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Where is the state press

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POSTED: October 30, 2007 5:00 a.m.
This week we witnessed, yet again, the triumph of political skill and spin over substance from Georgia’s statewide news media.
The Atlanta newspaper did some front-page trumpeting of Gov. Sonny Perdue’s supposed “crackdown” on state workers’ abuse of government credit cards following an audit that showed shocking, widespread abuse across state government.
A Republican mouthpiece-pollster used his “news” Web site (really just the house organ of the state GOP) to call Perdue’s supposed cleanup of state workers’ credit card fraud his “finest hour.”
Yes, we had a regular Sonny-fest across Georgia last week, as our governor courageously took on faceless state bureaucrats who, right under his nose, spent years ripping off us taxpayers with their government-issued credit cards.
Anyone with a memory longer than a squirrel’s and an ability to think in more than one dimension at a time had to wonder what was praiseworthy about Perdue’s actions. Perdue has been promising a cleanup of state government since he started running for governor in 2001. He is now in his second term, and we taxpayers have been, at his request, paying big bucks for highfalutin former bank executives to run our state government from the governor’s office.
Now, with Perdue nearly two-thirds of the way through his gubernatorial tenure and his “New Georgia” team has long since put down roots in the labyrinth of state government buildings in downtown Atlanta. So why should we applaud when we are informed that the accounting procedures for guarding taxpayer dollars are so shoddy state workers are able to steal untold amounts of those dollars through fraudulent credit card charges that go undetected for years?
The items charged to taxpayers reportedly include a diamond ring, personal car payments and huge numbers of gift cards that were then used to purchase personal items for state employees. The state Department of Corrections reportedly has four credit cards with a credit limit of $1 million a month each. Hundreds of employees use the cards with no supervision or with one person responsible for completing the impossible task of reviewing hundreds of different credit card statements each month.
In many states the media firestorm that would follow a disclosure about waste, fraud and incompetence of the magnitude of the credit card scandal would end many a political career. Such blatant negligence in the protection of taxpayer dollars would lead to repeated stories and reporters frantically pursuing new revelations. The results would be resignations, firings and electoral defeats.
It’s safe to say that won’t be happening here in Georgia. Rather than a media-stoked political inferno, we are told by the press of the heroic efforts of government officials who are the reason the problem exists in the first place. Sadly, this sort of smiley-faced, cheerleading puffery too often takes the place of real news reporting. When it is doing its job, a political press corps shows neither favor nor mercy and relentlessly pursues official wrongdoing wherever it may be found. Sadly, that great media tradition is now absent in Georgia.
Remember Oaky Woods? Our governor reportedly blocked the Nature Conservancy from saving a state wildlife habitat so that his friends and campaign contributors could buy it and turn it into Middle Georgia’s biggest subdivision. By the way, the governor just happened to buy land right next door through an undisclosed shell corporation, and that land has since skyrocketed in value. We heard about that a little last year. The Atlanta newspaper reported it once during Perdue’s re-election campaign. What ever happened? Is there more to the story? What’s Perdue’s land worth now? Why aren’t federal or state authorities investigating?
How about the $100,000 state capital gains tax cut Perdue engineered for himself? He claims he’s not the only one who benefited. Since it was retroactive and tailored to the governor’s personal financial situation, that seems unlikely. Why hasn’t anyone in the media or law enforcement followed up on that boondoggle?
It has been said citizens get the government they deserve, and if they don’t bother to hold their elected officials accountable, they get a lousy one. That’s true. It seems a little harsh, however, to expect them to hold their elected officials accountable when their eyes and ears in the media appear to have gone blind and deaf.

Contact Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, or e-mail: mailto:shipp1@bellsouth.net
 

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