Deal team under scrutiny

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ATLANTA --- As Republican Nathan Deal prepares to take office as Georgia's next governor, he's relying on a transition team stacked with current and former lobbyists, business leaders and others who could have a financial stake in the decisions of his administration.

Nathan Deal's transition team has seven current or former lobbyists. 
  File
File
Nathan Deal's transition team has seven current or former lobbyists.

The 26-member team will help Deal navigate the next two months before his inauguration Jan. 10. It will help craft a road map for the administration, working on a legislative agenda and helping set state budget priorities. Its members also have Deal's ear as he hires top aides and agency heads who will ultimately implement his policies.

Several of those Deal has tapped to help lead his transition team are veterans of the Capitol's lobbying corps, having worked for industries that include health care, insurance, utilities and tourism.

As part of joining the team, lobbyists agreed to halt any lobbying activities and de-register with the state. However, they are not barred from collecting paychecks from their firms or clients while they serve.

"These are people we trust who are donating their time," transition committee chairman Rogers Wade said. "They still need to be able to pay their electric bills."

Wade said team members were selected for their expertise in specific areas and knowledge of state government.

Seven of the 26 are current or former lobbyists. Two outgoing state legislators on the team are headed into the lobbying world. Jerry Keen, who left as House majority leader earlier this month, is joining the powerful lobbying firm Troutman Sanders as a consultant. State Sen. Chip Pearson, who did not seek re-election, has formed a consulting business with two lobbyists that has worked to push for new reservoirs as the state grapples with water issues.

State law prohibits elected officials from lobbying for one year after leaving office, so Keen and Pearson are not permitted to do direct lobbying in the coming legislative session.

Political experts and ethics watchdogs say the number of lobbyists Deal has tapped to help him is unusual.

"It has not been the norm," said Steve Anthony, a political science professor at Georgia State University who was once chief of staff to former Georgia House Speaker Tom Murphy.

Bill Bozarth, the head of the Georgia chapter of Common Cause, agreed that Deal is leaning more heavily on lobbyists than his two most recent predecessors -- Democrat Roy Barnes and Republican Sonny Perdue.

"The people of Georgia have a right to wonder if a paid lobbyist, even one who has temporarily de-registered, will put the interests of his client ahead of the interests of all the people when they help determine appointments to boards and authorities which set policy and decide who does and doesn't get state contracts," Bozarth said.

Among the biggest issues that will confront lawmakers and the Deal administration in the coming legislative session are plans to overhaul the state's tax code, which could include wiping out tax exemptions for a number of special interests. Lobbying to keep exemptions is expected to be intense.

Among the lobbyists Deal has tapped for his team are:

- Pete Robinson, the chairman of the lobbying arm of Troutman Sanders. He has worked on behalf of insurance giants such as Aflac and Cigna in addition to other large companies, including Verizon, Merck and Coca-Cola.

- Dan Lee, a former state senator who has worked for clients such as Titlemax, which has pushed for reforms to the state's payday lending laws, and Corrections Corporation of America, which operates private prisons in the state.

- Joe Tanner, a former state Department of Natural Resources commissioner who has lobbied for Georgia Power, cable television and health care groups. His engineering firm, Joe Tanner and Associates, is a consultant for proposed reservoir projects.

- Monty Veazey, a lobbyist who heads the Georgia Alliance of Community Hospitals and regularly pushes for more Medicaid and health care money.

- Rob Leebern, a Washington, D.C., lobbyist who worked for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss when Chambliss was in the U.S. House.

- John Watson, who founded an Atlanta lobbying firm after leaving as Perdue's chief of staff. Watson is now working in real estate.

- Eric Johnson, the former president pro tempore of the state Senate, who lost to Deal in the Republican gubernatorial primary. He recently joined McGuire Woods Consulting and will conduct lobbying work.

Deal's inaugural team is headed by Jay Morgan, a longtime lobbyist.

Others with prominent business interests on the panel are:

- Charles Tarbutton, the assistant vice president of Sandersville Railroad Co., which has opposed efforts to slap a severance tax on the mineral kaolin, which it hauls from five middle Georgia companies.

- Philip Wilheit, the head of Gainesville-based Wilheit Packaging. Wilheit is a major campaign contributor to Deal and served as chairman of his gubernatorial campaign.

- Kit Dunlap, the president and chief executive officer of the Hall County Chamber of Commerce.

- Neil Pruitt, the head of UHS-Pruitt, which runs more than 70 skilled-nursing and assisted-living facilities in the Southeast.

- Bill Lingenfelter, a former president of Wachovia Bank of Georgia.

- Wesley Smith, the chief executive officer and chairman of Northwest Georgia Bank in Catoosa County, who also served as treasurer of Deal's campaign.

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johnston.cliff
2
Points
johnston.cliff 11/22/10 - 05:04 am
0
0
Well, there's still several

Well, there's still several ways to look at this situation. Either we act like we did when our current president appointed criminals, philosophical extremists, and radical anti-Americans as his staff and say that they at least have the right qualifications, but look at the mess we have now(including the amazing lack of qualification)...or, we can start raising so much hell with our local representatives that they'll buck the party norm and make it abundantly clear to Deal that if it looks like a fish and smells like a fish then it's probably going to be too fishy for Georgians, or we can just sit on our hands and wait and see if Deal is the fine upstanding citizen he claims to be.
As for me, I like the second option.

Taylor B
5
Points
Taylor B 11/22/10 - 07:11 am
0
0
You "conservatives" own him

You "conservatives" own him now... Have fun defending things like this for the next four years.

bettyboop
8
Points
bettyboop 11/22/10 - 08:15 am
0
0
LOL...It will be a pleasure.

LOL...It will be a pleasure.

Chillen
17
Points
Chillen 11/22/10 - 09:42 am
0
0
Deal's better than the

Deal's better than the alternative (Barnes) but not by much. He's just a typical crooked politician who is out to grease the palms of his friends and take kickbacks from lobbyists to pay his $2 million debt.

You get what you voted for.

faithson
5531
Points
faithson 11/22/10 - 12:30 pm
0
0
where in this group of new

where in this group of new 'administrators' are the people's representative ? Is it to much to ask to have some balance between the corporate community and the needs of the people who elected this government. So sad that GA repubs got screwed in the primaries, Handel would have made a better leader.

double_standard
166
Points
double_standard 11/22/10 - 12:51 pm
0
0
Let Raw Deal begin.

Let Raw Deal begin.

ameliaf
0
Points
ameliaf 11/22/10 - 04:19 pm
0
0
Supposedly, Deal and all

Supposedly, Deal and all elected officials do represent us. They are the foil against the massed power of special interests.

It doesn't seem to work that way, does it. The least Deal could have done was be less obvious about it.

Little Lamb
49247
Points
Little Lamb 11/22/10 - 04:32 pm
0
0
Shannon McCaffrey

Shannon McCaffrey wrote:

Nathan Deal . . . is relying on a transition team stacked with current and former lobbyists, business leaders and others who could have a financial stake in the decisions of his administration.

What a sorry piece of yellow journalism from the Associated Press. Every single citizen in the state of Georgia has a financial stake in the decisions of the Governor's office.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 11/22/10 - 05:04 pm
0
0
This is no surprise - dems

This is no surprise - dems and repubs are out for themselves.

Crabby Appleton
0
Points
Crabby Appleton 11/22/10 - 06:47 pm
0
0
Barnes would have been no

Barnes would have been no better. Too bad Georgians will have to stomach 4 years of this bs. When are we ever going to learn. Term limits begin with US...............we have only ourselves to blame. We know we we're getting when we keep re-electing seasoned politicians who're more adept at using the system to their financial benefit than they are to benefit citizens.......bah, humbug!!!

concernednative
28
Points
concernednative 11/22/10 - 07:22 pm
0
0
I am a dem but Handel would

I am a dem but Handel would have been 10 times better than deal. Any objective person can see he is a crook.

dashiel
176
Points
dashiel 11/23/10 - 08:45 am
0
0
"Deal team's makeup raises

"Deal team's makeup raises issues"

Maybe they should use more blush and concealer.

TheOne
0
Points
TheOne 11/24/10 - 02:37 pm
0
0
Just makes one puke! It

Just makes one puke!

It will be a LONG 4 years folks. Oh the stories....guess the media will be happy.

RoadKing09
16
Points
RoadKing09 11/25/10 - 08:59 am
0
0
Deal's transition team

Deal's transition team comprises of former children. Everybody is a former something or other.

mater43
0
Points
mater43 11/28/10 - 10:54 am
0
0
Deal is probably sorry too

Deal is probably sorry too because he may have a lazy Child support staff also they will let deadbeats get by without paying child support too so he is no better

milkman65
0
Points
milkman65 11/28/10 - 11:06 am
0
0
If we all voted based on the

If we all voted based on the facts and issues instead of our emotions, REP/DEM would be held to a higher standard. The next four years are going to be rough but we will survive, we always do.

BobG
0
Points
BobG 11/28/10 - 11:44 am
0
0
"What a sorry piece of yellow

"What a sorry piece of yellow journalism from the Associated Press. Every single citizen in the state of Georgia has a financial stake in the decisions of the Governor's office."

.....Happy to find myself in agreement with you, Lamb. I would rather have had Handel but I find myself reminded that the same Associated Press hypocrites had no real problem with the Obama administration's support of people likewise tainted by rumor and scandal. For example, Geithner the tax cheat, et al.
.....Would they be happier with Deal if he were as slick as Obama? Maybe so. At any rate, it looks like he's not going to get the customary "honeymoon" that more and more seems reserved for Democrats.

BobG
0
Points
BobG 11/28/10 - 11:59 am
0
0
"Deal is probably sorry too

"Deal is probably sorry too because he may have a lazy Child support staff also they will let deadbeats get by without paying child support too so he is no better"

.....Well, that certainly was clear and concise.???????????

justus4
113
Points
justus4 11/30/10 - 06:42 am
0
0
Take a look at this bunch...
Unpublished

Take a look at this bunch... we already know there probably is no diversity to speak of, so that means minorities who resides in the state are NOT represented. Their tax dollars are being sent to these crooks who in turn fatten their buddies pockets by giving them government contracts. Where is the oversight bunch? In addition, this new guy will become mired in scandal because of his entitlement mentality and slippery associates whose got more skeletons than a graveyard. The state elected this bunch, so now deal with it...

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