GA RINO Watch Part2
Georgia's Senate District 48 Republican Primary presents an interesting contrast between two diametrically opposed candidates who have yet to serve in the Georgia legislature. It pits Republican fundraiser, Shawn Still, against articulate newcomer Kevin Grindlay. But the most important factor in this race is not a political issue, it is truth.
Shawn Still's web site mentions that: "Shawn served as Chair of the Small Business Advisory Council for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce from 2015-2018". It also notes: "He served as President and Founder of the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation from 2015-2018". However, the site wisely does not tell voters what Shawn and the organization did during that time period.
The Establishment's Hit Man
Still turned his role as a chair for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, into the establishment's hit man. Although his web site claims he is a "Committed Conservative", he was actually a conservative's worst nightmare. Still deceptively ran a well-funded front organization that sought to destroy the reputations of grassroots conservatives with personal smears.
Simply stated, Shawn Still founded the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation to collect hundreds of thousands of dollars from Georgia's largest corporations under the guise of job creation. But he used much of the money to create viciously false, smear attacks ads against Georgia's most independent grassroots legislators.
Still's web site proclaims that: "Taxpayers deserve a champion who will look out for their interests first. I will be the strongest, clearest voice in the State Senate protecting taxpayers." But the grassroots conservatives that he sought to destroy were actually the ones who looked out for taxpayer interests. These include Sen. Michael Williams, Rep. Charlie Gregory and Rep. Sam Moore, three of the strongest, clearest speaking legislators who protected taxpayers. Each sought to reduce spending and lower taxes. In reality, Still and Chamber of Commerce initiatives typically seek to increase spending and taxation to grow the government for infrastructure that they believe will attract more business.
Despite his despicable actions, Still bills himself as a "Committed Christian". It is difficult for us to believe that any "Committed Christian" would have stooped to so low as to collect large sums of money under false pretenses and then create false, smear attacks against popular legislators as Still did with his phony "Georgia Coalition for Job Creation". Here is the in-depth story that illustrates just how disgusting Still's political swamp really is:
The Front Organization:
In the 2014 Republican primaries, Shawn Still, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and Georgia's largest companies funded vicious smear campaigns to remove popular legislators who were elected by the grassroots efforts of Georgia citizens. The campaigns were led by $95,000 from the chamber and its political action committee (PAC) and fueled by $50,000 contributions from giant Georgia companies such as Coca Cola, Delta Airlines, Georgia Power, SunTrust and AT&T. It is unclear whether or not these companies were aware that Still would misuse their money.
In some cases, funds were collected from unsuspecting employees who believed that they were contributing to support company friendly legislation or "good government" advocacy. Instead, the money was used to run deceptively untruthful campaigns that resulted in the removal of two of the more independent minded representatives in the Georgia State House.
Still collected the corporate funds by establishing the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation, (GCJC). The coalition address, was listed as a post office box at a downtown Atlanta hotel. Still, who owns Olympic Pool Plastering, is shown as the founder of GCJC in public records along with Robert F. Hatcher Jr. as Treasurer / Secretary and Anne Lewis as the Registered Agent. Mr. Hatcher also served as a Director at Mid Country Financial of Macon and the now deceased Ms. Lewis was an attorney and General Counsel for the Georgia Republican Party.
The coalition web site still defines its purpose as: "The Georgia Coalition for Job Creation is an independent committee that seeks to elect leaders who have demonstrated a willingness to fight to grow jobs and expand economic opportunity for all Georgians." That is clearly not what the organization did under the direction of Shawn Still.
Still Smears Sen. Michael Williams
Instead of using the funds to further job creation, the coalition targeted selected legislators or candidates using extensive, slanderous attacks. One of many examples was the attack on Sen. Michael Williams. Williams was a candidate running against former Sen. Jack Murphy, who had support from flyers mailed by the coalition. Sen. Williams actually created jobs by opening a successful restaurant in Forsyth County. However, he was targeted by a mailer with a never proven and obviously false claim that he abused his former wife. Still's smear attempt had nothing to do with job creation and runs counter to the coalition's stated purpose.
Before he entered the race, Williams received a threatening package that attempted to blackmail him with the same allegation. Shawn Still and his phony job creation coalition then continued to press that unrelated, unproven allegation by creating a "Michael Gone Wild" web site. But Forsyth Co. voters saw through Still's personal smear tactics and elected Williams to the Georgia State Senate. The allegation and web site were especially deceitful since Sen. Williams proved to be one of the mildest mannered, most rationale and compassionate members of the entire state legislature.
Still Smears Rep. Charlie Gregory
But the top two targets of the coalition were sitting House members: Rep. Charles Gregory and Rep. Sam Moore. Still's comprehensive campaigns against them included viciously false postal mailers, negative social media pages or web sites advocating that the legislators be fired. At the same time Still's coalition sent supporting mailers for their political opponents.
Gregory, former state director for the 2012 Ron Paul presidential campaign, won his House District 34 seat in Kennesaw with grassroots funded, door to door campaign. Gregory consistently fought against excessive spending, supported reduced regulations, and opposed tax increases. These are all considered to be pro job growth positions. Nevertheless, Still and his bogus coalition created a Fire Charles Gregory web site and sent vicious postal mailers with false accusations to his constituents. They accused him of supporting Obamacare although Gregory actually voted once to nullify it. They also criticized Gregory's opposition to drug tests for food stamp recipients and made a ridiculously false claim that Gregory supported child predators. None of Stills' false or misleading smear attacks were about job creation.
Ironically, Gregory and Williams were two of the legislators most actively pursuing legislation to improve election integrity, a topic that Shawn Still now claims to be his top priority. Gregory was one of the first legislators who proposed a bill to unseal ballots. His HB852 in the 2014 session proposed to allow candidates to view ballots in their race while in the custody of elections officials. Williams' amendment to prohibit unverifiable QR code vote accumulation was unanimously adopted by the Senate Ethics committee for inclusion in SB403 which passed the Senate before time ran out for the bill in 2018. Still is unsupportive of these two critical measures while pretending to be concerned about election integrity.
Still Smears Rep. Sam Moore
But the most vicious of Still's attacks were reserved for Rep. Sam Moore, Rep. Moore won a special election to replace Calvin Hill who died while in office. He won that Cherokee County House District 22 seat with a grassroots funded door to door campaign. Rep. Moore did not take campaign contributions from corporations, PACs, lobbyists or legislators and could not be controlled by them. Like Gregory and Wiliams, Moore fought against excessive spending, supported reduced regulations and opposed tax increases, all typical pro job growth positions.
After taking office, Moore authored a bill to remove unconstitutional loitering laws that caused localities to pay millions of dollars in court case damages. Although the bill had nothing to do with job creation, Still and his phony coalition seized that opportunity to create a Fire Sam Moore social media page and web site and send nasty flyers to his constituents. Still falsely claimed that the reduction in loitering laws would allow sexual predators in schools. Still's claim is a lie because:
* Loitering laws only apply at unusual times when children would not normally be present O.C.G.A. 16-11-36;
* Non parental access to children at school is prevented by the Children Protection Act O.C.G.A. 21-2-1180;
* Children are further protected by State Sex Offender Registry Laws O.C.G.A. 42-1-15;
* Known predators are also required to wear an electronic monitoring device O.C.G.A. 42-1-14.
But those laws conflicted with Still's agenda to misinform voters as the establishment hit man.
The Hit Man's Victims
Michael Williams survived Shawn Still's onslaught and upset Sen. Jack Murphy in his primary to become a state senator. Gregory and Moore were not as fortunate as they suffered close election losses directly attributable to Still's false or misleading smear attacks.
Rep. Charles Gregory lost a close 52%-48% primary to Bert Reeves. Reeves had rented an apartment in District 34 a week before qualifying and then immediately filed to run for Charles Gregory's seat. Reeves used the same lies in his flyers that the coalition used against Gregory. The coalition had even falsely claimed that Gregory supported sexual predators in schools although he had no connection with HB1033.
Rep. Sam Moore lost by about 2% in a close three way race with Megan Biello and Wes Cantrell, garnering close to 30% of the vote in a May 2014 Republican primary. Biello lost the run-off to Cantrell in July. Both Biello and Cantrell repeatedly used the lie to attack Moore. Since voters are not familiar with intricacies of Georgia laws, the truth didn't matter and the lie worked. The candidates and the coalition had repeated the lie often enough until it became the truth.
Connecting the Dots
Bert Reeves candidacy was no coincidence. Reeves worked as lawyer in the offices of GMHC360 LLC. Records show that he and one or more of his campaign staff members were located at 57 Waddell St. in Marietta. During that time the offices of GMHC360 were located at the 57 Waddell St. address. Heath Garrett Is a founding partner of GMHC360. Garrett leased the top floor of the small two story building from Cobb County which previously used it as a property management office. Garrett was chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson. He also served as lead political strategist for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce and their SPLOST efforts.
OF course, the Georgia Coalition for Job Creation did not really operate out of a hotel post office box as its mailers imply. Substantial evidence including photos, financial filings, social media postings, news reports and other records indicate that employees and sub-contractors of the coalition worked in the very same floor and office building at 57 Waddell St. then.
If you think this all sounds like a conflict of interest you likely would be right. The coalition was conducting attack campaigns against candidates and supporting ads for the opposing candidates. At the same time, it likely operated from the very floor and office building that housed a candidate they were supporting and one or more of the campaign staff members.
Although this arrangement has pretty clear ethics violations, the coalition had little to worry about. In 2011, Gov. Nathan Deal appointed Heath Garrett to the State Ethics Commission when Executive Director Stacey Kalberman was demoted, her top deputy fired and two other employees pressured to conceal evidence. Kalberman's Ethics Commission was conducting an investigation of Gov. Deal's campaign finance activities. The commission eventually shelled out roughly $3 million in taxpayer funds to those four top former employees who filed different types of wrongful termination lawsuits.
Still's Crime Boss
But there is even more to the story. The lie used by Shawn Still against Moore was created and propagated on February 21, 2014 under the supervision of House Speaker David Ralston who manages House floor proceedings. On that day, a small handful of fellow Republican legislators took to the well of the floor in a highly unusual, orchestrated maneuver to criticize Moore's just introduced bill, HB1033. That, in itself, was remarkable considering that many legislators don't even read and understand their own bills during the entire bill life cycle. Yet they supposedly analyzed the bill of another legislator before it was even assigned to a committee.
The Republican legislators, most of who were on the House leadership team, had a motive. They had already flooded Moore's previous opponent, Megan Biello, with $17,000 in contributions during the special election. That was when Moore defeated her in a February 4 Republican primary run-off. Biello continued to run for the seat that Moore won and would face him again in the upcoming primary. Her campaign raised $30,000 in total with over 97% of the money coming from out of district sources. She benefitted significantly from the negative publicity Ralston's House leadership supporters generated against Rep. Moore. But she benefitted even more from the mailers that Still's Coalition for Job Creation sent to her constituents even though Biello had no track record indicating that she would "fight to grow jobs and expand economic opportunity for all Georgians."
Selectively funding one Republican primary campaign over another is nothing new for Ralston's House leadership team. In a 2012 District 46 primary, his legislators gave over $27,000 including $5,000 from the Speaker to ensure the defeat of a minister, Rev. Martin Hawley. Hawley was running for the seat of Rep. Bobby Franklin a healthy, independent minded, 54-year-old who was found dead in his Cobb County home on July 26, 2011. Rev. Hawley, one of Franklin's pastors, raised 96% of his $11,000 in campaign funds from individuals. John Carson, the candidate supported by Ralston and his House leadership team raised about 93% of his $54,000+ from legislators, PACs, lobbyists and corporations. His overwhelming 5:1 spending advantage resulted in a 2:1 margin of victory in that Republican primary.
Speaker Ralston had to know that allegations regarding Rep. Moore's bill were false since he is a criminal defense lawyer. Nevertheless, he facilitated creation of the controversy. Civic group leaders became outraged over the orchestrated attack on Moore, Ralston's tampering with primary election funding and the dictatorial way in which he runs the House runs in defiance of democratic principles. Those leaders, including some from the speaker's own party called for his resignation at an April 29, 2014 press conference in the Georgia Capitol. However, Ralston continued unopposed as Speaker of the House and retained his seat against primary challenger, Sam Snider, a highly successful and popular high school wrestling coach.
Shawn Still's Georgia Coalition for Job Creation is a vivid illustration of why Georgia was ranked as America's most politically corrupt state. The Center for Public Integrity graded Georgia "F" in Political Financing, Legislative Accountability and Ethics Enforcement Agencies, which received a "0". As founder, Still's activities misrepresented the GCJC's purpose and disenfranchised Republican primary voters with selected candidates, not elected ones. For that he wants to be rewarded with a State Senate seat. It represents everything wrong with Georgia politics.