The Capitol as frat house, and the 2010 race for governor

When House Speaker Glenn Richardson resigned last week, he left more than a state Capitol in turmoil.

The sudden departure of the first Republican leader of the Georgia House, under less-than-savory circumstances, threatens to shake the 2010 race for governor to its core.

That Democratic candidates have come down with a virulent case of righteousness should surprise no one. House Minority Leader DuBose Porter of Dublin has applied for a patent on the phrase “culture of corruption.”

The real debate has erupted on the other side of the aisle. It started even before Richardson walked out the door ‚ì fueled by worry among many Republicans that they will be forced to defend a Legislature that, aside from being ineffective, has descended into a tawdry caricature of sex and influence-peddling.

Merely in terms of strategy, Richardson’s resignation poses a problem for U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville, the speaker’s choice for governor. The House Republican caucus, normally a deep well of both money and contacts, has been paralyzed.

Deal remained mum through Richardson’s ordeal last week. One possible reason: Deal himself is the subject of a complaint to the Office of Congressional Ethics, on allegations he intervened with state officials to protect a business he owned.

The real problem is that Republicans have advertised themselves not just as the party of family values, but of reform. Of clean-dealing and virtue for virtue’s sake.

Only one of seven GOP candidates for governor called for Richardson’s resignation before the fact. “We … have a responsibility to hold ourselves — and each other — accountable,” Secretary of State Karen Handel said.

Handel said the phrase wasn’t intended to wound former state Sen. Eric Johnson of Savannah, another GOP candidate for governor. But she wasn’t upset that others interpreted it that way.

“From the moment you become aware of an impropriety or wrongdoing, and you do nothing about it, you become part of the problem,” Handel said last week.

In 2007, Johnson headed a three-person House-Senate ethics panel that was handed the task of examining a complaint lodged against Richardson, charging that he had an “inappropriate relationship” with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist. At the time, the speaker was also co-sponsoring legislation that would have helped the company construct a $300 million natural gas pipeline.

The complaint, filed by then-state Democratic Party Chairman Bobby Kahn, was dismissed for lack of evidence. Johnson, as president pro tem of the Senate, was the face of the decision.

Susan Richardson, the speaker’s ex-wife, explained to the world last week that the affair did indeed take place. She provided the speaker’s e-mails to prove it. Three days later, her ex-husband resigned.

In an interview Friday, Johnson said it would have been nice to have that information years earlier.

“All we had at the time was unsubstantiated rumor by the chairman of the Democratic Party. It was just a repeat of gossip. And the committee wasn’t going to — and in fact couldn’t — chase gossip,” Johnson said. “The rules of the committee forbid us to look at anything that couldn’t be used in a court of law. Our hands were tied.”

He called Handel’s remarks on the matter “inappropriate.”

But his competitor wasn’t satisfied. She suspects the complaint was rejected out of hand because of its Democratic author. “Doesn’t one have a responsibility to ask a couple questions? Were any questions asked?” Handel said.

Johnson had anticipated the question. “Who would you interview?” he asked. Richardson had denied the accusation. Democrats had no facts to offer. “You don’t call a wife, saying, ‘Your husband’s been accused of having an affair. What do you know about it?’ “ he said.

(State Sen. George Hooks, a Democrat from Americus, was also on the panel. In an interview, he agreed with Johnson.)

The debate is hardly finished, but Handel does make this point: If the rules of ethics investigations dictate that complaints can’t be truly scrutinized, then why bother?

It’s a question that Republicans will have to answer next year.

Handel and Johnson may not agree on whether Republicans policed themselves properly in the Richardson matter. But both understand the frat-house problem at the Capitol — to a degree that might disturb some members of the public.

“I don’t think the culture is linked just to Republicans. It’s the culture of the Capitol that has been here for decades,” Handel said. “It just hasn’t changed. It’s a throwback culture.”

The secretary of state has issued standing orders to the young women in her office. “They are not to fraternize with the legislators. It’s just not a good idea,” she said.

For his part, Johnson said he often lectured fellow senators about “appropriate behavior.” In the last hours of the 2008 session, it was Johnson who swept a group of drunken female interns off the floor ‚ì and ordered them out of the Capitol.

But he had acted on something he’d seen with his own eyes. “The Capitol is full of gossip. You just turn a deaf ear to it until you have a fact,” he said.

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46 comments Add your comment

Man about Town

December 5th, 2009
3:19 pm

So the SoS will allow only the young men in her office to visit with legislaters?

Hire cute guys and that might be fun for female senators and representatives. Or maybe I can be an intern.

vuduchld

December 5th, 2009
3:57 pm

The Richardson ordeal is but ove cavet to the whole piece of the puzzle I have been saying all along. When you have incompetent people running the state it is but a matter of time issues like these come to the surface. People want to blame “Obamanation” and other boogeymen for their demise, but when you have this kind of carrying on, then who should the blame REALLY be pinned on.

Nothing in the past decade that has turned Georgiaa into a red state tells me that it is on the right path to prosperity. In fact, I make the arguement that the opposite is true. On both sides of the isle of the state house and executive branch you see complete incompetence, but yet the citizens think that all is well. Well, that IS NOT the case. This is only the tip of the iceberg. When you have leaders with less than third grade educations running the state what do you expect!?

People of Georgia, you only have to blame yourselves for electing the same scumbag politicans again and again…keep electing them!! LOL

Rhonda Atlanta

December 5th, 2009
4:28 pm

I think Jeff Chapman candidate for Governor 2010 has not only separated himself personally from people that behave like Richardson, he has done it politically even when it made the good old boys in the frat house in his own party mad at him. He is the republicans last hope to hold on to the office of governor these other clowns have worked so hard at handing back to the democrats. As a republican I am ashamed of how Perdue has played lose with Jekyll Island in what was an obvious attempt at rewarding fat cat friends like the Reynolds boys. Jeff Chapman stood in his way.

Eric Johnson has placed one of those friends of Perdue who has a contract with the state on Jekyll now on his election team and I feel he knew the truth about this affair long ago. If Chapman were a democrat I would vote for him. The state and the citizens should come before party. Chapman has already shown that he has put Georgians over party politics.

Good Government

December 5th, 2009
4:54 pm

Well written article. Karen Handel seems to be the voice of sanity in a party otherwise seeming to stink of ethical mishaps.

Eric Johnson’s comment, ““The rules of the committee forbid us to look at anything that couldn’t be used in a court of law. Our hands were tied.” is laughable. The man didn’t “look” at anything. He covered up for his friend for pure political reasons and everyone knows it. What’s also interesting is Eric’s own record of transgressions and ethical lapses that have so far avoided the limelight.

Regardless of party – be it Democrat, Republican, or Independent; Georgia needs a Governor who understands the importance of good government and ethics. So far, the only candidates who are rising to that occasion are Dubose Porter for the Democrats and Karen Handel for the Republicans.

Michael

December 5th, 2009
5:35 pm

I don’t like Richardson and the self-dealing that goes on apparently with most legislators, but to say he’s incompetent and has a third grade education just shows how uninformed and biased you are (vuduchld).

ITP Conservative

December 5th, 2009
5:49 pm

I am voting Handel. Richardson’s problem is that he only cares about Richardson. I heard rumors of his innuendos over 2 years ago and he didn’t get a thing done except stand in the way. I don’t like hypocrites so good riddance. Hope he can find Jesus and get his life right.

Sonny only cares about fishing. The darn shame of it is all these R’s used to be Dems – wish they would go back.

Bubba

December 5th, 2009
5:51 pm

The legislature has always been a frat party after hours. In the old days at the Henry Grady Hotel (replaced in the 1970s by the Peachtree Plaza), rural legislators’ rooms were frequented by ladies not their wives. After the Henry Grady was torn down, the same stuff went on at a couple of then-new and now aged downtown hotels. One of the more intelligent and better educated of the current batch of Republican legislators told me a couple of years ago that after being in the minority for generations and finally getting a majority, they had totally screwed it up and “need adult supervision.” So true.

Eli Whitney

December 5th, 2009
5:58 pm

You can’t patent a phrase. But if he wants a trademark, give me a call at 800-NERDS-30-24.

BPJ

December 5th, 2009
6:36 pm

This comparison is very unfair…..to any well-run fraternity house.

For The People - ALL the people

December 5th, 2009
6:38 pm

Karen might be on the moral high road but she is incompetent and is doing everything in her power to make sure people she considers beneath her will not be allowed to vote. She is just another Republican who cares about nobody but the upper class affluents.

ITP Conservative

December 5th, 2009
7:21 pm

So being required to have a legal ID to vote is keeping people down. Liberalism is a mental disorder. At least we will never have a liberal governor in Georgia.

Bubba

December 5th, 2009
8:14 pm

That whole cabal should be swept out, including Burkhalter, Keen, Johnson, etc. Put some salt peter in the drinking water at the capitol and bring in adult supervision.

norman

December 5th, 2009
9:27 pm

Georgia will vote for a republican for governor even if Judas was the republican nominee.

riddle me this

December 5th, 2009
9:41 pm

Sending Handel to the state house is a mistake. Her educational credentials better still, lack of, will shame us before the nation. ONLY a HS DIPLOMA!!! What are we telling our students. Just finish high school and you too can be governor? LMAO

Oh I loved watching TBow cry!!!!!

td

December 5th, 2009
10:05 pm

It is a shame that the Republican party gets a bad name because we allowed all these former Democrats to keep their offices.

Also, lawyers are not true to either party so they need to be not allowed to serve in the legislature at all.

StevenCee

December 5th, 2009
10:32 pm

I just wonder, if this affair was “common knowledge”, then when Bobby Kahn filed the complaint, why wasn’t he able to include the name of even one person who could attest to it, if it were in fact, “common knowledge”? I’m no Republican, but I have to agree with the ethics committee on this, what were they supposed to do, they aren’t detectives…..

ITP Conservative

December 6th, 2009
12:11 am

Riddle Me This you are ignorant – Richard Branson, Truett Cathy, Bill Gates all billionaires do not have college degrees. College degrees don’t me a thing – W. had one, Obama has one, Nasty Nancy and Hurry up Harry have one and look at where we are as a country.

I would much rather have a determined, scrappy and proven person leading the state than some clown with a college degree.

Real Athens

December 6th, 2009
12:11 am

ITP Conservative: It cost’s money to get a “state sanctioned” I.D. card. Hence, it costs money to cast a vote. That is a poll tax. It is forbidden in the Constitution. It is that simple.

Driving is a privilege. Voting is a right. Never confuse the two.

This has nothing to do with liberalism or conservatism. It’s called disenfranchisement. How can you be so obtuse?

Real Athens

December 6th, 2009
2:16 am

ITP: You and your silly, disjointed, straw man arguments belie your intelligence. Bill Gates scored 1590 (out of 1600) on the SAT. He attended Harvard (did not graduate). Richard Branson attended preparatory schools in Britain. Truett Cathy sells Chicken Sandwiches.

All are very successful and much smarter than Karen Handel.

I’m not sure I’d want any of them to be Governor.

Jeff

December 6th, 2009
4:06 am

Jim,

Typically you’re better than this. Karen Handel was NOT the first GOP candidate to call for Richardson’s resignation – Austin Scott was when he told your colleague Aaron Sheinin:

“Governmental Affairs Committee chairman Austin Scott (R-Tifton), a 2010 candidate for governor, said Thursday that House Speaker Glenn Richardson (R-Hiram) needs to act or Republicans will act for him.

“I know the (House Republican) caucus is going to do the right thing and there will be new leadership shortly,” Scott told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Thursday.”

Once a Republican

December 6th, 2009
6:14 am

Eventually it will catch up with all of the bums. The banks continue to fail, and new ones are appearing. Same bankers, just different banks and different money. They’ll be gone in 5 years. Banks and Republican politicians. They are a tacky bunch. Little people like ole tricky Dick.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

December 6th, 2009
6:56 am

Isaiah 42:1 Behold My servant, whom I uphold ; Mine elect, in whom My soul delighteth ; I have put My spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.

Isaiah 45:4 For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me.

Isaiah 65:9 And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of My mountains: and Mine elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there.

Isaiah 65:15 And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto My chosen: for the Lord GOD shall slay thee, and call His servants by another name:

Isaiah 65:22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

America’s Founders, Black and White, Jew and Gentile, made covenant with the One G-d, The Creator, in establishing in the world this New Israel, Land of Promise, prophesied by the Prophet Isaiah…”into which all nations shall flow,” ruled only by Truth and Justice, a Nation of priests.

Each individual sovereign under G-d alone – American Exceptionalism: The fruit of Western Civilization’s progress toward Enlightenment – Immanuel. Imanu’el (Hebrew עִמָּנוּאֵל “God [is] with us” consists of two Hebrew words: אֵל (’El, meaning ‘God’) and עִמָּנוּ (ʻImmānū, meaning ‘with us’).

Read our civil religion’s holy documents: The Declaration, and The Constitution, to know why the process by which the sovereign Citizen choosing righteous leadership, when G-d works directly through the Enlightened Electorate, is called Election, and what it means to be “chosen of G-d”/”el-ect.”

Those who serve The People are servants of G-d. Those who serve Mammon are obvious.

The “Republican” party is the Roman Anti-Christ’s “Fifth Column” in America. Some “Democrats” also serve Mammon. Their lives are proof for any discerning eye to see.

Glenn Richardson was the same person before and after Dale Russell’s interview with Susan Richardson, and he was falsely “elect” of the Gay Old Pervert party at the Capitol – consummate proof of the character and discernment of those who “elevated” him.

The spirit of evil was upon Georgia’s “Republicans” when they made him their leader, just as it has been, as none of them has spoken out against Bush’s and Cheney’s provably committing 9/11, or Nixon’s and Bush’s father’s having assassinated John Kennedy and Dr. King, using the Roman Catholic CIA.

The extent to which “Democrats” also submit to evil and hypocrisy is the degree to which a “bi-partisan” false elite has risen to power above G-d’s sovereign People, The Electorate, in America.

Karen Handel had the opportunity to establish righteousness in our electoral process, just as she had the opportunity to have or adopt a child to share G-d’s blessings in this life. She is rejectionist in both regards and is a transparent tool of that same Anti-Christ.

A senior element in the “Republican” “leadership” guided by non-man Glenn Richardson, Karen Handel is no-woman, who seeks political power as a substitute for that which she knows is missing in her life: a healthy soul.

Don’t take G-d for granted, Georgia. Particularly when it is so obvious how wanting is our political “leadership”: a caste of perverts and adulterers, ravening wolves, in service to Mammon and fascist plutocracy. Who else wouldn’t rise up against Bush and Cheney when their treason became known, just because a dwindling constituency of fellow-traveling fascists, papists, bribers, sinecures, and perverts was willing to egg them on?

Constituents

December 6th, 2009
7:39 am

Quote from Karen Handel: “From the moment you become aware of an impropriety or wrongdoing, and you do nothing about it, you become part of the problem,” Handel said last week.

If what Handel says is true, why has she (and legislators) not taken any action after being informed for almost a year about the “exclusive authority” with state and foundation funds (Perdue quote) that the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia has by introducing new legislation to bring back the BOR’s accountability to someone other than themselves?

The Board of Regents’ “exclusive authority” has resulted in over $7.1 million being given to USG presidents and chancellors during a time of major budget cuts and furloughs. This one issue was discovered by Jim Wall’s via Open Records and reported on Oct. 5, 2009. And there is more – much more.

But do any of the legislators even ask questions? No. Not even Chairman of the Senator Higher Education Committee, Seth Harp.

Link to full story:
http://www.atlantaunfiltered.com/2009/10/05/university-execs-deferred-pay-often-hidden-tops-7-million/

Perdue continues to protect his possible future employer as he does not want to bite the hand that feeds him now and will probably feed him in the future (the Marietta Times Journal said that Perdue has been approached to consider the presidency at UGA after his term expires).

Even BOR Don Leebern gave Perdue $25,000 this past year:
Find this article at:
http://www.ajc.com/news/donations-to-perduepac-raise-216734.html

Handel’s actions (and those of other legislators) would speak much louder than just words – and believe us, we are listening more than you know.

House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard is one that is finally taking a stand with the introduction of new legislation.

Frustrated

December 6th, 2009
8:39 am

The GA legislature is a throwback to the 1940’s. I’m a native Georgian and I am disgusted by this insular world of entitlement. Throw them all out.

Thomas

December 6th, 2009
8:53 am

Term limits will end some of the private trade offs and bring State and Federal Government back to some kind of accountability for at maximum of eight years. The Governor and President are held to the limit standard and so should the Legislature and Congress be too. Bad politics comes from those of the good old boy system that average citizens of the state have no clue about.

Sex Pays

December 6th, 2009
9:10 am

Sex, booze, money, payoffs and influence peddling!!! The daily life in the Ga Legislature!!!

[...] meaning that Deal is clearly the chosen candidate of Richardson. Karen Handel: Wants people to believe she was the first to call for Richardson’s resignation, but she wasn’t – Austin [...]

Dixie3

December 6th, 2009
9:48 am

Bring back Herman Tallmadge, a great Democrat and segreganist. When we aint in power, see how Atlanta is gotten.

Flatbed

December 6th, 2009
11:41 am

I’m about ready to vote for Handel just because she is a woman. I reckon I’m simple, but the simpletons in the state house have driven me to it. We need a change, and we must drive the good odd boys out of power.

Those trying to defend Autism Scott ought to remember he is a big supporter of Richardson until the wind shifted. Then he said he would sign a petition. You call that leadership??

Zeb

December 6th, 2009
12:04 pm

Bill Shipp knew about and wrote about Glenn Richardson’s affair and ethical lapses two years ago.
Bill has retired now and apparently no one else in the entire state media has had the integrity or the courage to confront these self-dealing greedy hypocrites and call them out. God help our democracy if the newspapers and media won’t protect us. The giant corporations own most of the media, and don’t give a damn about the First Amendment or the public interest. Reporters are terrified for their jobs and are mealy-mouthed and reticent to speak out about any corruption they happen to stumble across, for fear of retribution from the media congomerate. The Democrats were bad. But at least they exercised some modicum of subtety and restraint in their plundering and pillaging the populace. But the current crop of money-grubbing Republican bully-boys is worse, and knows no limits.

Jeff

December 6th, 2009
12:39 pm

Flatbed:

He was doing the politically pragmatic thing so long as it was just an affair that was rumored with ZERO proof offered. Once it became allegations of threats of physical violence and abuse of power, with proof offered, he became the FIRST GAGOV candidate to say that Richardson would be gone, one way or the other. The petition is the legal means for House members to remove their Speaker, thus it was the mechanism he COULD initiate.

Churchill's MOM

December 6th, 2009
1:10 pm

My vote goes to Handel, she knows how to use a broom..

Flatbed

December 6th, 2009
1:50 pm

Jeff:

Did he initiate it?

Elaine

December 6th, 2009
2:00 pm

Things sure have changed in the past few years. My husband served in the legislature for many years and I was there with him. We made so many friends and never saw the “party side” of the Capitol. Most elected officials had their spouse with them and only a few unmarried officials had girlfriends. There is always a couple of bad apples in the basket but far more good ones than bad ones. I am as disgusted as every one else about what is happening with the Richardson case but just remember we do have so many good, honest and hard working men and women serving in the legislature. I know both Glenn Richardson and his ex-wife and can tell you that she is a very nice lady and kept silent about the sordid details until pushed to the limit. Punish the kid that does not behaive and not the whole class.

Jeff

December 6th, 2009
2:32 pm

Flatbed:

His deadline was action by Richardson on Thursday, which happened. Therefore no need on Friday to initiate the petition, as he said would happen.

Real GA

December 6th, 2009
2:32 pm

Richardson is representative of the Republicans that have ran this State for the past 7 years. We are still at the bottom in education. Spending is out of control. What ever you do not vote for someone who only graduated from high school to be our next governor. Education matters.

Bubba

December 6th, 2009
2:47 pm

I hear Tiger Woods is going to move to Georgia and run for the legislature when Accenture and Nike drop his endorsement contract.

Good Government

December 6th, 2009
7:57 pm

Scott didn’t call for anything other than action by the House. He didn’t initiate a petition, he didn’t call for his resignation. Nothing.

We need to clean the rest of the House and Senate of these people too. I hope everyone will take their votes serious during primary session and not elect any kids who are looking to go to down to the Gold Dome.

Macon Maniac

December 6th, 2009
7:57 pm

I agree with replacing these guys and starting fresh. I also understand that Rep. Harden who was first to publically write about what many were thinking is a new guy. Anyone have any details on Harden or how his first year went? My hope is that this Freshman Class is a sign of things to come.

Capital Insider

December 6th, 2009
8:10 pm

Enlightened

December 6th, 2009
10:48 pm

@ ITP Conservative – you incorrect in your assessment that they are Democrats. They are OPPORTUNISTS!

Gentleman Jim

December 6th, 2009
11:18 pm

I am a little embarrassed to admit that all this time, Glenn Richardson was my representative I did not realize he was Speaker of the House. I thought his title was Sphincter of the House.

Been around the block

December 7th, 2009
3:56 am

My take: While the nat’l GOP rejected a “purity test” our state house majority leader used the occasion of Speaker Richardson’s attempted suicide as a political opportunity to “cleanse” the state GOP. Mr. Richardson never claimed to be a choir boy (think Mike Bowers) or a “family man” (think John Edwards). And while Richardson could be volatile, the real “problem” is that he isn’t in the Christian Coalition mold. If Mr. Keen’s power grab is as well thought out as his approach to real public policy issues, his party is doomed.

Sad But True

December 7th, 2009
2:18 pm

Anyone that thinks this garbage isn’t also in the Democratic party is kidding themselves. Politicians are liars and cheats by trade and it’s humorous to see a career politician in Porter leading these efforts against the “culture of corruption.”

Thoughtful

December 7th, 2009
5:37 pm

I don’t understand the idea of term limits. When an elected official becomes a lame duck, the only hope the public has is to hope they are ethical or to hope the local federal prosecutor knows the Hobbs Act. When an elected official wins an election, they are usually aiming for the next election, and they know scandal can kill their future.

The answer isn’t term limits. It’s an educated voting population and a vigilante fourth estate. Our press is usless on a statewide level, so now you know why our legislators are against an educated population. Keep ‘em dump and uninformed, and then point out that we are taxed at the 50th lowest rate per capita in the country. You will get elected every time.

[...] it, the Georgia House is in disarray. After the resignation of Speaker Richardson in light of scandals, ethics has become a vital part of the elections, both inside the House and in State-Wide [...]