Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

Political Vine: The Insider's Source on Georgia Politics

The Political Vine is the home of political news, satire, rants, and rumors.

HD 43 Update; Herman Cain’s Surprise; Brian Kemp’s Big Decision, & Other News

by politicalvine

HD 43-Brian Laurens vs. Geraldine Wade

In a previous PV, we described an incident regarding Brian Laurens of the Robert Lamutt Campaign and Geraldine Wade, who was a candidate for the HD-43 Special Election.

That election has come and gone, and Wade, while receiving an impressive 22.2% for her first time out with a pure grassroots effort, fell short of getting into a run-off which is now between Robert Lamutt, who received 31.3% (699 votes) and John Carson, who received an even more impressive 35.8% of the vote (801 votes) for his first time running with his grassroots team.

After our story that identified Brian Laurens as the culprit in the duplicitious phone conversations he had with Wade about her campaign signs, Laurens was asked about this by several people to which he has reportedly replied “It wasn’t me, it wasn’t me!”

Well, here’s the problem with his denial: Either he’s lying or a brand-new political candidate, who never met Brian Laurens or encountered him in any other venue before this race, is lying.

That is, that would mean Wade is lying about the phone number that appeared on her cell phone Caller ID when the incident happened.

One thing PV had collected from Wade in our interview with her shortly after her phone encounter with Laurens was the actual phone number that showed-up on Wade’s phone.

That number was not reported in our original article because PV did not wish to give Mr. Laurens any more notoriety than he already has…but, since he insists on NOT taking responsibility for his actions, and, essentially accusing both the PV and Geraldine Wade of lying, we now have no choice but to print the phone number, and allow our readers to do their own searches to find out the identity of the following phone number that Wade had on her Caller ID a few weeks ago (and, she may still have it on there as an incoming call): 770-256-8394.

HD-43: Chip Rogers vs. Chip Rogers?

To the voters of HD 43, it might seem like State Senator Chip Rogers may have schizophrenia with whom he is supporting in this Special Election. Now, before you go jumping to conclusions about what this means, consider these Exhibits:

Exhibit 1: Lamutt Campaign mail piece with a quote from Senator Rogers

Exhibit 2: Carson Campaign mail piece with a quote from Senator Rogers

Hmmmm…Gee….what’s going on here with one person seeming to endorse two candidates in the same race?

Well, this did perplex PV and we made a call to Senator Rogers who illuminated us on the issue. He stated to us that he had told the Lamutt campaign that he’d be happy to give a quote in support of Lamutt, but that he would not “endorse” Lamutt because Rogers knew all of the candidates in the HD 43 race, liked them all, didn’t wish to take sides in a race between all of his friends, and wished to offer all candidates a quote if they wanted to use it in their campaign with the stipulation that they not use the word “endorse.”

And, subsequently, after the Lamutt mail piece hit, the Carson campaign contacted Rogers and received the quote given in support of Carson, which is in Exhibit 2.

So, Senator Rogers is not endorsing opposing candidates in the same race.

Getting the Legislative Fiscal Office (“LFO”) into Fiscal Order

Rumors have it that there are going to be some changes proposed in the next legislative session in how the Legislative Fiscal Office doles-out reimbursed expenses.

Now, to the majority of the people in Georgia, you’ve never heard of this office because it does not affect you directly, nor would you really ever know about it unless you were a legislative inhabitant of the state legislature.

The LFO is the office for the state house and state senate members to go to turn-in payment requests for expense reimbursement. The procedure for decades has been for any Member to go to the office, sign an affidavit claiming they have made expenditures in direct support of their role as an elected member of the legislature.

Currently, there is a $7000 limit per session per Member that is allowed for each Member to use to help him/her carryout his/her duties. Activities like hiring an assistant, or a part-time person to help in the district, etc.

Now, apparently, upon the signing of the affidavit by the elected Member, a check is cut shortly thereafter and given directly to the Member. This has been the procedure for years, if not decades (and was put in place by the Democrats because it was not until 2005 that Republicans got control of both houses, and the LFO has existed for many years prior to 2005).

So, some members have realized that this procedure is open to massive abuse…especially when they observe some other members walking into the LFO on the first day of the session and claiming things similar to Yeah, uh, I hired Wanda Merkelson (first cousin of Beth) to consult with me for a day to help me organize my office and files and she charged me $7000.00 for this, and I need a reimbursement for my full allotment now.

Funny thing about these “reimbursement” checks: No tax trail follows this money. No member has to report it to the IRS. The LFO does not (based on what we’ve been told) report to the Georgia Tax Department or the IRS that this money has been paid out and to whom.

So, currently, if the money is being used to pay for an employee that works directly for the legislative member…that money supposedly has no tax ties to it. It’s essentially, “free” money to the recipient, who then has the (ahem) obligation to report it.

In the case where it is a true “reimbursement” (e.g., office equipment purchase, stamps and envelopes, etc.) then that would be an instance of a check being cut for a valid reason. But, unless receipts are required to be provided (which they are not), no one really knows what a legitimate reimbursement is and what a fraudulent one is.

In the case of an employee who works directly for a legislator and is paid out of these funds…they may not be paying taxes AND…there is no paper trail required on the payment. It’s not like a legislator is required to disclose where/how the $7000 is actually being spent.

Now, to be sure we do not slap a paint brush across the faces of every member of the legislature, we are not accusing any member of ever (ahem) falsely claiming a reimbursement. But, we have had real-life examples described to us that certainly point to what would be considered a fraudulent claim if it was made in the “real world.”

So, one of the ideas being floated is that anyone who works for a legislator as a part-time assistant that they be required to file a W-2 form with the LFO and the LFO starts issuing checks directly to the assistant to the legislator. This way, there is a direct link to why the money was paid, to whom it was paid, and for the proper income taxes to be collected and submitted to the tax collection authority.

There may be some thorny issues, though, with a change-up like this in procedure that need to be wrangled-out. As it has been explained to us, there is a distinct entity called the “General Assembly” which is not really integrated into “state government” when it comes to the state employee and retirement system. Supposedly, there are distinctly different pension retirement systems between members of the Georgia General Assembly and regular Georgia state government employees (no, we don’t know the intricate differences, nor do we care to find out because we know that subject is pretty sticky).

So, if someone who is now just operating as a paid assistant of a legislator becomes a paid employee of the General Assembly by having to register a W-2 with the LFO, does the General Assembly face these issues: 1) Having to pay unemployment insurance to the Labor Department, and, 2) if an employee of the General Assembly commits some sort of tort against someone else while carrying out their official duties, is the General Assembly liable for that tort?

Anyway, PV hopes the 2012 Legislature examines this issue in some depth to ensure that tax dollars are not being abused and laws are being followed when it comes to their direct, personal use of our tax dollars.

Herman Has The Hammer Down…

Rumors have it that the campaign coffers of Presidential Candidate Herman Cain are piling-up with contributions after Cain’s stunning win in the Florida Presidency 5 straw poll last Saturday.

Congratulations, Herman!

What’s Up With Brian?

Rumors have it that the man in Georgia who has the weightiest decision to make is Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Why?

Because Kemp is charged with setting the date of when the Presidential Preference Primary (“PPP”) occurs in Georgia.

AND…he hasn’t made that decision yet…

AND…he has to weigh a whole LOT of “What-Ifs?” in his decision-making process. What are some of his “What-ifs?”

1) What if I set the date to be before March 1, 2012?

2) What if Chris Christie and/or Sarah Palin enters the race?

3) What if there is a floor fight at the 2012 Republican National Convention where whatever has been determined via the Presidential Preference Primary gets shredded because some states will be dominated by Tea Party delegations who don’t give a rip about the traditional way the RNC has been doing things and, if they are unhappy with the PPP choice, they may refuse to participate in the normal convention procedure of accepting a bad candidate to show “unity” and try and get a better candidate.

AND…these three “What-Ifs” are actually…intricately…connected. How?

Because if Kemp sets the date before March 1, an RNC Rule kicks-in that stipulates that Georgia will only get half of its 76-member delegation seated at the National Convention. Meaning, only 38 people will be attending the convention next year. (This Rule, by the way, was something State Chair Sue Everhart fought strongly against and her caucus came within just a few votes of defeating it…and there are several state chairmen who have expressed their regret since then that they didn’t follow Sue and vote against the RNC rule change.)

Now, while some Republicans in this state shrug their shoulders and assume that this rule that cuts the delegation down merely means 38 people won’t get to attend the convention…they would be extremely short-sighted in that viewpoint.

Because…if another one or two Republican candidates do jump into the Presidential race, then that may bleed-off supporters of other candidates (or, even cause currently neutral voters to jump on one of the newbie campaigns) and cause no candidate to obtain a clear mandate in collecting a strong majority of PPP votes and states…which is another reason a massive floor fight could happen at the convention in which only the delegates seated will truly have a say in selecting who becomes the Republican nominee.

And, if Kemp has set the date to be before March 1st, Georgia, while seeming to become a “player” in the national PPP race, will be relegated to has-been status if there is a floor fight at the national convention and Georgia’s delegation is not present in full force.

PV Note to Brian Kemp: Be vewwy, vewwy careful in your potential desire to become a player…because, it might just backfire if there is a floor fight at the 2012 Republican National Convention.

Happy Decision-Making to you, Brian! 🙂

2 Responses to “HD 43 Update; Herman Cain’s Surprise; Brian Kemp’s Big Decision, & Other News”

  1. Jim Carson Says:

    Grammarian, edit thyself:

    “State Senator Chip Rogers may have schizophrenia with WHOM he is supporting…”

    Sorry, couldn’t help myself after you so eloquently praised the pollster who [not whom] got it right!

  2. Bill Simon Says:

    I can never get that right between “who” and “whom.” Thanks, Jim!

Today's Deep Thought

Instead of having 'answers' on a math test, they should just call them 'impressions,' and if you got a different 'impression,' so what, can't we all be brothers?


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