Your morning jolt: Towery the pollster was also the fixer

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.

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter.

44 comments Add your comment

RUKidding

February 22nd, 2010
8:45 am

When is Ox going to learn. He continues to cross over the line of what is appropriate. Ox – just step down.

will

February 22nd, 2010
8:46 am

I am so disappointed in Matt.

I have always thought that, although he is a former republican legislator, he offered a pretty fair and balanced analysis of the political landscape and also thought his polling operation was legit.

Matt is too smart for this mess he created to be a simple blunder on his part.

I think it would be in his best interest (both his business interest and his interest as a nonpartisan reporter), if he is truly interested in offering a fair analysis of the republican gubernatorial primary, to recuse himself from any invovlement in poling or analysis relating to the republican gubernatorial primary.

Real Athens

February 22nd, 2010
8:47 am

Commercial Polling By InsiderAdvantage: Paid Public Relations with an image of unbiased integrity, paid for by a candidate, wrapped up as official statistics, then sold to the media, broadcast as news and “fact” to the masses = illegal, influence pedaling.

Big L

February 22nd, 2010
8:51 am

The Ox has got to go.
If he gets the nomination, King Roy will be the next Governor.

Mark Taylor

February 22nd, 2010
8:52 am

Yep, everybody in GA politics knows Towery’s operation has a record of sometimes selling their “polling” and “analysis” to the highest bidder. And the “story” that went up on Towery’s site about how every major political figure in GA was supposedly serving as bedside nurse after Towery’s concussion was the wierdest thing I’ve seen in GA politics in a long, long time (and that’s saying something after the Richardson mess). A little birdey tells me that Pettys didn’t actually write that story, and that the quotes in the story were fabricated. Let’s see if a little investigative journalism could bring out the truth on that…

Question Man

February 22nd, 2010
8:54 am

Is it reasonable to assume the candidates were polite when Towery called with his mea culpa because they continued to want to curry favor with Towery’s polling firm?

Mr. George Jung

February 22nd, 2010
8:58 am

Towery is just trying to save his polling firm. Personally, I believe he’s to entrenched with the Insiders to be objective in his polling.

lmno

February 22nd, 2010
9:13 am

Another controversy linked to Oxendine. How many can there be?

Matt Towery

February 22nd, 2010
9:20 am

Those who are writing this junk are being unfair. We have NEVER sold a poll and, for the record, have gotten every race in Georgia right. I did this to be open and honest. How about thew many pollsters who do take money from candidates? Are you tough on the. Our team of Dick Pettys, Tom Baxter, Gary Reese and others will continue to cover this race and I will poll it. I wrote my story at Jim’s suggestion. I am glad I did. Matt

Mike

February 22nd, 2010
9:24 am

Oxendine is a sleaze. Is he also a lawyer?

SpaceyG

February 22nd, 2010
9:32 am

Mark Taylor is right to call for “a little” (or a lot) of investigative journalism in this matter. You might come up with a few more quirks and assorted oddities that are surely some juicy, not illegal, gossip; but no one will find ANY evidence of Towery’s company selling polls outright. Borrow a Handel line and… bring it on. As it simply has never been done. Hell, set Jim Walls on the matter. He’ll come up empty too.

tinhat

February 22nd, 2010
9:40 am

Way to come clean, Matt. I believe it was an error in judgement, but good on you for trying to fix it.

Unfortunately, as the ethicist Michael Josephson observes, “We judge ourselves by our best intentions, our most noble acts and our most virtuous habits. We are judged by our last worst act.”

There’s hope, though. I heard someone say once that “in the Bible, it says ‘it came to pass’ … it didn’t come to stay!”

jt

February 22nd, 2010
9:42 am

“Towery the lawyer ”

Nuff said.

Georgians will NEVER be served,

by a member of the Georgia Bar.

tc

February 22nd, 2010
9:48 am

tinhat said it well. it really was a major lapse in judgement and one of his friends/colleagues should have pointed that out if they had the chance.

GOP Voter

February 22nd, 2010
10:03 am

Almost unbelievable. Oxendine is a magnet for unethical behavior. PEOPLE – put the pieces together. These guys are CROOKS.

Dr. R

February 22nd, 2010
10:14 am

Towery made an error in judgment, realized it, fixed it and admitted it. Time to move on. We shouldn’t expect perfection from people in public life, just an awareness that perception can become reality and a willingess to admit their mistakes. I got no problem with Towery. Someone in his position is going to be connected, and as long as he is open and honest about it, we should give him the benefit of the doubt.

oldtimer

February 22nd, 2010
10:17 am

Surely the republicans can find someone more ethical……

Red

February 22nd, 2010
10:44 am

Towery seems to be the only one who realizes a mistake was made and comes clean. Ox takes the Bill Clinton approach – deny, deny, deny, even when faced with insurmountable evidence against you. You may not like or agree with Towery but his move is something far different from others in the field.

Diehard

February 22nd, 2010
10:57 am

Maybe while he’s doing his mea culpea, he could admit he didn’t live in his district when he was elected to the State House in 1992.

The Snark

February 22nd, 2010
11:06 am

jt:

Take it easy on the lawyers, man. Sam Nunn is a member of the Georgia Bar and he has served us pretty well.

Older And Wiser

February 22nd, 2010
11:13 am

Matt Towery has been a stand up guy, and deserves the benefit of the doubt on this one. Smearing him just to get at Oxendine is wrong. Grow up, y’all.

Rosita

February 22nd, 2010
11:37 am

Matt Towery is and always has been as fake as his pancake-madeup faux-tanned face. And always will be.

Not a Matt fan

February 22nd, 2010
11:41 am

I’m not a big fan of Towery, but he did the right thing here. Good for him.

lmno

February 22nd, 2010
12:22 pm

I am a psychic. I will predict that later this week an article will be written in this paper in relating a controversy directly or indirectly linked to Oxendine.

I know, crazy prediction.

This guy can’t go two days without this stuff.

The ajc has blank news stories that say “Jon Oxendine _____(Insert Controversy here)”

Base

February 22nd, 2010
12:46 pm

Crooks at work! He still cannot be neutral.

Cutty

February 22nd, 2010
1:06 pm

An experienced legislator and someone involved in politics would’ve known better from jump. Jus sayin.

DDJ

February 22nd, 2010
1:58 pm

Ironic that the same day this item appears on this AJC blog, there’s a story in another section of this paper that says that Barnes is invincible in the Democratic primary based on polling – which are polls largely done by Matt Towery. Towery is an active lobbyist in a lobbying firm that is openly supporting Barnes. Just recusing himself from representing SEUS on this stuff doesn’t solve his problem. You can’t be an “independent” pollster and pundit while working as a lobbyist at a lobbying firm that lobbies (or will lobby) the people you are polling and commenting on.

Shame on the AJC for not just ignoring this guy and his “polls” completely.

DDJ

February 22nd, 2010
1:59 pm

Or the other part of the Ann Cox Chambers/Barnes donor media empire, WSB TV and radio.

Many Knew the Truth

February 22nd, 2010
2:21 pm

Towery has no credibility and is just the mouthpiece for the power elite. The AJC is right there too. Kasim Reed was the latest move by the power elite. Half have been to jail and shamed, but they just keep taking. The people are wising up.

Home School Drop Out

February 22nd, 2010
2:30 pm

With his background in Politics. Matt is still trying to play the Innocent little person.
Yes to the highest bidder. What a SLUG.

woodshed guy

February 22nd, 2010
2:37 pm

Do you think karen Handle can handle things at the dome?

Base

February 22nd, 2010
3:30 pm

Cox should drop Towery and his biased enterprise. He is a crook.

Republican Dawg

February 22nd, 2010
4:01 pm

The problem isn’t Matt Towery. Oxendine has a long track record of putting all different typss of people in difficult situations. As his record unfolds, it would make Bill Clinton appear honest and impeccable.

As far as Karen Handel,her brief 12 years in Georgia has proven that she can’t HANDEL repsonsibilities she has been entrusted by the voters. She has never been able to serve a full, four year term in her entire career.

Michael

February 22nd, 2010
4:08 pm

He calls his gig insider advantage. He talks to Ox personally about one investigation and calls up his buddy Westmoreland on his cell regarding getting him to shut up about Ox leaning on him. And he’s a pollster. What did Ox offer his client to get him to make that phone call to Westmoreland? Whatever.

Georgia voters were wrong in 2002 and compounded that mistake by being wrong again in 2006. But I can’t really blame the voters when it’s the candidates who were wrong then and are wrong now. We probably need some agency head like Baker or Handel, not some politician who has been tied to getting/giving favors to his/her contributors. But both of them probably suck as well. Georgia — where elections inevitably devolve into choices between the lesser of two evils.

Michael

February 22nd, 2010
4:24 pm

Polls. When I got my liberal arts undergraduate degree (at UGA) we read a book called Inventing Reality that described how the media creates a horse race in politics and uses polls to chart it. AJC is just selling entertainment and writing the script at the same time. Then we get vapid leaders who only know how to threaten and cajole their enemies and opponents into submission. The professional staffs then have to suck up to the latest imbecile put in charge of their agency, some imbecile who likely has some farm to hunt on, or some mansion where they can have parties where they trade road and supply contracts to their insider buddies.

They manage to hide their malfeasance regarding those budgetary items (prisons, roads, medicaid, etc) by yelling Gay Marriage!, Sex Offender!, Two Strikes! whenever someone gets too close to uncovering their insider deals. The media plays along with the coverup unless the event is so salacious or prurient that it sells papers and advertising. The TV show called our lives. We are living in a reality show.

Dr. John Trotter

February 22nd, 2010
4:26 pm

Stop The Standardized Testing Mania!

By John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

[This is an article which I wrote earlier today before visiting this blog. Heck, let me jump into the fray! For the record, I don't have a dog in this gubernatorial race, but I do tend to be leary of ole Roy since he already stuck it to the teachers once. I know Lynn Westmoreland. He is my Congressman, and I have known him since his 1986 run for State House. He ran next in 1988 and won a seat in the State Senate -- or was this vice versa? I met Matt on a few occasions -- first when he ran for Lite Gov. Both seem to me to be honorable. I have never met Oxendine or Deal, but I am sure the same holds true for them. I think, as my article points out, that this will be a race between Ox and Handel on the GOP side, with the Ox winning, despite the protestations of many bloggers. I have never met either Oxendine or Handel or have even talked to either of them. So, no "filthy lucre" bias here. I also think that ole Roy will face Thurbert in a runoff, and Roy will take him in the lighter turnout in the runoff. It will boil down to Cobb versus Gwinnett. In the GOP Primary, will Handel or Oxendine win the Cobb GOP vote? The Cobb Republican voters may well determine who Roy faces in the General. There won't be many Democratic "crossover" voters trying to determine Roy's opponent because Baker will be scaring the crap out of Roy. African Americans make up 50% of the Democratic Primary. If Handel beats Oxendine, she will not be a pushover. She just might end up being Georgia's first female governor.]

All of this test mania in Georgia (and nationwide) should cease, and we should go back to the days when teachers developed their own plans (written or unwritten) to match the creative ways that they would employ to reach the hard-to-reach students. These standardized tests have indeed become the false gods of public education (as we have pointed out many times on http://www.theteachersadvocate.com). The standardization of testing and the shameless teaching of the tests are, as Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element, has stated, not unlike gorging young kids with fast food. Our students are indeed malnourished. I have been calling for a cessation of this standardized testing for years. It is a dumbing down of the educational process. Students are not allowed to tap into their “element,” as Sir Ken Robinson rightly points out. Students become very bored with this very narrow and very boring and very homogenized and very shallow form of indoctrination which we have the nerve to call “education.” It is at best nothing but regurgitation. A good step in the right direction would be to STOP THE STANDARDIZED TESTING. Then, systems like Atlanta, DeKalb, Houston, L. A., et al., will not be so tempted to take the path of easiest resistance by cultivating a culture of fear which then enables the nazi-administrators to create the culture of cheating. It would be nice to see Governor Sonny Perdue and the Georgia Board of Education simply say: “Enough is enough. We are going to free up our teachers to teach. After all, they are professionals. We are going to cease all of the educational snoopervision. A loose net will catch anyone not acting professionally. A tight net only suffocates the whole educational establishment.” Wow, it would be nice if they actually said this. There would be celebration in the schools all over the State!

Which of the politicians and/or policy-makers have the nerve to state the obvious? Who will acknowledge that an 800 pound polka-dotted gorilla is sitting in the educational parlor? Who will stand up and say, “The Educational Emperor is naked!”? Will DuBose Porter step forward or will he continue to think that he can beat Roy Barnes and Thurbert Baker by coming up with stupid gimmicks like running his wife for Light Gov? Will David Poythress continue to rely on his “General” status to catapult him to the top in the Democratic Primary? No, these poor political souls will take the traditional route to ignominious and easily forgotten defeats. None, I fear, will have the chutzpah to come out of the pack like Joe Frank Harris did in 1982 with his “No Tax Increase” promise. Zell Miller, in 1990, took the Lottery & Hope tack and rode it to victory! Who among the gubernatorial hopefuls will tap into the inordinate frustration in Georgia’s educational family? Educators First, Bureaucrats Last! Slogans like this tap into the ethos of educators who have demonstrated that, en masse, they can swing statewide races, especially with the numerous family members and friends whom they can sway. I have been paid handsome sums to come up with memorable logos and slogans (like the slogan above) for politicians through the years. This slogan just popped into my head as I was typing this. Who likes bureaucrats? No one. Bureaucrats are despised by people in society, but especially by educators. Yes, the word “bureaucrats” serves as a “straw man” but a “straw man” which symbolizes what is wrong with government…faceless bureaucrats who have little sympathy for the painful needs which beset the voters.

On the GOP side, there is little doubt that John Oxendine will walk away with the primary nod. He will probably score in the forties, if not barely over the 50% magical mark. If he slips below that mark, he will face Karen Handel in the Republican Runoff. The way the scene looks now, I predict (and I could be wrong, but I don’t miss this often! LOL!) a Roy-Ox match-up in November, with Gwinnett pitting its political prowess against the “Marauding Mob of Mableton and Marietta” (as I have often described the good-ole-boy “mafia” of Cobb). The Gwinnettians have not quite demonstrated to me that they have the political moxie to flex their muscles state-wide, but the race will be one of the closest November races that we have had in years. Oxendine would serve himself wisely if he aligned himself with frustrated educators in Georgia and “allowed” ole Roy to suffer as the “author” of many of the problems in education today in Georgia, especially the testing mania and the “blame the teachers first” culture. Roy knows that this is his weakness, and he is doing all that he can now to try to get sympathetic teachers to put their fingers in his Educational Dikes. The Ox should constantly remind educators that Roy is the King of their Educational Problems and Angst.

I don’t know if any of these already-declared candidates really gets it. I offer this “free advice,” hoping that at least one will realize that Georgia’s Educational Community is about to explode and that putting political Band-aids on massive and festering sores will only exhibit the folly of their understanding of what is going on. Zell Miller understood the power of the Educator Vote. After his shocking election, Sonny Perdue began to appreciate it. But, he is no longer running, and he has now proposed an imbecilic “All Star Teachers” program which will only continue to cultivate and facilitate the culture of cheating in our schools. Who among the candidates now is willing to tap into this acute frustration? The first to do so in a full-frontal assault will win this vote. Those who tip toe to it will be resented by educators as Johnny-Come-Latelies. (c) MACE, February 22, 2010.

Bill Smith

February 22nd, 2010
4:35 pm

Towery is self-serving as always. He writes “I have every right as a lawyer who wrote most of the modern insurance code to represent a client.” C’mon, he was a junior gop legislator that was dominated by demos. The only way be could get things done is stick his head where the sun don’t shine (and he did and they used him). It’s always all about Matty and wanting bad to be a playa.

Real Athens

February 22nd, 2010
4:48 pm

You mean ol’ “Two Commandments” Westmoreland?

The “do-nothingest member of of The U.S. Congress.” How’d he get elected? Only in Georgia.

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/70730/june-14-2006/better-know-a-district—georgia-s-8th—lynn-westmoreland

Every Georgian voter should watch this video and wince.

Warbler

February 22nd, 2010
9:29 pm

Road to hell is paved with “good intentions”. Examples: Darwin, Marx, Lenin, Hitler, FDR……

Who Cares Trotter

February 23rd, 2010
6:22 am

Trotter , stick to your lovely Clayton County. You screwed both the students, parents, and teachers for your own glory.

OnceUponATime

February 23rd, 2010
6:24 am

Does anyone still think that Oxendine for Governor is a good idea? Too much dirt there, too many skeletons in those closets. The dog won’t hunt (and he ain’t got a license anyhow.)

Dr. John Trotter

February 23rd, 2010
12:09 pm

Nah, I think that I’ll screw up the Governor’s race too. LOL! You keep up your anonymous and brave blogging. Your fingers must be raw with all the blogging that you do under hundreds of different personalitities. Does the AJC pay you?

Concerned Georgian

February 23rd, 2010
4:01 pm

This is written from memory. If I misstate any of the facts I am sorry but they can easily be verified or discredited by reviewing the recent articles. The assumptions are solely mine and are based on my recollection of the stories I’ve read over the past few months in the AJC. Please keep my identity completely confidential.

Every day I read a new article that raises concern about John Oxendine’s shady deals, yet no one has tried to connect the dots. Let me take a shot at it. (Pun Intended). A few weeks ago, we read that the CEO of an insurance company had set up questionable political action groups to help fund Oxendine’s run for Governor. Since it is not legal for those companies who are subject to his political authority to contribute, the funds were gifted as though they came from individuals. Oxendine denied any knowledge of that. We later learned that the person implicated in that ethics investigation had been appointed by Commissioner Oxendine to oversee the assets of insurance companies that were insolvent. Oxendine denies any connection between the fund rising and the appointment. Later we learn that Oxendine and his sons were hunting at an exclusive hunting reserve owned by who else but that same insurance company executive. Now Mr. Oxendine has forced another insurance company into bankruptcy, with the principle of that company screaming that he is solvent that he has paid all of their claims and that Oxendine was doing this for political reasons. What possible political reasons you ask? Let’s connect the dots. Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine claims to have determined the company was insolvent after having someone review his claims to see if the reserves were adequate to cover potential losses. What a particular insurance claim is worth is subjective at best. That audit, as I read found six cases where the auditor disagreed with the reserves, so Ox forces him to shut down. One of Oxendine’s complaints was that the insolvent company had been wineing and dinning people at their, you guessed it hunting reserve, and could not afford to do that, unlike John’s hunting and fund raising buddy who apparently can afford it. I can’t help but wonder if some of the people who benefited from those hunting trips provided by SEUS were not political enemies of good old Ox. Wait, didn’t I read that one of the prominent republicans in the state, supported Deal for Governor, was also on the defunct company’s advisory board? And he accused Mr. Oxendine of trying to shake him down for political favor back in December. So now Mr. Fain who apparently supports someone else for governor is forced to turn over his company’s assets including the hunting reserve to John Oxendine. I wonder who will get control of all of those assets including the hunting reserve. Wouldn’t that be old Ox’s hunting buddy, and fund raiser himself? Coincidence?? You decide. But, this needs to be investigated. If the dots line up anything like it appears to me the casual news paper reader, he shouldn’t be Governor, or Insurance Commissioner. He shouldn’t even be allowed to practice law in GA

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

June 8th, 2010
12:10 am

Obviously devoid of integrity, if Matt Towery were any good, why would G-d have cursed him so?