Bait-and-switch: The Capitol coup against Casey Cagle

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle at his debate with Democratic rival Carol Porter. AP/David Goldman

Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle at his debate with Democratic rival Carol Porter. AP/David Goldman

A bait-and-switch was pulled on those of you who went to the polls on the first Tuesday of November.

For months, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had crisscrossed the state, warning that if Democrat Carol Porter were elected to replace him, a Republican-controlled Senate would immediately strip her of all power.

She would be an inert figurehead with a staff and a $91,609-a-year state salary, the Republican incumbent argued.

The lieutenant governor was re-elected by a comfortable margin. The people had spoken.

Three days later, at a closed meeting on the Mercer University campus in Macon, Republican members of the Senate voted to strip a stunned Cagle of nearly all his authority. When the General Assembly convenes in January, he’ll be little more than the figurehead he warned against.

As people in polite company say, payback is a harsh mistress.

That conclave in Macon, with its palace coup against Cagle, is significant as the first political consequence of an election that may have given Republicans a 20-year grip on the state.

With a GOP hand on every lever of import, the power struggles that matter are likely to be internal — and often behind closed doors.

Senators have bucked the lieutenant governor before. The last time was in 2003, when newly empowered Republicans grabbed the reins from Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, a Democrat. They gave control back to Cagle after his 2006 election.

Picayune complaints about his management style aside, the immediate cause of Cagle’s demotion is the hospital bed tax passed by the Legislature this spring — which became necessary to balancing the state budget.

The lieutenant governor signed an agreement on the tax with Gov. Sonny Perdue and House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, but failed to adequately consult Senate leadership.

When two Republican senators balked, Cagle — using the powers conceded to him by the Senate — yanked their committee chairmanships.

Status is important and personal at the state Capitol. To be called Mister or Madam Chairman adds a full six inches to any lawmaker’s height.

Over the summer, Senate President pro tem Tommie Williams, R-Lyons, Majority Leader Chip Rogers, R-Woodstock, and others quietly gathered up the necessary commitments from GOP senators and candidates yet to be elected.

The trap was sprung while Cagle was still celebrating his re-election. Over the lieutenant governor’s protests — he flew to Macon to argue his case personally — Cagle was stripped of his power to name the chairmen and other members of Senate committees.

Details of the coup haven’t been placed in writing, and the chambers’ two top leaders, Williams and Rogers, have declined to offer specifics.

But the Senate will be ruled by an eight-member Committee on Assignments. Cagle will still preside over the Senate — a power given to him by the state Constitution.

For those of you who yawn at such things, let me put it in crass political terms: Power in the state Capitol is all about “the ask.” He who must be asked — for a line item in the budget, for a few words to tip legislation this way or that — has the power.

With the lieutenant governor in complete control of the Senate, lobbyists lined up eight or 10 deep in his office — lobbyists who control access to hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions, and thus entire political futures. Committee chairmen were ignored.

Lobbyists will now have to curry favor with several Senate leaders.

But Cagle will still deserve some attention. In their haste, Senate revolutionaries may have overlooked an important weapon in the lieutenant governor’s arsenal.

Cagle, we’re told, retains his authority to appoint conference committees, where senators engage House members in the crucial final rounds of negotiation over important legislation — including the state budget.

It is a power used primarily during the last days of a four-month session. But if used properly, and if Senate Republicans let Cagle keep it, this oversight could become the equivalent of taking a general’s sword but leaving him the loaded cannon.

Unfinished revolutions can be messy things. Ask any Frenchman.

As a footnote, at the same private meeting in Macon, Senate Republicans decided that — after listening to the daily sermon and declaring their allegiance to the U.S. flag — all members of their chamber will also be required to swear fealty to the Georgia flag.

The move is certain to prompt another round of heated discussions about state sovereignty. State Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Decatur, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, has already said he will absent himself rather than recite the pledge.

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96 comments Add your comment

Last Man Standing

November 13th, 2010
3:11 pm

First – with no comment.

Susan

November 13th, 2010
3:19 pm

Cagle is getting payback for his lies against Ralph Reed. Payback is indeed a Joy Behar!

General Sherman

November 13th, 2010
3:20 pm

Emanuel Jones can kiss my grits,along with his black caucus!

catlady

November 13th, 2010
3:31 pm

Just desserts? Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving fellow. Have you noticed how watching this unfold reminds you of a kindergarten sandbox, after the neighborhood cats have visited it?

Wish the AJC would do some more investigation on the “baggage” some of our “leaders” carry.

Susan

November 13th, 2010
3:33 pm

Why do we even need a black caucus either here or in Washington? Most of them are socialists. Look at James Clyburn, Maxine Waters, and John Conyers. Socialists, all.

GoRoy!

November 13th, 2010
3:43 pm

Good to see the Republicans already eating their young! And Cagle isn’t even the dirtiest of the newly elected group.
– If they stripped Cagle of his powers before he was done celebrating; just what is in store for our dirty Governor who can’t add?

Get used to it. You had a chance to change things up a bit but refused and elected these characters. And I don’t know about you, but I don’t trust Nathan Deal to wash my dog much less run my state.

*Priceless photo of Carol Porter at the top of article!

gerald foskey

November 13th, 2010
3:43 pm

This derailment will give Casey extra time to hang out at the Atlanta bars with his lady friends.

JD

November 13th, 2010
3:50 pm

Hmmm… elected leaders ignoring the Constitution and the will of the people… ever seen this story before?

Boooo

November 13th, 2010
3:51 pm

So….the people who voted to strip the power……were they Democrats who switched to the Republican party 8 years ago???

Some Other Mike

November 13th, 2010
4:13 pm

Frankly, the amount of grief Cagle has received (aborted gov. run, now this) is approaching endorsement levels, given the folks doing the prodding.

Pledge allegiance to the state wind sock? I think not.

G5

November 13th, 2010
4:13 pm

It is going to be fun watching the Repuglicans implode. Unfortunately they will be taking Georgia with them.

gerald foskey

November 13th, 2010
4:15 pm

Boo…The GOP senators you refer to are all 100% Republicans. No Dem retreads in this sorry bunch of rascals.

Just Wait

November 13th, 2010
4:21 pm

Cagle had become a puppet of Perdue and Perdue is a puppet of the lobbyist who do the bidding of big business and the Chamber of Commerce. In essence, they are all figureheads. What real difference will this make as the Republicans ruin Georgia?

Cutty

November 13th, 2010
4:23 pm

Republicans only speak about will of the people when their complaining about democrats.

Rule .303

November 13th, 2010
5:26 pm

This has nothing to do with the hospital tax. Leadership was putting the screw on the lower members just as much as Cagle was.

Simply put, this is all about Cagle’s inability to keep his hands off his staff and interns. It’s the worst kept secret at the Capitol. Like Richardson before him, leadership recognized that he has become an embarrassment to the Republican Senate Caucus.

Ignoring the Truth

November 13th, 2010
5:29 pm

I’m wondering when the story of Perdue’s multi-million dollar business slight of hand will be revealed. As I recall Perdue owed quite a few million for a business loan. Somehow that loan disappeared. WOW!!! No follow up the media. Totally put on ignore. Deal will be indicted and get his loans paid within six months of swearing allegience to the state flag. You heard it here first.

Sick of Republicans

November 13th, 2010
5:36 pm

Black democrats socialists? What are white republicans – KKK/White Supremacists? I love how you Republicans trash Democrats but hide behind a facade instead of facing what you are. When this State is finally destroyed – just look in the mirror – you can’t blame it on Democrats because it was on your shift it began and will destruct. Two kinds of Republicans – millionaires and suckers.

gerald foskey

November 13th, 2010
5:53 pm

I hope the media will expose Perdue’s dirty deal at the Georgia Ports in Savannah. Folks that work there say Perdue has started a trucking company with privileged access to the port facility.Like they say, you never have to worry about a conflict of interest if you always put yourself first. Where is the US Attorney?

ga female

November 13th, 2010
6:20 pm

The foolish Republicans in this state were sure played in November. What a bunch of crooks. How about a recall for all of the Republican’s in Georgia

Calhoun

November 13th, 2010
6:39 pm

To: Ignoring the Truth
Thanks for your squeal.
You say: “. . . Deal will be indicted . . . . You heard it here first.”
I say: “Sorry, pal. The Deal haters have hoped for some sort of indictment against Deal for months, but to no avail. Where have you been, asleep? By the way, pray tell us: 1) For what will Deal be indicted? 2) Who will do the indicting? 3) When will an indictment be issued? Are we all to understand that you are privy to some legal proceeding against Deal that has not appeared in any official publication or announcement anywhere?”
More squeals and howls, anyone?

gerald foskey

November 13th, 2010
7:18 pm

Calhoun (or whatever your real name is)…you are mis-informed about the Federal criminal investigation process. The Feds are still investigating Deal and they have NEVER given him a clean “bill of health”. So how do you know what will happen to Deal? As for me, I hope he does 20 years in Leavenworth.

capital idea

November 13th, 2010
7:37 pm

who cares? why don’t you report on some real news for a change?

Ben Thenkin

November 13th, 2010
7:47 pm

@ga female….The biggest problem with your suggestion is that we would then come under Democrat leadership again. God forbid.

Calhoun

November 13th, 2010
7:49 pm

To: gerald foskey
Thanks for your squeal.
You say:
“Calhoun (or whatever your real name is)…you are mis-informed about the Federal criminal investigation process. The Feds are still investigating Deal and they have NEVER given him a clean “bill of health”. So how do you know what will happen to Deal? As for me, I hope he does 20 years in Leavenworth.”
I say:
“Pray tell, if you know so much about the Federal criminal investigation process, just how do you know that the Feds are still investigating Deal? Who is your friend at the Unjustice Department – oops the U.S. Attorney’s office? So how do you know what will happen to Deal?”
More squeals and howls?

Ima

November 13th, 2010
7:59 pm

We should consider how much of the negative stuff about Mr. Deal is fact and how much of it is political garbage aimed at getting Mr. Barnes another shot at the office.
Possibly we elected the best of two evils or the most honest of the two. Mr. Barnes wanted the power again regardless of what he had to do to obtain it

captguitarman

November 13th, 2010
8:08 pm

All of this would be more than just a little funny . . . if the joke wasn’t on the State of Georgia and its citizens. Let’s see, what’s the very first thing the state senators do? Make sure the lobbyists have to come to them. Does that tell you something about the comedy of errors that is on the way. But Georgians, don’t worry. As soon as these guys have lined their pockets enough, they will start to pay attention to all the major issues that Georgia is facing (like drinking water for Atlanta, for example), the inattention to which by What, Me Worry? Sonny Perdue over the last 8 years is putting Georgia further behind the new New South as every day goes by. And oh yeah, the Shady Deal has jumped on the wagon without hesitation on an issue of equally major importance to running out of water, crumbling infrastructure, transportation, the decline in education, the Hope scholarship running out of money, crumbling prisons, decrepit mental health facilities . . . YES, getting the Super Bowl to come to Atlanta and building a big new, and highly unnecessary facility at taxpayer expense in order to make that happen. Hey, the Shady Deal knows a bidness opportunity when he sees one. And apparently so do the state Senators, who can all now proudly exclaim on inauguration day, the Georgia Senate is now open for bidness. Come one, come all.

asa

November 13th, 2010
9:00 pm

ONLY DIFFERNCE BETWEEN CAGLE AND JOHN EDWARDS EDWARDS IS BETTER LOOKING AND CAGLE HAS THE PETTIER WIFE THANK DEAL FOR RUNNING FOR GOV COULD HAVE HAD THIS INCOMPENT WOMANIZER

Tom

November 13th, 2010
9:21 pm

pledge allegiance to the Georgia flag and to the principles for which it stands: Wisdom, Justice, and Moderation.” What idiot wouldnt recite that pledge.

No Dog in this Hunt

November 13th, 2010
9:48 pm

I am glad the senate removed the load from our Lt Gov. We all know his back might have acted up under the normal load. Maybe it was also to give him more time with his wife and family.

3Dawgz

November 13th, 2010
9:57 pm

hahahahahahahha.. Couldn’t happen to a better person.. Guess what? I think we should add Prophet to Cagle’s titles…

Lol Lmao!!!!!!

3Dawgz

November 13th, 2010
10:00 pm

Calhoun or whatever your name is.. grow up and at least attempt to use your brain.. If you haven’t got one… ask a neighbor or your cousin.

jeff

November 13th, 2010
10:18 pm

Gerald Foskey – You think Nathan Deal should be investigated but what about Sanford Bishop? Why aren’t the feds investigating him? After all he sent $200,000 in federal earmarks to an organization that hired his family members that were living and working other full time jobs over 100 miles away. Oh and the money they made was deposited into Bishop’s wife’s checking account. You think Deal should be indicted but I don’t hear anyone screaming that Bishop should be indicted for obvious theft of taxpayer money. Of course the GBI investigated but found that no “state” laws were broken. Did you know that Bishop has spent close to $500,000 in legal fees since that investigation with by the GBI finished? Looks like he is paying loads of money to keep this very quiet.

Jokes on Georgia's people

November 13th, 2010
11:02 pm

Jokes on you voters. One party rule is a recipe for disaster. No one is talking about the economy. They are only talking about power, payback and crap like pledges to GA vs the US. Wake up.

Bring back "Babe Alley" to the Capitol! (Your Unidentified State Representative)

November 14th, 2010
2:05 am

Stripping Cagle of his powers just means more hot, female, lobbyist tale for me! Speaking of “stripping”, it’s almost time for last call in Fulton County, which means that me and the gang will be taking this show on the road to DeKalb. Stay tuned…..

Bring back "Babe Alley" to the Capitol! (Your Unidentified State Representative)

November 14th, 2010
2:17 am

Jokes on Georgia’s people

November 13th, 2010
11:02 pm
“Jokes on you voters. One party rule is a recipe for disaster. No one is talking about the economy. They are only talking about power, payback and crap like pledges to GA vs the US. Wake up.”

That statement is absolutely false! As a responsible civil servant who is fully accountable to the citizens of the great state of Georgia, I can completely assure you that I am always talking about the economy…..MY personal economy! Who’s got any ones, tens, twenties, fifties and hundreds? Me and the boys are gonna pick-up some hot tail at Pink Pony, tonight and Oasis, tomorrow! Don’t worry, it’s all about the people’s “business”……

The Centrist

November 14th, 2010
2:43 am

Jeff, if the GBI investigated but found that no “state” laws were broken, what is your problem? Do you really want the FBI to investigate Deal and Bishop?

LegoLand

November 14th, 2010
4:06 am

This was the first act of Brian Kemp’s campaign for Governor. His political consultant presides over two of the leaders of this coup: Kemp’s brother-in-law, Senator Cowsert, and Chip Rogers. Cagle now forfeits his fundraising advantage over Kemp and goes into the next GOP Governor’s primary the underdog. Kemp’s team figured there was no sense waiting until the last minute.

the mehlman rings twice

November 14th, 2010
6:37 am

Susan@3:33 pm
George H.W. Bush – Savings and Loan Bailout
George W. Bush – Investment Banking & Auto Bailout

Remind me again who the socialists are?

the mehlman rings twice

November 14th, 2010
7:12 am

Who cares about bank failures?

The Centrist

November 14th, 2010
7:28 am

$1 trillion in loan losses by Georgia banks in so called fiscally conservative counties, that consumers across the country will have to pay for in bank higher fees. Those who mock those who have been and will be foreclosured upon should also mock their neighbors who made “lower taxed” millions while making super-risky loans.

NB Forrest

November 14th, 2010
7:53 am

I pledge allegiance to the Georgia State Flag and the principles for which it stands, Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.

Many Georgians like myself are an independent minded people who don’t like an outside force deciding things for us. During Yankee occupation after the war the sword on the solider in the state seal inside the State Flag was switched as a defiant move to thwart occupation.

Saying the pledge is a great way to express ourselves independent from San Francisco, Chicago, New York, etc and other culturally foreign places.

Jeff

November 14th, 2010
8:02 am

The Centrist – I said no “state” laws were broken because it should be obvious the whole situation should have been investigated by FBI or DOJ. The GBI found that there was wrongdoing but that no state laws applied. In other words it was beyond their jurisdiction. Yes I believe Bishop should be investigated but obviously he has paid about $500,000 to a high powered law firm to make the problem go away.

Dick in Gainesville

November 14th, 2010
8:02 am

looks like Casey will have to learn to tie his own shoes.

Bug

November 14th, 2010
8:15 am

Third party with term limits for anyone elected to public office in America.

Making a career out of taxpayers money has got to stop.

missmollie

November 14th, 2010
8:28 am

I didn’t know there were any Democrats in Gainesville???

Disgusted Republican

November 14th, 2010
8:51 am

Are all of our elected officials out for themselves? Article re Perdue’s biz dealings very very troubling. We republicans voted the dem’s out formthis very thing when the GOP finally won the governors office in 2003. And the GOP is today — no better. I guess Deal really was onto something when he called his actions to protect is his own biz “constituent services”. I thought we the people of this state were the constituents. Apparently not. Disgusted.

ToddD.

November 14th, 2010
8:54 am

Missmollie,

There are no Democrats in Gainesville. He still should tie his own shoes. I know his wife would appreciate that.

Jeff

November 14th, 2010
9:01 am

E. Jones should do us all a favor and absent himself and the black/afro/african/ caucus permanently.

hoyt28

November 14th, 2010
9:52 am

I greed with GoRoy!

gerald foskey

November 14th, 2010
10:31 am

Bravo to AJC for having the gonads to expose Sonny Perdue and his crooked dealings in today’s newspaper. Nathan Deal will be all excited as he sees how a real operatorlike Sonny can make a fortune off his public office.