The Real Deal: Georgia Governor Receives Kick-Backs For Obstructing Health Care Reform

Author: September 4, 2013 2:40 am
Georgia Gov Nathan Deal

Here’s the ‘real deal’ on Real PAC … and why Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal’s so hellbent on blocking Obamacare. Photo from www.abhmuseum.org.

Here is the “real deal.” A Political Action Committee known as Real PAC that has close connections to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal finally disclosed a financial report on the Friday before Labor Day (hoping no one would notice and the first such disclosure since 2011).

Gov. Deal’s family and business partner have been receiving payments from Real PAC that included contributions from, (that exceed the amount that can be given directly to Deal’s re-election campaign but not to a PAC)  but not limited to, health insurance companies.

Gov. Deal and Georgia state Insurance Commissioner Ralph Hudgens — oppose the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.” Last week, state insurance commissioner Hudgens was caught on tape boasting to a crowd of supporters that his office is deliberately obstructing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

“Let me tell you what we’re doing (about Obamacare),” he said. “Everything in our power to be an obstructionist.”

Real PAC has raised about $786,000 in contributions, according to the campaign finance report filed Friday. Over $500,000 have been from the healthcare industry which also oppose the ACA. The PAC hasn’t filed taxes or the required financial disclosures in two years, and the information it did file for 2011 was incorrect.

Gainesville businessman Jim Walters, a lifelong friend of the governor’s, and Real PAC’s chairman said in July, he knows nothing about the organization’s tax or campaign finance filings.

“You’ll have to talk to the accountants about that,”

Real PAC also does not appear to have filed annual tax returns with the IRS, as required by the federal tax code. None are listed on the IRS’ website, and PAC officials have not provided copies of such filings since Atlanta Unfiltered began asking for them in mid-June.

Real PAC, though, claims status as a “qualified” state political organization that’s exempt from filing disclosures with the IRS. Experts say this type of  “527″ organization, named after a section of the federal tax code, still must file regular reports on its financial activity with a state or local agency.

Georgia law does not require PACs to file disclosures unless they donate more than $25,000 to political candidates in a calendar year. Real PAC’s treasurer and former state ethics chairman Rick Thompson said it never had to file in Georgia because it made no contributions to political candidates.

Nationally recognized experts on federal campaign finance law, though, say groups organized like Real PAC cannot avoid disclosures altogether.

“You’ve got to disclose to somebody,”

said Professor Ellen P. Aprill of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“Some organizations disclose to the Federal Election Commission, some disclose to the state, and if you’re not disclosing to either, you have to disclose to the IRS,” said Aprill

The exception was intended to keep state and local PACs from having to file twice, Notre Dame law professor Lloyd Mayer said.

“Congress knew that state [disclosure] laws varied a lot,” Mayer said, “so they said … you’re only going to get this exception if you have to report and you in fact do report information on your financial activity.”

The IRS could require violators to pay taxes on undisclosed income, said Donald Tobin, law professor at The Ohio State University.

Deal’s campaign slogan in the 2010 election was ‘Deal Real’ The PAC’s name itself is a reference to Deal’s 2010 campaign slogan. Real PAC’s registered agent, Russell P. Love is an attorney at McKenna Long & Aldridge. Coincidentally, so is Deal’s high profile attorney Randy Evans. Why would anyone ever think that the governor and the PAC were linked or question their ethics? But it gets better.

Real PAC’s statement from Thompson, is,

“This is an issue-advocacy organization. It doesn’t coordinate with candidates or anything like that.”

So, despite its name and its officers’ close ties to Deal, Real PAC has operated independently of the Governor’s Office said Thompson. Who also protested that the PAC money is not just for Deal’s re-election, but for “Republican causes.”

Real PAC did disclose $157,000 in donations in 2011, Thompson said it didn’t have to do so.

“I think it was just being transparent … about who the organization was about,”

Shouldn’t that have been WHAT the organization is about, Mr. Thompson?

As an example of its transparency, it took a revealing investigative report by The Associated Press on Friday that, Real PAC,

” paid $30,000 to Southern Magnolia Capital, a fundraising firm founded by Deal’s daughter-in-law, Denise Deal. It also paid Ken Cronan, who co-owned a Gainesville salvage yard with Deal and is currently the secretary of Real PAC, more than $10,000 in December for pilot and plane expenses.”

Better Georgia’s Bryan Long also asserted,

“Real PAC has even written checks directly to the Governor’s Mansion.”

Real PAC’s contributors include,

  • Aetna,
  • Humana,
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia (who was recently awarded the states new insurance contract and is now the state’s sole insurance provider),
  • United Health Group, (who lost the state contract to administer health insurance for about 650,000 teachers and state employees in 2012 but is currently one of two insurers covering employees and retirees in the State Health Benefit Plan until year’s end),
  • United Health Services of Georgia (a nursing-home chain),
  • Georgia’s nursing home lobby (which this year won a $10 million hike in a so-called “bed tax” that will bring an additional $20 million in federal funds to Georgia nursing homes)
  • The Georgia Health Care Association, (the nursing homes’ trade group),
  • Georgia Hospital Association,
  • WellCare of Georgia ( gave Real PAC $50,000 on the same day that state Medicaid officials said they planned to extend WellCare’s $1 billion-a-year contract for two years.) ,
  • Pfizer Inc.,
  • lobbying firm Joe Tanner & Associates,
  • AT&T Georgia,
  • Comcast,
  • Georgia Cable Association

And lastly,

  • Anheuser-Busch Companies
  • Georgia Crown Distributing Co. (Its chairman, Donald Leebern, is a major Deal campaign contributor. The governor reappointed him to the University System Board of Regents.)

Because after you pile up all that money from health care and communications companies to exploit the system and it’s citizens you need a cold beer to celebrate. And that’s not all of the contributors.

All of the companies that pay into the PAC are doing business with the state of Georgia on some level. That’s nothing new. Companies use the rule of the SCOTUS decision on Citizens United to contribute to campaigns and lobby for what they want. Remember how the right wing of the SCOTUS said unlimited money in politics wouldn’t have a corrupting effect? Yeah, I laughed too.

Public records provide little insight into Real PAC’s activities. In the same article as quoted above, Atlanta Unfiltered reported on the PAC,

“It’s collected at least $484,000 in donations but disclosed no spending. Campaign finance records show only one political entity, the Georgia Republican Party, has reported receiving a donation from the PAC — $20,000 in 2012.”

Real PAC is winding down and will file paperwork within a few weeks dissolving the organization, Thompson said.

“It was established and started to put a political message out there,”

A task that is has completed, according to Thompson

And that message? The only political message on the site:

“With your help we can create a job friendly environment, better our children’s education, and protect our conservative values.”

A job friendly environment which includes demanding that job certification requirements go outlandishly beyond what is necessary to wit includes renaming an insurance agent licensing test to a ‘navigator’s’ test to obstruct employment of Georgians in jobs meant to assist and implement the Affordable Care Act.

Their betterment of children’s education refers to Gov. Deal’s circumventing legislative process to eliminate health insurance companies’ bids for the new contract for state employees while reducing coverage and eliminating abortion services.

Which can only lead one to assume that protecting their conservative values includes maintaining status quo, promoting corporate payouts for favor, using religious dogma to govern rather than science and common sense.

Real PAC. It’s all legal-like. They’ve finally divulged at least some of their contributions. We have yet to learn how that money was spent. They could face some fines for non-disclosure and improper tax filings but that’s just the cost of doing business down here son.

While the head of the plantation sits in the main house, in the big chair, entertaining his moneyed big city friends with his hand in your pocket (and theirs) and his strap across the back of Georgia’s red clay field hands, controlled by his appointed captains, we Georgians can rest assured that the old South’s good ole’ boy network will continue to operate like molasses in the winter time. Sweet and slow. With just enough smoky overtones as to mask it’s true character. Upon closer examination, it’s just old cane with the sugar boiled out until it yields it’s final drop of nutrient.

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