by Bill Simon
Maybe someone can straighten this out for me because, after spending the amount of time I have spent watching and observing politics in Georgia, my usual fine sense of smell seems to be out of adjustment these days when it comes to smelling corruption.
So, is the deal with DeKalb County CEO Burrell Ellis the fact that he was caught “shaking-down” vendors for campaign contributions? Is the “shake-down” via phone calls and other types of communications the problem, and not the actual quid pro quo process of vendors contributing money to an elected politician at their request?
I ask this because upon researching some financial items via Open.Georgia.Gov, I’m rather fascinated with how AG Sam Olens runs the State Department of Law.
According to the Open Ga website, in Fiscal Year 2013, Olens had 285 personnel on the state’s payroll that, all total, consumed $16.542 million in legal expenses to staff the Department of Law.
In addition to those 285 people on the state employee payroll, Olens also spent a total of $30.38 million on outside, contract-vendor legal services. A total of, oddly enough, 285 vendors (lawyers and law firms).
Grand total in legal costs to the state taxpayers: Nearly $47 million total.
If Olens has 285 frigging people (lawyers upon lawyers upon lawyers) working (presumably) and getting paid $16.5 million, what the heck is all the $30 million some-odd money doing going to outside legal firms for? Someone is spending money like a drunken sailor in our state government.
And, so, just on a glance of a few of these vendor-contract law firms, I checked the Ethics.Ga.GOV website to see what kind of contributions might be flowing from these contract law firms to Sam Olens’ campaign coffers:
Greenberg Traurig: Collected $1.08 million in fees from Olens’ Law Department in FY 2013. Personnel with GT contributed a total of $30,450 since 2009 to Sam Olens’ campaign.
Arnall Golden Gregory: Collected $356,000 in fees in from Olens’ Law Department in FY 2013. Personnel contributed $4,550 since 2010 to Olens.
Kilpatrick Stockton Townsend: Collected $615,352 in fees from Olens’ Law Department in FY 2013. Personnel contributed a total of $13,850 since 2011 to Olens.
McKenna Long Aldridge: Collected $514,033 in fees from Olens’ Law Department in FY 2013. Personnel contributed a total of $21,400 from 2010 thru 2014 to Olens’ campaign.
One wonders if when Sam Olens calls these vendors (or Sam Olens’ fundraising personnel calls these vendor-contributors), does the conversation EVER cross to the side of “Well, you know, I gave you a pretty good book of business from MY Department of Law…When can I expect your check to my re-election campaign?”
And, yes, I’m certain that Burrell Ellis’s methods of raising campaign contributions goes on ALL THE TIME in this state, at ALL levels of government.
So, I kinda have to ask, what’s the big deal with Ellis doing it? If the state legislature REFUSES to enact true ethics reform (and, the majority of them do…especially the Republicans in office….they hate the prospect of becoming “honest”…duhhh, what’s that word mean?) that would prohibit bribery via campaign contributions to either obtain or maintain vendor contracts with municipalities or the county or the state et al., why is Burrell Ellis being prosecuted?