Matt Towery, the CEO of InsiderAdvantage, runs the only political polling operation based in Georgia.
The outfit’s last poll, on Feb. 11, showed state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine leading the GOP race for governor with 25 percent of the vote. Towery has partnered with WSB-TV, and is occasionally quoted by this newspaper.
But for several days this month, Towery also became a fixer knee-deep in the race for governor.
“Boy, can I be stupid,” is the headline over his first-person mea culpa, published this morning on his web site.
In addition to his polling duties, Towery, is affiliated with the well-connected law firm of McKenna, Long & Aldridge. Several days after that last poll, Towery the lawyer began working for Clark Fain, the former chief executive of Southeastern U.S. Insurance, a workers comp provider under criminal investigation by Oxendine’s office.
Towery went to Oxendine’s office to plead Fain’s case. During that conversation, Towery said it became clear that Oxendine had become “obsessed” with comments made by U.S. Rep. Lynn Westmoreland.
Westmoreland for a time sat on an advisory committee for SEUS. In December, Oxendine called the congressman to say that his name had surfaced in what was then a civil probe. Oxendine portrayed the call as a courtesy.
Westmoreland, who supports Nathan Deal in the GOP race for governor, on Feb. 1 told an AJC reporter that the call had the feel of a shakedown – an effort to force the congressman to take a lower profile in the governor’s race.
In an effort to make peace between Oxendine and Westmoreland, Towery placed a call from Oxendine’s office to the Coweta County congressman.
“I called Lynn on my own cell phone, not asking him to retract what he had said about John; only to ask him to quit talking about it for a while,” Towery wrote.
He added this: “It was not unethical or illegal but in retrospect looked wrong.”
Westmoreland’s office confirmed that Towery and the congressman had spoken, and that SEUS was one of the topics.
Towery writes that he spent the weekend getting in touch with candidates for governor, to explain the situation. Towery does not mention the name of his client in his statement, which can be read below in its entirety:
Contrary to the blogs, I did, indeed, nearly meet my maker about a month ago when my vertigo hit and my face crashed on the tarmac in Grand Cayman.
Weeks later, I was asked to represent a client – not against John Oxendine but with his office. Guess what, folks. I get paid good money from my law firm to deal with legal issues. I’m a lawyer! And since I was the senior member of the insurance committee for many years, I sort of know the laws.
But I made a mistake. John Oxendine is running for governor. I am the pollster for InsiderAdvantage and WSB TV. Seemingly I could have compromised myself even as I did understand it. So the record will reflect John and I got nothing accomplished.
During the meeting, I made it clear that discussions would have no impact on my polling or analysis of the race for governor. To be fair to John, he immediately agreed and never tried to use the race as a wedge.
But he was obsessed with Congressman Lynn Westmoreland’s comments. Lynn and I have known each other since we were five years old. I called Lynn on my own cell phone, not asking him to retract what he had said about John; only to ask him to quit talking about it for a while.
It was not unethical or illegal but in retrospect looked wrong.
On Saturday, I recused myself from the case. John accepted this to his credit and said thanks. I also called every candidate for governor I could reach. Karen Handel was a peach; she understood and forgave. Same for Roy Barnes. Same for everyone reached.
Our company is based on being nonpartisan. Do you think Saxby loved it when we had a runoff? We do our job.
I have every right as a lawyer who wrote most of the modern insurance code to represent a client. But I handled it like a guy with a concussion. Trust me, others in our firm will now handle this matter and I won’t bill a dime of this.
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