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Let the vetting begin
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Bill Shipp column Jan. 27, 2008


This is serious. Gov. Sonny Perdue really is on the short list of possible Republican vice presidential nominees.
At first, I thought somebody was kidding me. Now I’m satisfied Sonny is prepping for the national scene. An impeccable source spilled the beans.
No wonder Sonny has been flying off to Washington and other faraway places. He is boning up on national and international concerns. He is heavily involved in the Republican Governors Association, a group that raises big money and hands it out to GOP gubernatorial candidates.
President George W. Bush has named Sonny vice chairman of the Homeland Security Advisory Council. The Georgia governor also has taken a hand in counseling the White House on international trade.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of nettlesome questions: Who’s minding the store in Georgia? Who is cracking the whip over a runaway Legislature? Amid much cheering last week, the Legislature passed a flawed statewide water plan, a major problem being that somebody forgot to include implementation of the plan in the budget. No money equals no water plan.
The General Assembly is in near-meltdown over taxes, budgets, vetoes and bleached-blonde lobbyists. Our state faces a severe water shortage, unmanageable traffic in many areas and record home foreclosures. So where’s Sonny?
On his way to national stardom, I presume.
But wait.  
The party bigwigs don’t want their pick for vice president to be a distraction in the fall. They would need Sonny to do what a good V.P. candidate does, which is to attack the Democrats while bringing no baggage of his own to the campaign.
 That means they’ll have some smart guys in a windowless room somewhere poring over Sonny’s life, looking for issues and asking him tough questions about whether any skeletons would haunt the GOP’s national effort this fall. This task is called vetting.
As informed Georgians, we have a duty to give those vetters some insight that will make their job a bit easier. Below is a list of questions they might want answered truthfully before they roll out V.P. Sonny at the GOP convention in Minnesota.
—   Raising taxes is anathema in today’s GOP. The core ideologues of their party believe that a tax increase is almost never justified (some would drop the “almost”). In his first address to the General Assembly his first week in office, Perdue proposed the biggest tax increase in Georgia’s history, including a $280 million property tax hike. It was so poorly received that legislative Republicans ran for the hills, and the president of the Club for Growth (an enforcer of Republican purity against taxes) called for Perdue’s impeachment. Can Sonny explain?
—   Speaking of taxes, what about that personal $100,000 retroactive tax break? Perdue had the chairman of the state House Ways & Means Committee (who conveniently is also his personal tax lawyer) jam through a bill that gave Perdue (and maybe only Perdue) a personalized $100,000 state capital gains tax break on the sale of property he inherited from his late father.
—   And speaking of property, the vetters will certainly want to know about that land deal with Stan Thomas, a big-time developer whom Perdue put on the powerful state Economic Development Board. Thomas landed a board seat that benefits his development business, and Sonny ended up with a sweetheart deal on property inside a Thomas development near Disney World.
—   Can Perdue explain using an undisclosed shell company to buy land right next to Oaky Woods, formerly a wildlife and hunting preserve? Perdue allowed the preserve to be sold to developers and even blocked the Nature Conservancy from buying it for public use. After the developers announced plans for thousands of new houses in Oaky Woods, the value of Perdue’s secretly purchased land skyrocketed.
—   How about that 2002 campaign for governor? Sonny ran on giving Georgians back the segregation-era state flag with the Confederate battle emblem on it. He broke the promise, but what will The New York Times think of him making the promise in the first place?
—   And finally, there’s his record as governor. What about his decision to cut $1.5 billion from our bottom-dwelling schools? Can he explain having no plan for our water shortage but praying for rain and throwing tantrums about mussels, Alabamians and Floridians? Can he provide an explanation of his inaction on ever worsening traffic and air pollution?
—  Who knows? Maybe Sonny can smooth talk his way past those questions nationally, just like he’s done here in Georgia. If he can, we may see a Vice President (even President) Sonny. If not, he’ll just have to make himself content with that cottage in Buckhead.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, or e-mail:

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