by a whistle-blower witness at a Senate hearing last year, a lobbyist’s memo indicates.

In addition to Chambliss being given hundreds of pages of documents, the senator, Imperial’s CEO and its lobbyist discussed the July 29 hearing in advance of the session itself, a Chambliss spokeswoman confirms.

The hearing focused on the causes of the explosions and fires that ultimately killed 14 at the Port Wentworth refinery. One of the key witnesses was former Imperial executive Graham Graham, who testified that Imperial Sugar hindered his efforts to make the plants safer, a claim the company denies.

Peterson writes that Chambliss received a package of documents from Imperial lobbyist George Baker. In a cover memo:

Baker wrote that Imperial disputed what Graham was going to say and proposed questions for Chambliss to ask. Baker said the documents would provide “significant … evidence” that “Graham’s version of things is inaccurate.”

“… Mr. Sheptor and the Imperial family remain deeply appreciative of your consideration in this matter,” Baker wrote.

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has an op-ed piece in this morning’s Washington Post on the weighty issue of cap-and-trade:

Unfortunately, many in the national media would rather focus on the personality-driven political gossip of the day than on the gravity of these challenges. So, at risk of disappointing the chattering class, let me make clear what is foremost on my mind and where my focus will be…

Possibly you read Monday’s column on a — for now, stalled — documentary of Phoebe Putney Health System’s clash with two whistle-blowers in Albany, and the film’s impact on Georgia politics.

What wasn’t mentioned was the fact that one of the first people in Georgia interviewed by director Rebecca Schanberg on the topic was 14-year state Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, who has delved deep into the finances of non-profit hospitals throughout Georgia. He’s something of an expert.

In the documentary, however, Schanberg said she was forced to leave Scott on the cutting room floor — and focus instead on the film’s two main protagonists, accountant Charles Rehberg and surgeon John Bagnato.

Scott is now a Republican candidate for governor and the focus of his campaign is a walk through the state. We caught up with him around Warm Springs.

Many public hospitals in Georgia, if not most, are now operated by private management firms. But Scott thinks their finances should be a matter of public record.

“They originated with public funds. And everything they do should be subject to the Open Records Act. The physical asset originated as a public asset. Most of these leases are not at fair-market values. It’s a shell lease,” Scott said.

Lost in the hoopla of campaign disclosures last week was the fact that Washington prognosticator Charlie Cook upgraded U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall’s chances of survival in 2010 – presumably because Republicans in Georgia have yet to field a likely candidate against the Macon Democrat.

Cook has revised his forecast for the 8th District from “lean Democratic” to “likely Democratic.” (In June, Cook also revised the Georgia race for governor from “lean Republican to “toss-up.”)

Rival analyst Stu Rothenberg took account of Marshall’s increased chances back in February, listing Marshall as “favored.”

“You can’t beat something with nothing,” Rothenberg said Monday.

U.S. Rep. John Barrow (D-Savannah) and his 12th District seems to have dropped off everyone’s list of targeted members of Congress.

While you ponder that, consider these items found while perusing this morning’s

  • Leaked memo shows Gwinnett County budget cuts.
  • Budget shortfall may delay deportation of illegal immigrants.
  • Are stimulus road dollars being divvied up fairly?
  • DeKalb hires ex-Atlanta mayoral spokesman for high-ranking job.
  • Two Atlanta groups that help homeless come under investigation.
  • Grady hospital to close outpatient dialysis unit.
  • Georgia State gets grant to study school bullying.
  • State Masonic group withdraws charges.
  • Surgeon general nominee’s health care career launched in Atlanta.
  • Some opinion:

  • Your Luckovich fix.
  • Jay Bookman on how Georgia became the ‘Chernobyl of banking.’
  • Pro and Con: Can empathy be a guide to selecting high court justices?
  • From elsewhere in Georgia:

  • InsiderAdvantage: Atlanta mayor’s race more wide open than it looked a year ago.
  • ABC: Georgia has fewer millionaires in 2009.
  • And beyond:

  • NYT: C.I.A. had plan to assassinate Qaeda leaders.
  • Miami Herald: U.S., Cuba to reopen talks on migration.
  • WP: The Scene: Culture wars intrude on a day of cordiality in U.S. Senate.
  • For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

    5 comments Add your comment

    Bo Chambliss LOBBYIST

    July 14th, 2009
    10:42 am

    Old Saxby is the hardest working man on the golf course, He always earns the Lobbyist dollar.


    July 14th, 2009
    11:02 am

    Ms. Palin is wrong to call cap-and-trade a tax. It is worse than a tax because only 15% of the proceeds from auctioned permits go into our national treasury.

    – Robert Moen,


    July 14th, 2009
    11:41 am

    How appalling that our Senator values his corporate sponsors more than the lives and safety of Georgia’s working people. Not suprising, but appalling nonetheless. I could see early on in his first campaign that THIS IS A MAN WHO SOLD HIS SOUL TO SATAN YEARS AGO. It could not have been more obvious if he’d actually tattooed the words “I BELONG TO SATAN” on his forehead. Why on earth did the people of this state vote for the antithesis of everything they hold to be good? Do they think his repeating a few phrases they want to hear makes it real? Helloooo? Think much?

    (Disclaimer: I reference the alleged entity, philosophy, or mindset commonly labeled as Satan, and have no actual knowledge or confirmation of the biblically-defined being.)

    Trust me

    July 14th, 2009
    1:38 pm

    The Republican base here in Georgia was so concerned about the prospect of having 60 Dem seat in the Senate that they too sold their souls to Satan by voting for Saxby. Too bad. Now, they will have to sleep in the bed that they made.

    The Snark

    July 14th, 2009
    3:43 pm

    Too bad the families of those dead employees didn’t give a ton of money to Saxby’s re-election campaign. If they had, then they would have gotten to brief him for the hearing.