Archive for May, 2012

Report: Callaway Gardens has its back against a wall

Tony Adams of the Columbus Ledger Enquirer this morning has an eye-opener about a botanical icon built by one of Georgia’s founding Republican families: Callaway Gardens, which once drew nearly 1 million visitors annually, has seen attendance drop by nearly two-thirds:

Its back now against the wall because of heavy debt, Ida Cason Callaway Foundation, the Pine Mountain, Ga., resort’s nonprofit parent organization, has made the dramatic decision to sell roughly 4,000 acres of the 13,000 acres it owns to wipe away that debt and start anew. A prospective buyer is waiting in the wings.

“I can tell you the operations, the resort, has been suffering for a long time,” Edward Callaway, chief executive officer and chairman of the foundation’s board, said …. “The first major dip where our revenues really dropped was after 9/11. It just stopped and people quit traveling.”

Management has been sliced by more than half, and roughly 300 jobs have been lost since 2004, when full-time …

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Newt Gingrich auditions as Mitt Romney’s bulldog

COLUMBUS – Newt Gingrich will not be Mitt Romney’s running mate. The former U.S. House speaker has himself admitted that he is not vice presidential material.

But at the state GOP convention this weekend, Gingrich offered up the latest iteration of himself. Until the presumptive Republican presidential nominee makes his decision, Gingrich declared himself ready to fulfill all the duties of a No. 2.

Newt Gingrich, left, and Mitt Romney in an affable moment during a January debate. AP file

Newt Gingrich, left, and Mitt Romney in an affable moment during a January debate. AP file

Gingrich wants to be Romney’s Georgia bulldog.

In two speeches to Republicans, his supply of adverbs and adjectives replenished after the exhaustion of a failed contest, Gingrich blistered President Barack Obama and gave a vigorous defense of the man who buried him in the Iowa caucuses under an avalanche of TV attacks.

It might not have been the defense that the former venture capitalist might have ordered up, and still holds echoes of a hard-fought primary. “Who has killed more jobs …

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Mac Collins says he won’t run against Paul Broun

COLUMBUS, Ga. — In the midst of all the speeches at the state GOP convention this afternoon, former U.S. Rep. Mac Collins wandered past the press table – and ended rumors of a primary challenge to U.S. Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, in the 10th District.

Collins said he had been contemplating a return to Congress until about 10 days ago, when he decided he rather liked the extra time he’s had with his family. But Collins said he won’t endorse Broun.

Broun didn’t come to the convention, but sent greetings via video. Another challenger, Stephen Simpson, a former Air Force lieutenant colonel from Milledgeville, was working the crowd Friday – but I haven’t seen him today.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

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Conservative groups challenge House speaker on ethics

COLUMBUS, Ga. — On Friday, House Speaker David Ralston tried to warn delegates to the state GOP convention away from a resolution to endorse a cap on gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers, declaring that liberals were using the issue of ethics to divide the party.

Members of the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leadership this morning issued this response:

“We strongly condemn the comments made by Speaker Ralston regarding ethics reform. Strong ethics and accountability are not a matter of right versus left. They are a matter of right versus wrong.

“His comments imply that voters and activists should hide our eyes from the realities of ethics violations and the need for reform, and stand by everyone no matter what they do, simply because they have an “R” behind their name.

“Rather than open his heart to the cries from citizens that we have the right to call for accountability, he comments reflect those of someone who seeks to divide our party by falsely accusing those …

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Casino gaming, not just ethics, to be placed on GOP ballot

COLUMBUS, Ga. — More from the state Republican convention: We’re headed for a very newsy July 31 ballot.

My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin told you a few hours ago that the GOP executive committee had approved the placement on this summer’s primary ballot a non-binding referendum on a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers.

But we’ve also been told that, for the first time, Republican voters will be asked their opinion on casino gaming in Georgia – a potent issue given a study on the topic produced by the Georgia Lottery Corporation last fall.

Another topic: A “personhood” question on whether every embryo should be accounted an individual with legal rights — much pushed for by Georgia Right to Life.

These questions would only appear on GOP ballots. But if Democrats could be persuaded to adopt those first two – GRTL has little sway in that party — we could have a genuine sense of the state. On issues aside from the transportation sales tax, I …

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Newt Gingrich as Mitt Romney’s bulldog

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Newt Gingrich on Friday served notice that he intends to serve as Mitt Romney’s bulldog in the upcoming presidential contest, bringing an audience at the state GOP convention to its feet several times with comparisons of the presumptive Republican nominee to President Barack Obama.

“Let’s have a contest – who has killed more jobs in their career?” Gingrich asked, alluding to the Obama campaign’s attack on Romney’s years at Bain Capital. Romney may have had some down periods, Gingrich said, but “ultimately” the former Massachusetts governor was a job creator.

Gingrich also declared he would have Romney’s back when it came to the question of the candidate’s Mormon faith. “He takes it seriously. It is a deep part of his life. He is committed to it,” Gingrich said.

The former U.S. House speaker, who went to high school in Columbus, will appear at a major Cobb County fundraiser with Romney on June 11. “This is going to be a rough and …

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House Speaker: Liberal groups seek to divide GOP over ethics

COLUMBUS, Ga. — House Speaker David Ralston closed out the first day of the state GOP convention by warning delegates away from a movement to rebuke the Legislature for its refusal to accept a cap on gifts from lobbyists.

The House speaker came close to accusing those associated with the movements of consorting with liberals. His message came at the end of a 10-minute speech that closed out the afternoon session.

And if the body nearly 4,000 delegates and alternates decides to pass a resolution endorsing a gift cap, Ralston strongly hinted that he would ignore it.

The speaker began his speech by listing the accomplishments of the Legislature over the last two years, including a major anti-illegal immigration bill in 2010 and a measure passed this spring to shorten the period during which a woman can seek an abortion.

But he closed with this:

”In times of great majorities like we enjoy now, we must remember that there are those around us who seek nothing less than to divide …

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Your morning jolt: The 2013 campaign season begins — for GOP chairmanship

The Republican world – at least the Georgia part of it – is headed down to Columbus today for its two-day state convention.

Former state senator Chip Pearson of Dawsonville

Former state senator Chip Pearson of Dawsonville

Delegates will be pointed to November and, in at least one case, beyond. Among the many fliers on their seats will be one from former state Sen. Chip Pearson of Dawsonville, announcing his candidacy for state party chairman in 2013.

He’s already got a website that includes this shout-out to the current term-limited chairman, Sue Everhart:

With your help, we will continue Sue Everhart’s proud tradition of grassroots leadership and build on her great successes. I want to hear your ideas on how we can build on the successes of the Georgia GOP and make our Party even stronger…

Pearson, who has spent the last year raising money for the party, will be emphasizing his loyalty to the grassroots rather than officialdom. “People don’t know that there’s a whole lot more of me in the party than there …

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Did the Chicago Cubs shield Barack Obama from a $10 million attack?

This morning, the New York Times reported that Joe Ricketts, the founder of the brokerage firm TD Ameritrade, had commissioned a $10 million Super PAC hit on Barack Obama that would revisit the president’s ties to the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Almost immediately, Ricketts disavowed the effort. Strategic concerns, and Mitt Romney’s distaste for refighting the 2008 election might have been one reason.

But there is also the fact that the Ricketts family owns the Chicago Cubs. We’ll let Greg Hinz from Crain’s Chicago Business make the connection:

The Chicago angle on this is that Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Mr. Obama’s former chief of staff, has been trying to put together a deal for the city to put $100 million or more in tax incentives into a Wrigley rebuild.

Now, Joe Ricketts’ political support for conservative causes is no secret. And his children, particularly son Tom Ricketts, run the team day to day.

Beyond that, another of Joe Ricketts’ kids, daughter Laura Ricketts, is a …

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Jack Kingston wants a military ban on NASCAR sponsorships

The House Appropriations Committee today passed a defense bill that includes $3 billion more than proposed by President Barack Obama.

But thanks to U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, the bill also bars the Pentagon from spending money on sporting events – whether NASCAR, the Braves or the Savannah Sand Gnats — for recruitment purposes. From The Hill newspaper:

The amendment was proposed by Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) last year, but this time Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) took up the proposal, which prohibits military funding sponsoring semi-professional and professional sporting events.

Kingston said in committee that cutting sports sponsorship funding — which is used for recruiting efforts by the military — was a “great place to send a signal” as the military cuts its budgets, as well as 100,000 troops.

Defense subcommittee chairman Bill Young (R-Fla.) said he did not support the amendment because the military should be visible in the community, but it was adopted …

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