Your morning jolt: Chip Pearson gives up Senate seat

Late Friday, Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville) announced that he would not seek re-election to the state Senate, citing family responsibilities.

Pearson came under some criticism this session after this recent article in the AJC:

It’s common for Georgia legislators to trade on their political connections at the state Capitol to make money.
But usually they leave office first.

cpearson

State Sen. Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville)/Phil Skinner, pskinner@ajc.com

Sen. Chip Pearson (R-Dawsonville), chairman of the state Senate Economic Development Committee, decided not to wait.

He co-founded an economic development consulting firm that promotes Pearson’s pull under the Gold Dome.

The Sandy Springs-based Pendleton Consulting Group states on its Web site:

“We’re not lobbyists. But we do know who to call and how to get action from top management at Georgia’s companies (large and small), and influencers who work behind the scenes. We know how government works.”

Said Pearson in a Friday press release:

“It has been an honor to serve the 51st District and I have been humbled by the many years of trust and support by the citizens of Georgia. Serving with my distinguished colleagues in the Georgia Senate has truly been a pleasure and honor. We have done great things for Georgia and I will continue to support conservative values and causes.

For the last six years, my wife has taken on the responsibilities of a single mom, and my children have not had their dad around during the most important time in their lives. Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the Heaven.’ At this time, my time needs to be spent with my family.”

Steve Gooch, the Department of Transportation board member, signed up on the Republican side of the race just as qualifying closed on Friday.

Joseph Mann, a Democrat from Mineral Bluff, is also in the contest.

In his weekly column that appears in newspapers around Georgia, Randy Evans, the former state GOP counsel and FONG, picks up on the fact that the anti-incumbent fervor aimed at Washington doesn’t seem to encompass the state Legislature:

Fifty-seven Georgians signed up to run for Congress. Only two members of the Georgia delegation (Sixth District Congressman Tom Price (R) and Eleventh District Congressman Phil Gingrey (R)) have no primary or general election opposition.

The same is not true in the Georgia General Assembly. In the Georgia Senate, 23 senators have no opposition in either the primary or general election (14 Republicans and nine Democrats).

In the Georgia House of Representatives, 91 representatives have neither primary nor general election opposition (46 Republicans and 45 Democrats). As a result, almost one-half of the Georgia Senate (56 total members) and over one-half of the Georgia House of Representatives (180 total members) will face no opposition in 2010.

After announcing, in the waning days of the session, that he would run for the state Senate to replace the exiting John Douglas (R-Social Circle,” state Rep. John Lunsford, a Republican from Henry County, has reconsidered.

He won’t run for District 17 Senate seat, but neither will he seek re-election to his District 110 House seat. Said Lunsford:

“I have loved my 10 years in the General Assembly, and I am proud of our many accomplishments,” Lunsford stated. “However, at the end of a long and difficult session, I have decided that it is time for me to refocus on my business and spend more time helping my wife raise our four young children.”

The D.C.-based group Club for Growth, backing former state Rep. Tom Graves (R-Ranger) in the 9th District congressional race, has come out with a TV ad targeting Graves’ chief rival, former state Sen. Lee Hawkins (R-Gainesville).

Libertarian blogger Jason Pye has done the YouTube work:

The TV spot claims Hawkins hasn’t vowed to repeal the Obama health care legislation in its entirety.

Hawkins calls the ad “false,” characterizes Club for Growth as a bunch of 9th District outsiders – who just happen to be Washington insiders – and uses the word “sinister.”

From the Hawkins release:

The false advertising fails to mention that Hawkins is campaigning daily on repealing Obamacare, as well as Hawkins airing TV commercials calling for repealing Obamacare.

Dr. Hawkins is a dentist and former President of the Georgia Dental Association. As a professional health care practitioner, Dr. Hawkins has led [the] effort in Georgia to stop Obamacare.

Graves has no experience in health care whatsoever.

“There is something much more sinister here,” said Dr. Hawkins. “This is a Washington special group which supports opening our borders for illegal immigration. Graves Washington buddies oppose immigration reform and want you to elect a weak career politician they can control like Tom Graves.”

“Georgia voters won’t be fooled by D.C. special interest groups trying to force their candidate onto north Georgia voters.”

“It’s just a falsehood from a big D.C. establishment special interest group,” said Dr. Hawkins.”

Hawkins’ statement opens up an age-old controversy: Why do so many dentists insist on being called “doctor”?

Sonny Perdue and Nathan Deal have something in common. Both have been dissed by the liberal group, Committee for Responsible Ethics in Washington.

CREW has called Deal one of the most corrupt members of Congress. More recently, CREW declared Perdue to be among the “worst” governors in the nation.

The common criticism came out Saturday at a Sixth District forum for Republican candidates for governor. Deal declared himself shocked that Handel, former deputy chief of staff to Perdue, would focus on ethics as an issue:

I’m surprised that she would do that, quite frankly, because this week, Sonny Perdue was named by the same group that filed the complaint against me, as one of the most unethical leaders in the entire country. And Karen used to be on his staff. If she doesn’t place any credence on the label they put on Sonny Perdue, why should she put any credence on the label they put on me.

Handel might argue that the difference might be found in the fact that the CREW criticism of Perdue wasn’t followed by an ethics investigation by a bipartisan congressional committee.

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38 comments Add your comment

Byron Mathison Kerr

May 3rd, 2010
9:16 am

Never knew the lyrics in “Turn! Turn! Turn!” by The Byrds were from from the Bible. :-)

Coastal Cavalier

May 3rd, 2010
9:18 am

“Hawkins’ statement opens up an age-old controversy: Why do so many dentists insist on being called “doctor”?”
It might have something to do with the fact that their degree is a doctorate be it a DDS or DMD. It makes more sense to call them doctor that it does a bunch of ivory tower college professors with a degree in art or what have you. And NO, I am not a dentist.

durango

May 3rd, 2010
9:23 am

Sounds like Chip Pearson finally realized that what he was doing was unethical and possibly criminally illegal. Maybe his resignation will satisfy the anger of the public without subjecting everyone to an indictment and trial.

professional skeptic

May 3rd, 2010
9:26 am

Could it be? Drop by drop, common sense and decency are making inroads into the Georgia political establishment? The decision by Chip Pearson to abandon his Senate seat to eliminate the blatantly obvious conflict of interest betweein his position as a lawmaker and his “we-are-not-lobbyists” consulting business appears to be a step in the right direction.

professional skeptic

May 3rd, 2010
9:28 am

Remember folks, conflicts of interest must be avoided in fact AND in appearance, for any professional to stand a chance of being taken seriously.

Bama Bill

May 3rd, 2010
9:45 am

Senator Pearson needs to be fully investigated and if found conflicted then let the consequences for him and his partners be suffered now ! It appears rather obvious that some shady deals under the Dome have surfaced – deal with it fellow Senators !

Robbie

May 3rd, 2010
9:45 am

The Handel response I want to see is: Why did she lose the straw poll in her home county? I thought Fulton was her home base. If not, WHERE is her base?

bulldog

May 3rd, 2010
9:50 am

professional skeptic hit the nail on the head.

Morrus

May 3rd, 2010
10:26 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

Sunny Daze

May 3rd, 2010
10:47 am

Ironically,Chip mentions the word HONOR several times in his letter of resignation.

David

May 3rd, 2010
10:48 am

If Hawkins thinks Georgians won’t be fooled by Washington insiders meddling in our elections, does he not remember what they did to Max Cleland?

MWIlson

May 3rd, 2010
10:54 am

Tell it like it is. Chip is broke. His grading business is gone and he can’t buy an election like he did in the past. Really he won’t be missed. He didn’t support public education, (his children go to private school), he had some strange ideas that prevented him from become someone that other legislators or constituents listened too. He really didn’t do much. Maybe Mr. Gooch will do better, yeah Gooch will win this is a Republican district. This is Georgia politics as usual. Chip pulls out at the final hour so Gooch and no one else can qualify. Looks like Chip’s consulting firm will still have an ear in the general assembly.

Jim

May 3rd, 2010
10:57 am

Good for old Chip. This will now give him time to work on his anti-micro chip emplacement devices. Remember he is the one so worried about the govt installing micro chips in people against their will. Even introduced a bill re: that. What a putz! Where do we send the aluminum foil for his anti – ray guy helmets? I am sure that is next on his “to do list”. Who was he trying to sell influence to? Martians? Visitors from the Planet X?
He is leaving – good riddance.

Adam

May 3rd, 2010
11:13 am

@Coastal Cavalier: “Doctor” is Latin for “teacher,” so it actually makes more sense to refer to college professors as “Doctor” and Latin is also where a good portion of English is derived and where we get the origin for the titles on our degrees. And NO, I am not a college professor nor I have a doctorate degree of any kind, but I do have a background in etymology and language.

Jill's mom

May 3rd, 2010
11:14 am

Lee Hawkins need to go! He is a RINO and has no business running for Congress.

Thank God this organization is standing up for conservatives around the country, and here in Georgia.

GvilleMan

May 3rd, 2010
11:22 am

Hawkins is barely a RINO, more like a Liberal…he and Uncle Joe seemed awful friendly when the VP came to town tossing out his stimulus funds.

Funny how there used to be a press release on the Hawkins’ website praising the event, now it is gone.

We need Bill Stephens in Congress! Adult supervision and an accomplished Senator, not a do nothing liberal.

Jim

May 3rd, 2010
11:35 am

When did progressive and republican become mutually exclusive? Who gets to decide who is a “real republican” and who is whatever the heck a rino is? Anybody wonder why the repubs have become a regional party ( southeast and far west )? Oh, I forgot – this is the same bunch that makes candidates sign a friggin loyalty oath to the party. Sieg Heil!

Lord is Great

May 3rd, 2010
11:41 am

Since Pearson quoted scripture all is forgiven. Isn’t that how it works in this state?

The Snark

May 3rd, 2010
11:51 am

ROBBIE:

Because the better you know her, the less likely you are to support her.

J

May 3rd, 2010
11:53 am

Enter your comments here

Rich

May 3rd, 2010
12:05 pm

Sen. Pearson’s rope-a-dope (qualify on Monday, withdraw Friday in favor of handpicked successor) shows alot about a LACK of honor and goes right along with his shady ethics with his consulting company. Times ARE hard, but true character perseveres in good times and bad. Good riddance to Sen. Pearson.

North Georgia Conservative

May 3rd, 2010
12:14 pm

To Jill’s Mom- that “organization” you are praising is going to leave Jill indebted for the rest of her life. The Club for Growth is a Washington special interest group that funds attacks on leaders who are brave enough to make fiscally responsible decisions such as balancing the budget!

The left has their wingnuts and we have ours on the right (so called Club for Growth). At some point those extremes become so radical, they actually start to look the same and cause the same harm. The Club for Growth is a cancer on the conservative movement that could kill us and the country.

DJ

May 3rd, 2010
12:28 pm

Is it just me, or does anyone else have an issue with Randy Evans being an advisor to Nathan Deal?

DJ

May 3rd, 2010
12:32 pm

Keep in mind that Nathan Deal’s legal fees (to Randy Evans) re his “ethical” situation have resulted in approximately 40K being billed to Nathan Deal’s campaign funds…

DawgVoter

May 3rd, 2010
12:39 pm

The Club for Growth does a great job of dividing Republicans and making it easier for Democrats to win. I bet Democrats secretly give to this group to keep them in business. I can’t think of any other group that does more to increase government debt while at the same time working to whittle down the number of good, fiscally conservative Republican candidates. They outdemocrat the Democrats. If you have the “endorsement” form the Club for Growth, I will not vote for you. In fact, I will actively give $$ and support to your opponent.

catlady

May 3rd, 2010
12:45 pm

Not soon enough!

Boots

May 3rd, 2010
12:51 pm

What a bunch of losers! One and all remind me of Larry, Curly and Moe!

RBN

May 3rd, 2010
1:17 pm

Who will protect us from microchips and let their buddies make millions on private water deals now? Oh, still 91 unopposed House members.

Just Nasty & Mean

May 3rd, 2010
1:28 pm

IF Handel won’t be on a stage w/ McBerry, why will she continue to share a stage w/ Deal or Oxendine?
IE: She doesn’t accept one kind of ethics issues, but will accept others.
It seems to me this should be an all-or-nothing position.

…..Duplicitous and hypocritical.

The question is….”Where does she draw the line?”

CREW FAIR & BALANCED

May 3rd, 2010
1:38 pm

Unranked, the 11 worst governors are:
• Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS);
• Gov. Donald Carcieri (R-RI);
• Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV);
• Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-LA);
• Gov. David Paterson (D-NY);
• Gov. Sonny Perdue (R-GA);
• Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX);
• Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM);
• Gov. Mike Rounds (R-SD);
• Gov. Mark Sanford (R-SC); and
• Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA).

CREW FAIR & BALANCED

May 3rd, 2010
1:41 pm

Sonny Perdue (R-GA) was elected governor of Georgia in 2002 and reelected in 2006. Under
the state’s term limits law, he cannot run for reelection in 2010.
Gov. Perdue:
• Accepted gifts and travel from lobbyists
• Violated campaign finance laws
• Failed to file complete personal financial disclosure information and supported a tax
loophole that benefitted him personally
• Allegedly thwarted an investigation by the Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs
• Appointed a business associate to a state position
CHARGE ONE: ACCEPTING GIFTS AND TRAVEL FROM LOBBYISTS
In 2003, Gov. Perdue signed an executive order banning most state employees and the governor
himself from accepting any gift valued at more than $25 from a lobbyist.1 Nevertheless, Gov.
Perdue has exploited loopholes to accept many gifts, including football tickets from his former
chief of staff turned lobbyist and refreshments from an AT&T lobbyist at the Republican
National Convention.2 A CREW review of Georgia state lobbyist report forms found that, since
2007, Gov. Perdue has accepted at least $2,286 in football tickets alone.3
In addition, Gov. Purdue has accepted travel paid for by lobbyists on numerous occasions. In
2004, the governor reportedly accepted a $2,400 plane ride from Atlanta to a NASCAR race just
30 miles south of the city, paid for by a Home Depot lobbyist.4 Also in 2004, insurer AFLAC
bought Gov. Perdue a first-class plane ticket worth $2,776 to Washington, D.C., to attend former
President Ronald Reagan’s funeral.5 A Portuguese company that built a factory in Georgia flew
the governor to Milan in 2008.6 That same year, Gov. Purdue accepted a flight from a CSX
Corp. lobbyist to attend a football game.7 The governor’s staff has argued that such trips were
1 James Salzer and Cameron McWhirter, Georgia’s Gift Ban has Wide Loophole, Atlanta Journal Constitution,
February 8, 2009.
2 Id.
3 Craig Camuso, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31, 2008, The Georgia State Ethics Commission; Craig
Camuso, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31 2009, The Georgia State Ethics Commission; Christopher
Cummiskey, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31, 2008, The Georgia State Ethics Commission;
Christopher Cummiskey, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31, 2009, The Georgia State Ethics
Commission; Dean Sheheane, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31, 2007, The Georgia State Ethics
Commission; Dean Sheheane, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31, 2008, The Georgia State Ethics
Commission; Dean Sheheane, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31, 2009, The Georgia State Ethics
Commission; Eric Tanenblatt, Lobbyist Report Form August 1–December 31, 2008, The Georgia State Ethics
Commission. The Georgia state lobbyist database is not searchable by gift recipient; CREW’s research is based on
the lobbyist names listed in: James Salzer, Perdue Took Gifts From Lobbyists, Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 1,
2005.
4 Salzer, Atlanta Journal Constitution, May 1, 2005.
5 Id.
6 Salzer, Atlanta Journal Constitution, February 8, 2009.
7 Id.
appropriate because they were for state business and that having lobbyists foot the bills saved
taxpayers money.8
CHARGE TWO: CAMPAIGN FINANCE LAW VIOLATION
In 2005, Gov. Perdue became the first Georgia governor to be fined by the State Ethics
Commission for multiple campaign finance violations.9 Most notably, despite a state law
prohibiting contributions over $10,000 from corporations, Gov. Perdue accepted more than
$22,000 from his wife’s company, including over $12,000 in unreported flights around the state
on his wife’s company’s private jet.10 A deal reached with the State Ethics Commission valued
the flight time at just $65 an hour.11
To settle the charges against him, Gov. Perdue reimbursed donors $18,000 and paid an Ethics
Commission fine of $1,900.12 According to the governor’s own lawyer, Gov. Perdue’s wife
promptly donated her share of the money back to the governor’s campaign, taking advantage of a
campaign finance loophole allowing immediate family members to make unlimited campaign
contributions.13
CHARGE THREE: PERSONAL FINANCIAL IRREGULARITES
Gov. Perdue failed to report the 2007 purchase of a $550,000 vacation property on his 2007
personal financial disclosure form, as required by law.14 Gov. Perdue’s spokesman called the
omission an oversight.15 An amended disclosure form was filed roughly one year after the date
of purchase.16
In the summer of 2004, Gov. Perdue secured a $300,000 federal tax break for himself involving
a Florida land deal.17 Earlier that year, the governor sold a tract of land in Georgia that he
inherited from his father, realizing a gain of more than $2 million.18 Then, over the summer, the
governor paid more than $2 million to purchase a 20-acre tract of land near Disney World from
Stan Thomas, one of his political supporters.19 At the time, the real estate was appraised at up to
$102,000.20 Mr. Thomas, in fact, is described as one of the most powerful backers of the
Georgia state GOP, having contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the party and its
causes while Gov. Perdue has been in office.21 The purchase of the Florida land enabled the
governor to take advantage of a federal capital gains tax loophole that allows investors to put the
8 Id.
9 James Salzer, Perdue to Pay $1,900 Fine for Ethical Lapse, Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 18, 2005.
10 Id.
11 Georgia State Ethics Commission, Consent Order: Case No. 2004-0002, June 17, 2005, p. 3.
12 Salzer, Atlanta Journal Constitution, June 18, 2005.
13 Id.
14 James Salzer, Perdue Fails to Disclose Property, Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 10, 2008.
15 Id.
16 Id.
17 Investigation Shines Light on Fla. Land Deal, Macon Telegraph, December 21, 2006.
18 Ken Foskett, Did Land Buy Justify Tax Break?, Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 20, 2006.
19 Id.
20 Id.
21 Id.
proceeds of one sale toward the purchase of land of equal or higher value.22 The transaction
saved the governor an estimated $300,000 in federal taxes.23 Gov. Perdue bought the land
unseen from Mr. Thomas after the governor asked for help finding an investment that would
shelter him from federal taxes deriving from the Georgia sale.24
Gov. Perdue saved an additional $100,000 in Georgia state taxes thanks to a tax bill, which
repealed the state tax on federal land swaps, the governor signed into law in 2005, the year after
his own land swap had taken place.25 The chairman of the state House Ways and Means
Committee—who has done legal work for the governor—altered the bill at the 11th hour to
retroactively cover any land sales occurring after January 1, 2004.26 This change allowed the
governor to take advantage of the new tax rule.27 Despite this, Gov. Perdue repeatedly claimed
that when he signed the tax bill into law he was unaware that it would affect him.28 A document
obtained by The Atlanta Journal Constitution suggests otherwise—the governor received a
memorandum explaining the tax change in April 2005, prior to signing the legislation.29
CHARGE FOUR: HELPING OUT SPECIAL INTERESTS
Bill Heard Enterprises, based in Columbus, Ga., was once the country’s largest Chevrolet retailer
network.30 In September 2008, the company abruptly closed its doors and began liquidating its
assets, citing high gas prices and the economic downturn.31 Over the previous 16 years, Bill
Heard had been accused of numerous deceptive and fraudulent business practices, and had paid
the Georgia Governor’s Office of Consumer Affairs (OCA) more than $279,000 in
administrative fines.32 In 2003, Bill Heard Enterprises was investigated by the OCA for
misleading advertising practices, reportedly prompting executives of the company to ask for
Gov. Perdue’s intervention.33 Within a few months, Gov. Perdue fired the head of the OCA, an
action that the governor and company executives claimed was unrelated to the investigation.34
CHARGE FIVE: CRONYISM
In 2003, Gov. Perdue appointed Stan Thomas to a state board overseeing economic development
in Georgia—the same Stan Thomas with whom Gov. Perdue would later work on the
questionable land transaction described above. 35
22 Foskett, Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 20, 2006.
23 Id.
24 Id.
25 James Salzer, Perdue Had Explanation of Tax Break, Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 18, 2006.
26 Id.
27 Id.
28 Id.
29 Salzer, Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 18, 2006.
30Alan Judd, Heard Took Risky Road, Atlanta Journal Constitution, September 28, 2008.
31 Id.
32 Lyle Harris, A Consumer Agency That Isn’t, Atlanta Journal Constitution, July 13, 2007.
33 Id.
34 Id.
35 Foskett, Atlanta Journal Constitution, December 20, 2006

rightofcenter

May 3rd, 2010
3:03 pm

You are all a bunch of blowhards. No one has accused Sen. Pearson of anything criminal – and if he did, not running for re-election would certainly not keep him from getting prosecuted. As for his “rope-a-dope” – anyone in that district had the right to qualify all week long. Don’t blame Sen. Pearson if they didn’t.

DJ

May 3rd, 2010
3:09 pm

Rightofcenter…I believe he was a target for an ethical investigation…which he avoids by vacating…similar to Nathan Deal. I propose that all elected officials file a waiver that they will have to reimburse any “steered” funds that personally profit their “outside” business ventures irregardless of any vacating or resignation…

DJ

May 3rd, 2010
3:10 pm

Fair is fair!!!

TW

May 3rd, 2010
4:38 pm

Nice to see the ‘conservatives’ are no longer pretending to be Christian.

Graves 2010 – Keep Screwing Georgia!

Decatur Bubber

May 4th, 2010
9:46 am

See ya, Chip, and good riddance. Wonder if Craig Lesser will keep you on the payroll, now that your so-called “value” to his firm is gone. Well, at least you have your “honor,” as you call it!!!!

Republican Dawg

May 4th, 2010
1:34 pm

That area is Republican, so the GOP will hold on to that seat. Friends in that part of the state say the kid that is running is a joke. He backed Obama last year, and is one of the few people that claims to be a national Democrat. Too bad Democrats couldn’t find anyone actually qualified to run for this seat.

FARfetched

May 5th, 2010
10:53 am

Too late: he’ll be known as “MIcro” Chip for the rest of his life.

GA9, what a cluster. I know, I live there. Frankly, the country’s better off if we have no Congressional rep at all.