January 15, 2014

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Georgia, Latest News, Red Gov Watch

The Real State of Nathan Deal’s State

Plagued By Ethics Scandals & Abandonment of Education

 

 

Today, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal will deliver his final State of the State address. Deal will attempt to put a pretty face on his disastrous record, but the truth is that his tenure in office has been defined by his ethics scandals and abandonment of education.

 

This should come as no surprise – Deal’s entire career has been defined by his unethical conduct in public office. But in November, voters will reject Deal in favor of an honest government that works for the middle class and investments in education that help prepare Georgia to compete in a 21st century economy.

 

As Deal finishes preparing for his performance, here are the facts about the state of the Deal administration:

 

 

I. DEAL’S ADMINISTRATION IS MIRED IN ETHICS SCANDALS & INVESTIGATIONS

 

Ethics Investigation into Deal Led to Staff Departure, Elimination of Position on Ethics Commission. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported of Georgia’s ethics commission top administrator, Stacey “Kalberman left amid a struggle over her pay, which the commissioners wanted to reduce by a third. The threatened cut came as Kalberman was investigating the campaign finances of Gov. Nathan Deal. When Kalberman left, the commission also fired [Kalberman’s deputy Sherilyn] Streicker and eliminated her position. Both have sued the state, and the commissioners and Deal’s office have denied their departures were related to the investigation.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/16/12]

 

·      Deal Recruited New Head of Commission Holly LaBerge as Investigation was Ongoing. “Deal did not dispute the allegation that his office recruited [Holly] LaBerge to lead the ethics commission even as it was investigating him. The governor said his office is frequently involved in recruiting agency heads, although he could not confirm LaBerge’s sworn testimony that the governor’s staff asked her whether she would be interested in the job two months before it became open.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/20/13]

 

·      Deal Paid $3K, Complaints Dismissed. “The ethics commission in July cleared Deal of major violations, which effectively ended more than two years of state complaints and investigations. The commission voted to dismiss allegations that Deal benefited when his campaign paid for airfare on a plane that he partly owned, as well as claims that he improperly used state campaign dollars to pay for legal fees related to a federal ethics investigation. Instead, Deal agreed to pay $3,350 in administrative fees for a series of ‘technical defects’ in his financial and campaign disclosures. A commission staff draft of an earlier proposed agreement recommended $70,000 in fines, but that never made it to the commission for a vote.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/1/12]

 

·      State Ethics Commission Handled Fraction of Previous Number of Cases After Deal Intervened. “In 2008, the commission closed 116 ethics cases, collecting $195,000 in civil penalties. That year, the commission had a budget of $1.9 million and 18 staffers… Using the measures of resources and production, that year was a high-water mark for the ethics commission. In 2011, the commission closed just 15 cases, according to a database of resolved cases on the ethics commission website. On May 22, 2008, the commission closed 16 cases in one day… [Stacey] Kalberman left amid a struggle over her pay, which the commissioners wanted to reduce by a third. The threatened cut came as Kalberman was investigating the campaign finances of Gov. Nathan Deal.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 9/16/12]

 

Testimonies Indicated LaBerge Destroyed Documents on Deal Aides in Probe. “Former Ethics Commission director, Stacey Kalberman, and one of her deputies have sued the state, saying they were forced out of the agency for leading an investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s campaign. The commission’s current director, Holly LaBerge, is accused of intervening in the investigation. Current and former staffers have testified that LaBerge ordered the removal of documents from the case file and met with top Deal aides while the probe was ongoing.” [Associated Press, 9/22/13]

 

·      LaBerge Said She Made Complaint “Go Away.” “According to the testimony, LaBerge said Deal ‘owed her one’ after she claimed to have made ethics complaints against him ‘go away.’” [Associated Press, 9/22/13]

 

LaBerge and Four Other Ethics Commission Staff Subpoenaed By FBI. “The FBI’s investigation into the state ethics commission took a step forward… when a federal grand jury subpoenaed five people at the center of the commission’s investigation into Gov. Nathan Deal’s 2010 campaign. Commission attorney Elisabeth Murray-Obertein told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she and executive director Holly LaBerge were subpoenaed in the agency’s office… Another person with knowledge of the case, who was not authorized to discuss the investigation, said former commission executive director Stacey Kalberman and her top deputy, Sherilyn Streicker, were also subpoenaed for documents related to the Deal case.… The AJC reported in September that current and former commission employees have alleged in sworn testimony that LaBerge ordered documents removed from the Deal file.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12/12/13]

 

II. DEAL’S ENTIRE CAREER HAS BEEN DEFINED BY HIS ETHICAL LAPSES

 

Deal Resigned from House Amid Ethics Investigations into Lucrative Dealings with the State. Deal announced he was retiring to run for Governor and the “departure apparently voids a U.S. House ethics investigation into his business dealing with the state… Deal has been the subject of two inquiries by congressional investigators into a Deal’s role in a business with the state that earned his company $1.5 million from 2004 through 2008. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in August that Deal and a business partner obtained the lucrative state business without competition and that Deal personally intervened with state officials to fight proposed changes to the operation.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/1/10]

 

·      Deal Found to Have “Improperly Used His Office to Pressure Georgia Officials.” the Office of Congressional Ethics released its report anyway, concluding that Mr. Deal appeared to have improperly used his office to pressure Georgia officials to continue a vehicle inspection program that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars a year for his family’s auto salvage business. The 138-page report details how Mr. Deal and his chief of staff intervened in 2008 and 2009 on behalf of the company, Recovery Services Inc., also known as Gainesville Salvage and Disposal. The report also said Mr. Deal had improperly failed to disclose that he was a corporate officer at the company, meaning that the $75,000 he earned from the business in 2008 violated a House limit on members’ outside income.” [New York Times, 3/29/10]

 

·      Deal’s State Involvement with Personal Business Made Him $150K a Year While in Congress. In 2009 Nathan Deal “personally intervened with Georgia leaders to preserve an obscure state program that earns his company nearly $300,000 a year… Deal and Ken Cronan own and operate Recovery Services Inc., also known as Gainesville Salvage & Disposal, which for nearly 20 years has enjoyed a lucrative agreement with the state that earned the company $1.5 million from 2004 through 2008, according to state records. The company provides a location and equipment for state inspectors to examine salvaged vehicles. Deal and Cronan never had to compete for the business, state officials said. Deal personally earns up to $150,000 a year from the enterprise, according to reports he files with the U.S. House.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/23/09]

 

Deal’s No-Gift Pledge Rated “Promise Broken” Within First Year of Office. Politifact reported that despite that one of Deal’s “first acts as governor upon taking office earlier this year was to sign an executive order banning gifts greater than $25 to himself and his staff,” the “recent ‘in-kind contributions’ of an upgraded travel status to the governor and his wife after Deal agreed to a $30 million tax break” for Delta Airlines, one of the state’s largest employers, “Deal appears to be violating that policy. We have changed our ruling to ‘Promise Broken.’” [Atlanta Journal Constitution/PolitiFact, 6/22/11]

 

2010: Deal Owed Millions to Daughter’s Failed Business While Campaigning. “Deal who acknowledged he is facing economic turmoil from a bad investment in his daughter’s failed sporting good business… Deal faces a Feb. 1 deadline to pay back a $2.3 million bank loan for the venture. His daughter and son-in-law declared bankruptcy. Deal and his wife, Sandra, are trying to sell their Gainesville home to help satisfy the debt. Deal on Wednesday ruled out a bankruptcy filing and said he will make good on the financial obligations, even though the debt exceeds the total value of his assets. The loans disclosed on Thursday suggest that Deal’s debt is even deeper. He listed a net worth of $2 million. Taken together the debts total over $5 million.” [Associated Press, 9/17/10]

 

·      Deal Campaign Has Given Daughter-in-Law’s Firm over $100K. “Deal paid his daughter-in-law, Denise Deal, and her fundraising company, Southern Magnolia Capital, $24,789 for work on the campaign this year, the report shows. Last year the Deal campaign paid Southern Magnolia some $90,000.” [Associated Press, 7/10/11]

 

III. DEAL HAS ABANDONED GA’S COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION

 

Deal Underfunded Georgia School By Over One Billion Dollars. The Associated Press reported, “Georgia schools… would not recoup more than $1 billion in state funding lost over the past few years… Georgia is supposed to use a standardized formula to determine how much funding schools get from the state. In the current fiscal year, Deal and lawmakers opted to give the K-12 education system more than $1.1 billion less than what’s recommended in the formula, according to the state Department of Education.” [Associated Press, 1/15/12]

 

·      A Drop from $2.8 Billion to $1.7 Billion. “This fiscal year, the Georgia Legislature agreed to spend about $7.4 billion on k-12 education. The entire state budget was nearly $20 billion. Georgia gets additional money from the federal government and other sources. That figure has declined from about $2.8 billion in fiscal year 2011 to about $1.7 billion in each year since.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution/PolitiFact, 9/5/13]

 

Deal Signed Off On “Deep Cuts” to Hope Scholarship. “The bill Deal signed into law Tuesday makes deep cuts to HOPE. Only the highest-scoring students those who earn a 3.7 GPA and a 1200 on the SAT as well as the valedictorian and salutatorian at each high school would still receive a full scholarship. Others would receive 90 percent of the current tuition rate. That figure doesn’t take into account an expected double-digit tuition increase. The plan would trim HOPE for students attending private colleges in Georgia from $4,000 to $3,600. Gone is funding for books, fees and remedial classes.” [Associated Press, 3/15/11]

 

2011 Cuts to Pre-K Resulted in Teachers Leaving “in Droves,” Shortened School Year. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, “Teachers this year left pre-k programs in droves, moving into elementary school openings to avoid a 10 percent, state-ordered pay cut that just began… The cuts in funding have shortened the pre-k school year by a month, eliminated 190 private and 76 public pre-k classes statewide… Research shows that for every $1 invested in early education, Georgia and other states see a $7 return. And children who attend pre-k are more likely to avoid remedial education, graduate from high school, attend college and get higher-paying jobs… Stephanie Mayfield, a spokeswoman for Gov. Nathan Deal, said the cuts to pre-k were made ‘only out of necessity’… The pay cuts are part of Deal’s plan to reduce pre-k spending by $54 million this year, to $341.7 million,” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 10/11/11]

 

2012: Deal Proposed Higher Education Cuts Reflected “Continued Weakness in the State’s Economy.” The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported of Governor Deal, in 2012, “asking state agencies to find another $553 million in reductions through June 2014. About half of that would come from higher education and from public health — $108 million from the University System of Georgia… The order — marking the fifth consecutive year that the governor’s Office of Planning and Budget has told department heads to come up with additional reductions — reflects continued weakness in the state’s economy and concern that it won’t improve dramatically before 2014.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 8/3/12]

 

2013: State School Board Association and Budget Study Found that Deal was “Not Devoting Enough Money Toward Education.” PolitiFact for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported, “The Georgia School Boards Association says Deal is not devoting enough money toward education if you factor in inflation. The Washington-based Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released a report earlier this month that concluded Georgia’s per-student spending will decline by about 1 percent this year once you factor in inflation.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution/PolitiFact, 9/5/13]

 

·      State Budget Survey Found that Georgia Still Spends More than $40 Less Per Student than Before the Recession. According to the Center for Budget Polcy and Priorities, Georgia is one of only 15 states where changes in education study have not met pre-recession levels. The Center found that despite increases, Georgia’s current per-student spending is still $47 dollars less in FY 2013 that it was in 2008 when adjusted for inflation. [CBPP, 9/12/13]

 

Deal Proposed Ending Program to Help Rural Schools. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported “Now Gov. Nathan Deal is proposing to end the $2.6 million, decades old ‘sparsity’ grant program that has provided a financial lifeline to some rural districts. It’s pocket change in a state education budget of about $7 billion, but it’s a fortune for schools that have so little… The grants, mostly in the $100,000 to $200,000 range, amount to 5 percent or more of the annual state funding received by 10 districts around the state… The state Education Department is supposed to conduct a periodic study to ensure that the districts should still be getting the money. But the governor’s budget office found out the reviews haven’t been done in about 20 years. So the governor’s office determined that ‘the need for the sparsity grant program has not been established,’ according to Deal’s budget report.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/10/13]

 

·      Rural Schools “Already Struggling.” “While all school districts have taken cuts, rural systems were already struggling. They have slashed their programs to the bare minimum, offering few if any advanced classes, foreign language or other electives. They never had much in the first place, so they had little or no fat to cut when bad times hit. Some of them have had trouble keeping teachers, who are lured away by more money or the chance to escape the remoteness.” [Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/10/13]