Salvage deal ended amid ethics issue

ATLANTA --- Nathan Deal, a Republican congressman and candidate for governor, has ended a business arrangement with the state of Georgia that earned his company about $300,000 a year.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that state records show Mr. Deal and his business partner Ken Cronan have chosen not to apply to inspect rebuilt salvaged vehicles for the Department of Revenue. The two run Recovery Services Inc., also known as Gainesville Salvage Disposal. The company has provided equipment and locations for state inspectors to examine salvaged vehicles.

The Journal-Constitution reported that Mr. Deal's company earned about $300,000 a year from the agreement that lasted nearly 20 years.

Deal campaign spokesman Harris Blackwood confirmed Wednesday that the company had not applied to do inspections but said it was "absolutely not" a result of the newspaper's reports or a subsequent ethics complaint filed against Mr. Deal. Mr. Blackwood referred additional questions to Mr. Cronan, the company president, who said Wednesday the company decided not to apply because it was concerned about safety standards under new rules that entered into effect last month.

"This was more than a business decision, it was a moral decision," Mr. Cronan said in a statement.

State Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham has for years tried to expand the system by implementing competitive bidding or privatization. He has said the current system supports what are essentially regional monopolies.

The Journal-Constitution had reported in August that Mr. Deal personally influenced state leaders to save the state program that essentially gave his company a regional monopoly. Mr. Deal met with Mr. Graham three times over the last year-and-a-half to question changes to the program that Mr. Graham had proposed, the newspaper reported.

Mr. Deal's chief of staff used his government e-mail account to contact Revenue Department staff to talk about the plans and set meetings between Mr. Deal and officials, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the newspaper reported.

A government watchdog organization, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, filed an ethics complaint against him with the U.S. House. That complaint is pending.

APOLOGY ISSUED FOR 'GHETTO GRANDMOTHERS' COMMENT

ATLANTA --- U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal has apologized for using the term "ghetto grandmothers" during a campaign stop.

The GOP candidate for governor apologized Tuesday for using the phrase during a speech to the Cherokee County Republican Party on Saturday. He said he regretted his choice of words and "in no way meant to offend anyone."

Mr. Deal was talking about his attempts to pass legislation requiring citizenship verification. According to the recording, he said: "We got all the complaints of ghetto grandmothers who didn't have birth certificates and all that."

Videotapes of the speech were shared with reporters by two of his Republican opponents. Mr. Deal urged his opponents "to put down their video cameras and stop taking my words out of context."