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Silence of the Dems

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POSTED: September 11, 2007 5:03 a.m.
Georgia’s political leadership is at the low ebb of our modern era. Not since the days of the corrupt Talmadge dynasty have we seen a group in charge that is more focused on taking care of themselves and their friends while ignoring the problems that hold Georgia back and threaten our children’s future.
The media recently reported on the obscene amounts of money that special interests at the State Capitol spend wining and dining our elected leaders. Lobbyists prowling the halls of government showered legislators with nearly $1 million in goodies during the 2007 legislative session. House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, R-St. Simons, the top recipient of lobbyist largess, was documented as eating almost nightly at some of the swankest restaurants in Atlanta, often with his wife, courtesy of special-interest lobbyists.
In response, House Speaker Glenn Richardson, R-Hiram, brazenly announced to the world he strongly opposes any attempt to eliminate the unseemly practice.
You’ve certainly read in this column and elsewhere about Richardson’s shenanigans with a female utility lobbyist while he was pushing a bill that would have provided her employer with a taxpayer-subsidized gas pipeline. You’ve also heard plenty from the media about shady land deals that involve Gov. Sonny Perdue and people with business before his administration.
Sadly no one in elected office today is willing to stand up for ethics in government. Republicans fear the wrath of their governor and their House Speaker. Even Georgia Democrats, the loyal opposition, are quiet. Democratic legislators said nary a word about the culture of lobbyist freebies for lawmakers, presumably so as not to jeopardize their own feeding at the trough.
The word under the Gold Dome is the two top House Democrats, Minority Leader DuBose Porter, D-Dublin, and Democratic Caucus Chair Calvin Smyre, D-Columbus, both made a pact of silence with Richardson about his inconvenient relationship with his lobbyist friend so as not to expose straying Democratic members to the scrutiny that would come if the Speaker went down for his misbehavior.
Democratic Attorney General Thurbert Baker is, as usual, nowhere to be found on any of these matters. Democratic Party Chairwoman Jane Kidd has barely been heard from since her election in January.
All that leaves Dale Cardwell, a lowly ex-TV reporter and now candidate for the U.S. Senate, as the conscience of the Georgia Democrats. Cardwell, the dogged former investigative reporter for WSB-TV, is mounting an uphill battle to unseat Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss next year. Cardwell recently took it upon himself to call out Perdue’s legally questionable conversion of his leftover campaign funds to a PAC when none of the Gold Dome Democrats said a word.
Cardwell is opposing DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones in next year’s Democratic Senate primary. Jones has turned himself into a prime example of the type of Democratic politician Georgia voters can’t stand, and who damages the party’s electoral prospects with each successive exposé of his activities. His personal life makes Richardson’s look almost monastic by comparison, with sensational allegations of rape having been levied at Jones by a woman he tried to lure into a group-sex encounter.
Jones has used taxpayer dollars to surround himself with an extravagant security detail more fitting for Bush or Cheney and is reportedly funding his Senate campaign by blatantly twisting the arms of financial interests with business before his county government.
Cardwell proved his chops as a corruption fighter during his days as a reporter, uncovering multiple stories about government wrongdoing, much of it in Jones’ DeKalb County. In fact, Cardwell’s work exposing the corruption of former DeKalb County Sheriff Sidney Dorsey, who recently made a jailhouse confession to the murder of the man who defeated him, ended up getting Cardwell put on a hit list made up by Dorsey and his cronies back in 2000. Cardwell, whose family lived under the protection of law enforcement for weeks during the drama surrounding Dorsey’s downfall, received a commendation from the DeKalb district attorney’s office for his role in breaking open the case.
Georgia Democrats’ reaction to Cardwell will be fascinating to watch. Completely cast out of power, they may still be loathe to embrace an outsider who has not come up through the party’s ranks.
Even though every poll shows voters’ disgust with the status quo reaching an all-time high, Democrats, who seem to act like the party of the status quo even when they are not, may not be willing to choose as their ticket leader a man who has made a career out of fighting government corruption as an outsider.
Alas, as the so-called party of government, Democrats seem to doom themselves to defending it even when their opponents are running it into the ground.

Contact Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA 30160, or e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net
 

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