Who really owns the swamp?


I’m nosy, so when a shadowy organization dropped an expensive political hit piece targeting state Senator Marty Harbin (R-Tyrone) in thousands of mailboxes recently, I wanted to know who — and what money — was behind this slimy effort.

It took some digging through state Campaign Ethics Commission records and Internal Revenue Service filings.

The most recent addition to the tawdry character assassination operation run by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (details to follow) names Harbin as a “creature of the Georgia swamp.” Funded by both chamber groups, the hit piece was mailed by the innocuously named group, the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation, Inc.

The GCFJC is hard to find. Until after our inquiries last week, it had not filed a single required report with either the state or the IRS for over 16 months, though it has been slinging negative money around for a long time. This furtive political action committee should obey the filing laws before it jumps on somebody else for missing a deadline.

And yet this filing scofflaw criticizes Harbin for remarks he made to some Tyrone police officers after they stopped him for an expired tag and then had his truck towed, leaving him on the side of the road. The officers shrugged and said, “It’s the law, and we got no choice.”

Harbin said, “Then the law needs changing, and I can do that.” He is, after all, a lawmaker in the Georgia Senate. I’m thinking of the harried single mom, hurrying to her second job to feed her kids in a car that was old 10 years ago.

So she missed the tag deadline, and her only means of transportation — and food for her kids — gets towed, with a shrug of the shoulders of law enforcement. There she is, on the side of the road, nobody to come get her, and what she owed was maybe $50. For that, her life, and that of her kids, gets turned upside down.

This is no criminal act. But real people — mostly poor, mostly without political power — suffer hardship because of the current towing law.

So Harbin introduces a change in the law that allows the single mom to keep the means to her livelihood while getting the tag renewed and paying her ticket in court. It passed unanimously (!) in the Georgia Senate (all Democrats and Republicans voting for it) and with only two (!) negative votes in the House of Representatives. It is obviously good, popular, bipartisan law.

Then the governor vetoes it as political payback for Harbin’s repeated attempts to get the Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed and for not toeing the line dictated by the governor and the two chambers of commerce.

Who is self-serving and who is just plain mean and vindictive? Ask that single mom.

Harbin a swamp creature? That’s ludicrous, not to mention hypocritical. The chamber guys who hatched this rotten egg of a slur are themselves the actual current owners and occupants of the Georgia swamp.

Be ashamed, Chris Clark, CEO of the Georgia Chamber. You know better, and yet you commission this slimy hit piece, instead of arguing your case on its merits. But then, you don’t dare admit that you and your bunch are deadset against protecting Christians’ religious rights.

I asked Harbin’s opponent, Tricia Stearns, what she thought her financial backers expected in return for their money.

“To return their phone calls,” she replied.

I think they expect a great deal more from their chosen one than that.

So who’s paying to get Harbin out of their way to controlling the Georgia General Assembly? (Incidentally, they are party agnostic — they don’t care whether you are a Democrat or Republican, their money supports whoever will vote their way, mostly by throwing religious and constitutional conservatives out of office.) Answer: some of the biggest corporations in the state, who ponied up more than $865,000 to get rid of mostly socially conservative legislators. See the list at the end of this column.

And who is listed as contributors on campaign reports filed by Harbin’s opponent? The same hit men: The Georgia Chamber Political Affairs Council, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce PAC.

(Curious: Why does the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce have any interest in a political race involving Fayette, Spalding, Lamar and Pike counties? What do they require from the person we elect? More than a returned phone call, I’ll bet.)

These BIGGEST businesses want to have the senator from the 16th District in their pockets, rather than as a thorn in their sides.

When the Georgia and Atlanta chamber say they want pro-business legislators, they really mean they want pro-mega-corporation yes men and women.

I don’t see any tax breaks or protections for SMALL businesses coming out of this bunch. Neither Chris Clark nor the state chamber nor the Atlanta chamber has done much of anything to keep us SMALL businesses healthy. They care only about the BIGGEST businesses, the biggest bucks, the biggest players.

And the biggest of the big players are trying to buy themselves yet another senate seat, this time in Fayette County. It is an understatement to declare that their interests are not the same as your interests.

Is it OK with you that your senate seat faces a hostile takeover?

I’m a local guy, and I want my senator to be focused on local people, rather than becoming the handmaid of mega-corporations.

As I did four years ago and two years ago, I’m voting for Marty Harbin to continue making laws on behalf of the people who actually live in Fayette, Spalding, Lamar and Pike counties, not in Seattle, Washington.

As an aside to the churches in Fayette: Your people have a stake in this issue, a big one. Why are you AWOL from the Public Square?

Here’s who has paid the GCFJC to bend state government to their will:

AGL Resources Georgia PAC, $25,000

AT&T, $105,000

Coca-Cola North America, $50,000

Cousins Properties, $10,000

Delta Airlines, $50,000

Georgia Chamber Political Affairs Council, Inc. PAC, $25,000

Georgia Chamber of Commerce Independent Expenditure Committee, $50,000

Georgia Chamber of Commerce State PAC, $45,000

Georgia Power Company, $200,000

Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce PAC, $120,000

MGM Resorts International, $10,000

Newell Rubbermaid, $25,000

Pruitt Health, $25,000

Suntrust Good Government Group, $25,000

The Home Depot, $25,000

Yancey Bros. Co., $25,000

(The actual records we found are linked online at https://thecitizen.com/2018/05/10/whos-paying-for-negative-political-mailers-georgia-senate-district-16-race/)

[Cal Beverly is editor and publisher of The Citizen since 1993.]