Larry O’Neal’s campaign platform for House speaker

Several Capitol types have pointed us to an e-mail that state Rep. Larry O’Neal of Houston County sent to members of the House Republican caucus on Friday.

With the unspoken backing of Gov. Sonny Perdue, O’Neal must be considered the front-runner in the quick contest to replace House Speaker Glenn Richardson. A vote to pick a caucus candidate comes Thursday.

O’Neal missed the Friday gathering of the caucus due to a bout with pneumonia, but you may consider the letter below to be the platform of his candidacy.

Among its important points:

  • An end to the “hawk system” that allowed House leaders to pack committee meetings;
  • A promise not to sponsor any legislation other than the budget. He’ll ask members of his leadership circle to do the same.
  • An end to the speaker’s political action committee, which allowed the top leader of the House to gather up hundreds of thousands of campaign dollars, in competition with the House caucus’ own fund. The speaker’s PAC was yet another method of punishing or rewarding ranking members. “This created too much appearance of impropriety,” he wrote.
  • Though a close friend to Sonny Perdue, the House Ways and Means chairman promised to stand up to the governor “without making a public spectacle.”

Several points of O’Neal’s letter speak to the lack of connection that rank-and-file members felt with Richardson.

But O’Neal does not address what many House Republicans have privately expressed as the one weakness of his candidacy – O’Neal’s role in obtaining after-the-fact tax relief for Perdue through a last minute amendment to some legislation.

Here’s the O’Neal letter in its entirety:

Fellow caucus members,

This is going only to you as a member of the caucus. I have not sent this to the media, will not be sending it to them, and will only discuss the content of this email with you. If I could escape these doctors and my beloved wife’s understandable concern, I would be there today to discuss these matters directly.

Let me begin by saying how much I regret that I could not be with you today during this difficult time. The serious flu I had developed into pneumonia, and required my hospitalization. I am home now and quickly on the mend, but my heart hurts that I was not able to share with you in today’s proceedings. Today’s meeting shows the stakes we face as we work to elect calm, competent leadership committed to needed change.

You know how I work to conduct myself at the Capitol. I believe in listening, respect, and leading by consensus.

I have been able to do a good deal of listening over the last few days in spite of my illness and Kathy’s insistence that I get off the phone. I have also had feedback from members through the team of people who are helping me make calls to the caucus.

I have also been observing and watching how our caucus has changed in the last few years, like you have.

On the basis of that listening and observation, I offer the following as my plan to give us the competent leadership we need in the Speaker’s Office and necessary changes we must have in the House of Representatives:

1. Independence and respect. The speaker has the ultimate client relationship as representative of members of the House. I completely understand the importance of the constitutional separation of powers doctrine. I have disagreed with our Governor on many occasions in the past and expect to do so in the future but I did so and will continue to do so without making a public spectacle. We need that balance between independence and respect more now during these troubled times than ever.

2. I will set aside 60-90 minutes a day to meet only with members, and a member will always go to the front of the line and never wait behind a lobbyist or anyone else other than a constituent directly from my district. In addition, a member communication staff member will also be designated to be a direct link between you and me.

3. I will return your calls/emails/pins. Always. You and your ideas are my first priority.

4. I will never intentionally embarrass you.

5. I will not push any legislation of my own and will sign no bills except the budget. I will not have any legislative agenda except an agenda approved by the caucus or local delegation, and I will expect the core leadership team to follow this principle as well.

6. I will eliminate the Hawk position. I trust our committee chairs to do their jobs.

7. A strong ethical standard will be enforced, starting with me and including all leadership positions. Allen Peake forwarded an email to you yesterday that was sent to the media to set some things straight. As I stated then, there will be no witch hunts but there will be consequences for failing to toe the line. I think the single biggest frustration for many of us is that the vast majority of members and chairs are doing things the right way and are being tarnished by the failings of a few.

8. Vice-chairs are but one last step to chairmanship. I intend to ask our chairs to allow the Vice-chairs to chair occasional meetings with the chair present. This way, Vice-chairs will get more hands-on experience so when they move up to Chairman, they will already be mature and seasoned for running a committee. It is my goal to move my Republican colleagues into leadership positions as quickly as possible and have them ready to lead in all technical respects.

9. Passage of meaningful ethics reform legislation that also protects honest citizen-legislators who are doing things right. As a conservative, I believe more law rarely solves anything, especially the failings of the human character. However, there are areas where changes must be made to our ethics laws. I will not dictate to you what changes should be made, nor will I allow anyone inside or outside the House to dictate to you as well, including the Governor or Senate. As your speaker I will allow you the members to decide those reforms while I protect you from those who will try to hijack the process and turn it into targeting of the innocent along with the guilty. I firmly believe though, that if we cannot police our own ethics rules, others will at the ballot box.

10. I will eliminate the speaker’s PAC. This created too much appearance of impropriety. I will keep the political team and have a top-notch political operation that is open and accountable, and I will focus my efforts on member campaigns and the House Trust and make sure you have all the political support you need. More on this in the days to come.

11. Excellence and competence in our duties. Hard work lies before us on the budget and other issues. I will lead by example in producing a quality work product for the citizens of our state and expecting each of you to do the same thing as we move through the difficult session to come. We cannot afford incompetence at a critical time like this.

12. Feedback and flexibility. Good leaders cannot do their job without both. I will always be listening, both during and after this election, and making adjustments where necessary rather than continuing to pursue a path that has clearly become counterproductive.

Again, I cannot tell you how much I wanted to be with you today. I look forward to discussing my plan in coming days as I prepare to lead you into the session, if you choose to honor me with that opportunity.


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29 comments Add your comment

If the shoe fits

December 12th, 2009
6:07 pm

But O’Neal does not address what many House Republicans have privately expressed as the one weakness of his candidacy – O’Neal’s role in obtaining after-the-fact tax relief for Perdue through a last minute amendment to some legislation.

Other than that, how was the play Mrs. Lincoln?

No one's above the law and other fairy tales

December 12th, 2009
6:30 pm

If he were in the Gambino family he’d probably go by a name like Larry the Loophole.

Wonder if the Perdue family gives nicknames for their henchmen?


December 12th, 2009
7:20 pm

Enforcing strong ethical standards eliminates O’Neal from consideration.

He will withdraw his candidacy, right?

Mark Taylor

December 12th, 2009
7:30 pm

Yeah, that land deal issue was such a good one that after I spent millions of dollars attacking Sonny and Larry about it, the people agreed it was really shady and elected me governor.

Wait, but I’m not governor….


December 12th, 2009
7:33 pm

Give me a break. That land deal issue has been looked at for over three years, and Larry O’Neal has been absolutely in the clear. If that was such a good issue then why hasn’t Larry been beaten in the two elections since then especially since Oaky Woods is right there in his backyard.

Ralph in Douglasville

December 12th, 2009
9:08 pm

I’m for Larry the Loop Hole.


December 12th, 2009
9:20 pm

Beth, who carries the keys to the dungeon?

Mark Taylor

December 12th, 2009
9:29 pm

I carry the keys, because that land issue was so politically damaging and powerful I got elected governor because of it.


December 12th, 2009
9:57 pm

Sorry, Mark. Have another hamburger with cheese. Any body dumb enough to run a campaign with the slogan, ” The Big Guy working for the Little Guy.” ought to be picking up trash. It brings to mind ole Culf Links Carl’s slogan, “Carl Sanders ought to be govenor again!” Sonny’s land deal and tax rebate stands on its own moral merit. Remember what Abe said, “you can fool all the people some of the time.” When Mark and Sonny were running it was a choice between a bald snake oil salesman and a fat snake oil salesman. Georgia just stumbled Sonny’s way.

georgia voices

December 13th, 2009
8:05 am

While we wish O’Neal a speedy recovery from the flu, the time for change is way overdue and having another member of Perdue’s “good ‘ole boy” network would simply allow Perdue’s legacy to live on. GOD help us all if that happens.

Following countless emails to Perdue, his response over and over to concerned Georgia taxpayers is that the Board of Regents of the USG has “exclusive authority” to do what they want with your state dollars and Foundation donations and he will not get involved as their misuse of funds is out of his jurisdiction.
Take a moment to read the results of the Board of Regents’ “exclusive authority” of over $7.1 million state and Foundation funds. Link to full story:
Now is the time for just one of the legislators to step up to the plate and ask questions and introduce legislation to bring back accountability by the Board of Regents to someone – other than the BOR themselves. The $7.1 million dollars disclosed in the report above would have been better spent educating your children and grandchildren – not purchasing the second vacation homes of the USG administrators and chancellors – and until the public speaks out (because legislators will not), the misuse of state and Foundation funds by many – including the Board of Regents – will continue.

Start by asking Larry O’Neal if he plans to allow the Board of Regents’ “exclusive authority” to continue – as his close friend, Sonny Perdue, has done for years.

The Snark

December 13th, 2009
8:34 am

You want real ethics enforcement? It’s easy. Only takes two things:


The Snark

December 13th, 2009
8:34 am

You want real ethics enforcement? It’s easy. Only takes two things:


The Snark

December 13th, 2009
8:37 am

[What's going on with my computer today???}

You want real ethics enforcement? It’s easy. Only takes two things:

1. Let the Supreme Court choose the head of the State Ethics Commission, to serve for a five-year term with removal only in the case of felony indictment; and

2. Pass a law saying that the Ethics Commission budget and staff cannot be reduced except by a supermajority of the House and Senate.

Any politician who won't support that doesn't REALLY want ethics enforcement.


December 13th, 2009
8:51 am

You want real ethics enforcement?

Get rid of the lawyers.


December 13th, 2009
9:09 am

In rural Georgia, when the “big men” in the community are involved in some shady or dubious financial project, in which there is a role for government at some level, local voters will not remove anyone from office until the maladministration has been thoroughly exposed, “authenticated,” by outside media exposure, sometimes even requiring law enforcement attention.

Raising one’s voice prior to such exposure is a pathway to the modern equivalent of social “shunning” in the hometown, even in situations in which the corrupt activities are widely known. Expecting local voters to react quickly to the wrongdoing of “their betters” is naive. Local corruption is often a safe activity for its practitioners for long periods in such communities.


December 13th, 2009
9:27 am

Anything associated with Elmer Fudd, do nothing, Sonny Perdue whom spent seven years hunting and fishing while Atlanta and Georgia slid into rot and decay, while bashing gaming in downtown Atlanta while himself making a $24 Million commodity bet that personally bankrupted himself and a rural credit union( brillant businessman that he is); while being so delusional to think little towns like Bonaire are in competition with Atlanta; No- we don’t need another back water bumpkin arranging shady land deals for Sonny boy nor a tired old grandpa whom will carry on a tradition of do nothing.


December 13th, 2009
9:46 am


How true, unfortunately. I have had personal experience in a small South GA county and am now the “shunned” and out of office. If I had it to do over, I would still raise my voice and expose the wrongdoing. I refuse to compromise my moral values for political reasons. “You have to stand for something or you’ll fall for anything.”

EQ Justice

December 13th, 2009
9:47 am

Houston county is where the mayor of Warner Robins just committed suicide in September. Maybe the House should consider a different area altogether when considering a new Speaker. In the meantime Georgia Legislators should send their mistresses and girlfriends up to Kentucky. They need the revenue.


December 13th, 2009
1:21 pm

depressed, what is the source for claim the guv lost money on his $21 million loan venture resulting in near bankruptcy for himself and rural credit union? i must have missed that on.


December 13th, 2009
5:17 pm

To all of you Atlanta left-wingers,

Here’s the problem with your argument: the whole state heard everything Democrats had to say about the land deal, and Sonny’s poll numbers went UP after all the commercials ran.

If this land deal had one bit of political power to it, Taylor wouldn’t have lost by 20 points. Y’all can make all the excuses you want and try to revise history, but it’s just a crock if y’all think you can beat Republicans in 2010 with an issue that failed so miserably FOUR YEARS before then.


Many of the comments on this thread amount to a ceaseless chanting of, “We really want this issue to matter, we really want this issue to matter, we really want this issue to matter.”

Keep dreaming.


December 13th, 2009
8:56 pm

sounds like you would make a good lobbyist


December 13th, 2009
9:09 pm

We definately don’t need a other Purdue “friend” as speaker. Right now the hint of any collusion will kill the parties chances in 2010.
Hembree is definately the right man for the job. Clear ethical stance during his entire service as representative should be welcomed.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

December 13th, 2009
9:38 pm

A “good lobbyist,” but not a good American: American Exceptionalism, outlined by the three Mottoes of Our Creed, emblazoned on The Great Seal, instituted Individual Sovereignty under G-d alone, in all human history.

Predicated on liberal principles of the perfectibility of the person and the servanthood of the State, the diametric opposite of the historic interests which make up the Right Wing – fascists, papists, Nazis, racists, false-elitists, totalitarians, and all others opposed to The People’s sovereignty only through the Electorate’s inspiration by G-d direct – true America is unique in human history.

Why else did all nations of the world come to Our Nation, and, together, building on The Founders’ ideals and Creed, achieve such greatness?

Read Carlyle’s “History of the French Revolution,” then the writings of America’s Founders: The U.S. is a “left-wing” experiment born of the Protestant Reformation and the Age of Reason. Our anointed Founders made covenant with the Creator of the universe now under multi-generational assault by Rome’s Fifth Column’s twisting the Truth of The Founding, and corrupting the Constitution and Congress, into lies serving pedophile priests and illegados; fascist plutocrats and draft-dodging closet-queens pandering to hypocrites, morons and sociopaths.

There is but One G-d: that Is the G-d of America. Hence we must establish Truth and Justice.

Those who promulgate lies and hypocrisy must be removed from holy elected office.

The People must reassert its sovereignty through establishment of Righteousness.

Perverters of the American Dream, violators of the Public Trust, and sectarian faction which is the Anti-Christ’s treasonous Fifth Column, must be expropriated and extirpated or banished.

Nothing to get things into perspective better than a public trial and hanging of Bush and Cheney for 9/11…then an astute following of “the money trail,” “up” and “down” hill, politically and economically…right here to Georgia. Mercer Reynolds has already felt the hot breath of justice on the back of his neck and lowered his “profile” by withdrawing from his attempt to rape Jekyll Island.

9/11 is the key: the proof is available for the few who fail to already know the truth. Viz. “The New Pearl Harbor.”

Only hacks and traitors in the employ of the Anti-Christ yet dispute it.

Obama is but a start and evidence that the covenant is not forgot.

Death for Treason and may G-d bless America once more.


December 13th, 2009
10:06 pm

Sorry, Beth, I’m not an Atlantan and certainly not a left-winger or Democrat. I didn’t vote for the snake oil salesman from Albany or the snake oil salesman from Bonaire. The choice was so poor a flip of the coin wouldn’t work. Sonny Purdue has been the worst govenor in this state since Jimmy Carter. He probably has been worse. If he had tried to do anything he certainly would have been worse. Carter was doctrinaire and never really understood government nor governing. Sonny is not doctinaire and not totally ignorant of government function. The one rule he clearly understands and has stuck to is, “if you do anything, you gonna make somebody mad and they’ll vote against you.” So he did nothing significant. Which is probably in Georgia’s best interest even though we are mired in complete chaos. He certainly would have compounded our suffering had he taken any initiative. No, we don’t want any one in the speaker’s chair who’s spent more than 15 minutes alone with Sonny. Good bye to him and good riddance.


December 14th, 2009
1:47 am

Y’all are all so full of it!!! None of you are “real” people. You are all someone associated with one of the guys running for Speaker. Either a house member, political consultant or something similar! Nobody in the real world is paying attention to this. They are enjoying their Christmas and wondering if they can leave work on the 23rd or 24th. Get a life folks! The only people reading your posts are other folks JUST LIKE YOU!!!


December 14th, 2009
8:02 am

sounds like you could be in the house of reps…and the fact that real world does not pay attention is why we are in this pickle to begin with

Mark Taylor

December 14th, 2009
10:10 am

I am still glad I got elected governor on the strength of that powerful land issue.

Beelzebub's Advocate

December 14th, 2009
3:17 pm

Sound’s great, except for the fact he brokered a backroom deal to directly benefit only his pal, the Governor. And, then that governor made the matter worse by lying about knowing about it. Is that a shame, Mary? Darn tootin’ it is.


December 14th, 2009
4:39 pm

Another crook wants the job.