On Tuesday evening, Dale Russell of Fox5 News unloaded a report saying that Republican nominee Nathan Deal – while a member of Congress — tried to persuade Hall County officials to take over maintenance of a private road near his salvage business:
Here’s the Associated Press synopsis:
Atlanta — While north-Georgia Republican Nathan Deal was in Congress, he and a top aide tried to persuade Hall County officials to take over maintenance of a private road that runs past Deal’s auto salvage yard and ends at another property Deal was seeking to rezone.
According to a report by WAGA-TV, Deal’s then-chief of staff Chris Riley sent e-mails to county officials on his House of Representatives e-mail account, inquiring about the effort. House ethics rules prohibit using government resources for private gain.
The station also said Deal appeared in person before county officials to start the process.
The road request was followed by a rezoning request by Deal’s auto salvage business to turn the 137 acres of property at the end of the road into a landfill. The property ended up being rezoned.
Deal’s lawyer Randy Evans told Fox 5 the contact did not violate House ethics rules because Riley did not specifically ask for anything and was gathering information on behalf of a constituent.
“The important part is, did you ask for action? Did you ask for something? And the answer to that is, it didn’t happen here,” Evans said.
The AP was unable to reach Evans for comment Tuesday night. It was not clear from the TV station’s report whether the county ended up taking over maintenance of the road.
Professor Harvey Newman, chairman of Georgia State University Department Public Management and Policy, said such behavior crosses an ethical boundary and erodes public trust in public officials.
“It’s the use of a public office and the abuse of that public office in time, equipment and personnel that is inappropriate for public officials,” Newman told the TV station.
Earlier this year, the Office of Congressional Ethics said Deal’s lobbying of state officials in 2008 and 2009 to preserve a lucrative state arrangement for his auto salvage business may have violated House ethics rules by using official resources for his private gain. Deal met three times with state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham.
Deal refused to answer reporters’ questions following a debate Tuesday night in Atlanta.
The Fox5 report aired just as several hundred people were settling down at the Temple in Atlanta to watch a feisty debate among the three candidates for governor: Democrat Roy Barnes, Republican Nathan Deal, and Libertarian John Monds.
The Deal campaign apparently had decided beforehand that any comment by the candidate would only give additional legs to the Fox5 report. Aides hustled Deal out the door without a word.
Below is post-debate video from a state Democratic party tracker, of reporters in pursuit of Deal:
You can expect to see the above clip again and again in a TV ad near you.
Meanwhile, expect Republicans to focus on economics today. From the state GOP this morning:
The Savannah Morning News has quantified Barnes’ campaign pledges at $2.2 billion per year, meaning his governorship would cost voters over $8 billion in campaign promises alone.
How will Roy Barnes pay for his binge-spending plans? He’s only proposed elimination of one tax exemption, the tax exemption on jet fuel, worth $24 million and barely 1% of his new spending.
Barnes also proposed a plan to allow local governments to collect sales taxes, but he disagrees with his own campaign manager on the amount of revenue it would bring in.
Even the most optimistic estimates fall far short of balancing the budget with his pie-in-the-sky promises of massive new spending.