Thursday, October 21, 2010

Issues From Our Founder's Desk (Featuring More Crooked Politics)

AP Investigation: Candidate Nathan Deal lobbied state on landfill

ATLANTA -- While in Congress, Republican Nathan Deal lobbied Georgia's attorney general and top environmental officials to allow development of a landfill that he and his business partner wanted next to their Gainesville auto salvage yard, according to e-mails and memos obtained by The Associated Press.

The meetings in 2005 and 2006 bear some similarity to Deal's contacts with another top state official regarding his auto salvage business a few years later that sparked a congressional ethics probe. That investigation concluded Deal may have violated U.S. House rules banning members of Congress from using their office for personal gain.Deal, now the GOP nominee for governor, was part owner of some of the property included in the Hall County landfill proposal and he signed applications seeking state solid waste handling permits for the project, records show.Deal, through a spokesman, denied any financial interest in the development.The documents, obtained through open records requests, show Deal tried in 2005 to persuade Attorney General Thurbert Baker to interpret state law in a way that would allow the landfill to move forward. They also indicate Deal's congressional chief of staff, Chris Riley, was keeping close tabs, communicating with state officials through his U.S. House e-mail account and sitting in on high-level meetings.Deal, who resigned from Congress in March to run for governor, finds himself in a close contest with Democrat Roy Barnes in a state that easily went for John McCain in 2008. A poll taken a month ago showed Deal with a narrow lead. That was before reports surfaced that Deal was in financial trouble and put his home on the market to satisfy a business loan he co-signed for his daughter and son-in-law.Deal's business partner, Ken Cronan, began seeking permission to build a landfill despite a state law prohibiting more than three landfills within a two-mile radius, according to Hall County records and state officials.Deal met with the attorney general on Jan. 18, 2005, the records show. In a follow-up memo to Senior Assistant Attorney General John Hennelly, Deal thanks Hennelly and Baker for the meeting and makes his case why the state law should not apply to the proposed landfill. He asks whether the state Board of Natural Resources could craft a rule allowing the project to move forward. Deal also requests guidance on how the law might be changed."Lastly, in the event the current law does not allow the permit to be issued, your thoughts on appropriate legislative language would be appreciated, since we understand that the basic statute may be dealt with this session of the General Assembly," Deal wrote in the memo.In a statement provided to the AP on Wednesday, Baker, a Democrat, said "it was our determination that, contrary to the Congressman's position, his property neither was nor should be exempted from state statute.""And we also declined to draft legislative language for the Congressman that would exempt his property from the environmental protections in place," the attorney general said.In an earlier e-mail, Hennelly told the attorney general that Deal and then-state Sen. Casey Cagle had already met with officials from the state Environmental Protection Division to discuss amending state law to allow the landfill to be approved. Cagle is now Georgia's lieutenant governor. A spokesman for Cagle said he attended a single meeting in his role as a legislator working on a constituent project in his legislative district. Cagle and Deal are both from Gainesville.Deal's campaign declined to make the former congressman available.Spokesman Brian Robinson said Deal had no financial interest in the proposal and that the 101 acres that would comprise the actual landfill have been owned solely by Cronan. Hall County records show that Cronan has been the sole owner of the land since November 2003.But Hall County records also show Deal was part owner of several parcels of land that were included in local rezoning applications for the landfill. In 2007 and 2008, Deal - along with Cronan - also signed notarized applications for solid waste handling permits with the state Environmental Protection Division.In June 2007, Hall County records list the applicant for the landfill rezoning request as Gainesville Salvage Disposal, which Cronan and Deal co-own.Gainesville Waste and Recycling is listed as the applicant on state paperwork. Deal and Cronan were each originally listed as organizers of the company in 2007 but in 2008 Deal's name was removed, with an explanation that it been listed erroneously.Robinson said the 32 acres of Deal-owned property was eventually removed from the applications and should never have been included in the first place.A Washington-based watchdog group criticized Deal for engaging in the same type of conduct that drew the attention of congressional investigators earlier this year."This is more of the same from Congressman Deal," said Melanie Sloan, executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.Sloan said House rules prohibit members of Congress from using their congressional office for personal financial benefit."It's always unethical to call a meeting with someone when you have a financial interest," Sloan said. "This would be a clear violation of House rules."The Deal campaign maintains that neither he nor his salvage company stood to benefit and the project was backed by Hall County officials.CREW filed an ethics complaint against Deal in 2009 that led to a report issued earlier this year by the Office of Congressional Ethics. That report looked at Deal's meetings in 2008 and 2009 with state Revenue Commissioner Bart Graham to preserve a state vehicle inspection program at Deal's Gainesville auto salvage business. Those meetings were first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.Deal resigned from Congress in March before the House Committee on Official Standards could decide whether to pursue the matter. Deal has denied any wrongdoing and was never fined or faced any charges of wrongdoing.Because Deal is no longer in Congress, any questions surrounding the landfill would now fall outside the committee's jurisdiction.Records show Cronan began seeking approval in 2002 for a construction and demolition landfill that would accept things like asphalt, shingles, steel and wood. The new landfill would be on property next to Deal and Cronan's auto salvage business. The plan was to place the new debris on top of an old municipal waste landfill that had been dormant for years.Cronan three times won rezoning approval from county officials to move the project forward, but then ran into roadblocks. State environmental officials cited the state law limiting how many landfills may be placed in a particular area. Additionally, there were concerns about piling additional waste on top of an old, unlined landfill that could contain hazardous and toxic materials.Deal and his aide, Riley, met with then-state Environmental Protection Division chief Carol Couch on March 23, 2006, according to a memo from Couch.In that March, 31, 2006, memo to Deal, Couch worried about possible groundwater contamination and the physical stability of the site if 30 more feet of debris was piled on top of it.Couch, who now teaches at The University of Georgia's School of Environmental Design, told The Associated Press she believes Riley initiated the meeting.But Couch, who was named to her post by Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, said she felt no particular pressure because of Deal's post as congressman."It is, in fact, appropriate that we meet with individuals seeking permits to identify issues or problems," Couch told The AP."To us he was another customer seeking approval of a permit."In a Sept. 23 interview, Cronan denied involvement with the landfill - despite his name or his company's being listed on multiple documents and permits associated with the site. Asked if he had put in a request in 2007 for a solid waste transfer station on the landfill site, Cronan replied: "No, it was not me."But that statement is contradicted in a letter to Cronan from Hall County Government Board of Commissioners. The applicant - listed as Gainesville Salvage Disposal - sought a solid waste transfer station but was rejected. Cronan did not return a phone call seeking comment.Riley, who is now campaign manager in Deal's bid for governor - was kept in the loop even on small details of the project. And he met not just with Deal and state officials but also with Cronan and state environmental officials on the matter.In a Sept. 12, 2007, e-mail from his House account sent to Jeff Cown at the state Environmental Protection Division, Riley sent along files from county zoning officials. He continued that he had met with the county engineer and counsel and promised to forward along additional documents to the state for the project. The e-mail is signed by Riley as Deal's chief of staff.Riley declined a request for an interview.Robinson said Riley was working on behalf of a constituent, in this case Cronan.In May, Cronan won his solid waste permit from the state.Bill Hodges, an engineer and the project manager who works for Cronan, said that they plan to excavate the old landfill and recycle portions of it at the new landfill. He expected it would move forward soon after some issues are resolved with the recycling element.On Tuesday, Fox-5 Atlanta reported that Deal and Riley tried to persuade Hall County officials to take over maintenance of a private road that runs past Deal's auto salvage yard and ends at the landfill.@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Members of Hispanic community outraged over "Don't Vote" TV ad
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) - A political ad, set to run Tuesday, is enraging members of the Hispanic community for telling them not to vote.  The ad claims to have been paid for by a group called Latinos for Reform and is not authorized by any candidate or committee.Monday night the Nevada Democratic party held a press conference. Because this ad attacks their candidates, they're saying it has a Republican agenda.The ad opens with an attack on the Washington Democrat powerhouses and tells its viewers failed to deliver immigration reform.Its the ending that has Hispanic community leaders outraged:"Don't vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message, you can no longer take us for granted, don't vote.""That message has to be denounced, its got to be thrown out," President of the Hispanics in Politics organization, Fernando Romero, says."To ask a community, any community to silence their voice as a way to resolve or react during a time when their voice is most needed, is what makes all this reprehensible," Luis Valera of UNLV's Government Relations says.The group including, Democrat State Senate candidate Ruben Kihuen, is asking all TV stations to not air the commercial and for Sharron Angle and Brian Sandovall to denounce it."The Hispanic vote has become decisive in elections, not only in Nevada but nationwide," Kihuen says.Often decisive in favor of Democrats.  Still this group claims at the end of the day its not about your party line.  Its about an American right."Its just wrong to discourage anybody to vote," Romero saysAs far as Action News as been told the ad is only set to run on Spanish language stations.  Even though there is an English translation available on the internet.The sales manager at Action News says he is not aware of the ad at this time.Action News also asked the Republican party for a statement on the commercial and the Democrats asking for a renouncement of it.The spokesperson sent us this statement:"Senator Harry Reid will literally say or do anything to get elected, so we understand the frustration within the Hispanic Community.  Additionally, Senator Reid's failed policies have made Nevada the leader in unemployment and the best way to express any anger towards the 28-year incumbent is by going to the polls and voting for Sharron Angle."  Jahan Wilcox, Nevada Republican Party Spokesman Stay tuned to Action News for all the latest developments in our Red, White, and Blue 2010 coverage.@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Univision pulls Nev. ad urging Hispanics not to voteAd created to punish both parties for ignoring Hispanic issues
By CRISTINA SILVAupdated 10/20/2010 2:41:25 AM ET
LAS VEGAS — A Republican campaign urging Latinos not to vote was yanked from the airwaves Tuesday amid an outcry from Democrats that it was a dirty trick against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in his hotly contested race against Republican Sharron Angle.Reid sought to link the ad to Angle as the ad drew a harsh rebuke from President Barack Obama, Hispanic leaders and candidates from both parties in Nevada. Angle's opponents also pounced on the tea party favorite for her comments to Hispanic high school students that "some of you look a little more Asian to me."Conservative past of leader behind 'Don't Vote' ad targeting Hispanics"Listen to her latest, running ads on Hispanic television telling people not to vote," Reid said. "She is trying to keep people from voting."
Reid has fiercely courted the Hispanic vote in the contest against Angle, who supports strict immigration policies. With the race in a dead heat, a dip in turnout among Hispanics would likely land Angle in the U.S. Senate.The Republican group Latinos for Reform had planned to eventually run the commercials in Nevada, Florida, California, Texas and Colorado through the Nov. 2 election."Don't vote this November. This is the only way to send them a clear message," the ad's narrator announces in Spanish. "You can no longer take us for granted."Univision told The Associated Press on Tuesday that the spot was pulled from one of its Spanish-language radio stations in Las Vegas shortly after the commercial hit the air.Univision said it will also not run a companion ad on its Spanish-language TV broadcasting network and will continue to encourage Hispanics to vote.Telemundo, the nation's other major Spanish-language network, also said it would not broadcast the TV spots if approached.Obama slammed the campaign during a roundtable with reporters from Spanish-language outlets.
"I think it is terrible," he said. "It is a cynical political ploy to try to drive Latino votes to benefit a Republican candidate in Nevada who would never vote for immigration reform."Robert de Posada, the founder of Latinos for Reform, said he is trying to determine whether he can legally challenge Univision, which approved the commercials Friday."It is a very sad moment where you cannot have discourse in the Spanish market," he said. "Obviously, my First Amendment rights have been violated."De Posada said Democrats were elected on empty promises of immigration reform in 2008. He also attacked Republican efforts to criminalize illegal immigrants or deny children of illegal immigrant's citizenship rights, policies supported by Angle, whom he called "irresponsible.""I would rather not vote for anyone than be forced to vote for the lesser of two evils," he said.De Posada is the former director of Hispanic affairs for the Republican National Committee. He also worked on Social Security reform under former President George W. Bush, who supported an immigration overhaul that would have allowed illegal immigrants to apply for legal status.Angle's campaign distanced itself from the ad, but stopped short of criticizing it."We encourage all Nevadans to vote and they should vote for Sharron Angle because Harry Reid is only out for himself and his wallet," said spokesman Jarrod Agen.The ad flap was one of several major developments in the race:— A Canadian diplomat called on Angle to denounce her recent remarks that the "northern border is where the terrorists come through."Angle's campaign insisted terrorists do enter the country through the northern border, citing the 1999 arrest of an Algerian convicted of trying to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on the millennium. A spokesman for the Canadian embassy said it was just one case that happened more than a decade ago.— Controversial Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio was scheduled to meet with the Tea Party Express at a country bar as it rolled through Las Vegas on its trip across the nation. Arpaio said President Barack Obama needs him to resolve the country's immigration crisis, and offered to help Nevada open its own tent city for detained illegal immigrants.   — A group of U.S. senators that works to elect fellow Democrats released a TV spot urging Nevadans not to punish Reid for Nevada's woeful economy.— A third-party group called Crossroads GPS, backed by Republican operative Karl Rove, started airing a new TV spot in Nevada that blames Reid for the Silver State's stalled economy.Hours after the Latino commercial was unveiled, the Nevada Democratic Party and Hispanic leaders in Las Vegas urged media outlets to boycott the ad. They called the spot un-American.Hispanics make up more than 25 percent of Nevada's population and Democrats have directed intense voter outreach efforts toward the community in recent years.Hispanics frustrated over unfulfilled promises on immigration reform could be receptive to the campaign's message, said John Tuman, chair of the political science department and director of the Latin American Studies Program at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
For family of high-achieving kids, only one holds the keys to college
October 19, 2010|By Stephanie Chen, CNN
Javier is a clean-cut high school senior, a 17-year-old who sports a gelled faux-hawk, an Abercrombie shirt and Puma sneakers. He looks like your typical American teen.His English is almost impeccable as he recounts his achievements. You have to listen closely to hear his accent, one of the few remnants of a bygone life, before he left Mexico and illegally crossed the border at the age of 8.The crowded apartment where he lives with his family in Atlanta, Georgia, is evidence of his relentless drive: Report cards reflect a 4.125 grade point average. Certificates boast he's in the top of his class. Piles of brightly colored T-shirts from volunteer events reveal his altruistic personality.Glossy yearbook photos depict him as a teenager who has it all: Junior class president. Captain of the cross country and swim teams. A decorated soccer player.Javier's little sister, Emily, is a bubbly 10-year-old with a round face and crooked grin. She has big aspirations, too. Today, she'd like to become a doctor, she tells her mother. She admires her big brother, but even at her naive age, she knows his academic future is bleak because of his undocumented status.She starts crying when she explains that she has "the papers."And Javier does not.Born in the United States, Emily's "papers" are her birth certificate and Social Security card.There are at least 400,000 families in the U.S. like Javier's and Emily's, where there is a combination of documented and undocumented siblings in the household, according to the Pew Hispanic Research Center. They are commonly called "mixed-status families."Javier's family agreed to let CNN interview them to share their views on their contrasting statuses, as long as their last names remained anonymous for safety reasons.The family says the differences between Emily and her five siblings, including Javier, amount to a few sheets of paper. But only Emily has the keys to accessing federal loans and scholarships to college in Georgia, a state that has recently cracked down on undocumented students attending public universities."Making good grades?" Javier says. "That's not the problem. Anybody can do it as long as you apply yourself. The problem is the money you need to acquire after the 12th grade. You want to live the dream and do better, but the reality is if you don't have legal status, [going to college is] like winning the lottery."@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@@
Georgia clamps down on illegal immigrants in colleges
Georgia's public colleges have adopted new policies that officials say will prevent illegal immigrants from attending five high-demand schools and from being admitted ahead of legally and academically qualified residents at the rest of the state's public institutions of higher learning.The State Board of Regents, which oversees public colleges in Georgia, also approved legal penalties for providing incorrect information on tuition-related forms.The regents, who have been under public pressure about the admission of illegal immigrants, say the issue not been a significant problem.Only 501 of 310,000 students within the university system are undocumented and they already pay out-of-state tuition, said regents spokesman John Millsaps.But the new tuition policy, which takes effect in fall 2011, enables Georgia to "strengthen the ability of institutions to properly classify students for tuition purposes," the board said in a statement after the vote Wednesday."We are an educational agency in the business of preparing individuals for careers requiring knowledge and skills," said regent James Jolly. "We are not in the immigration business, nor are we equipped to serve as the immigration authorities."The regents want to ensure that undocumented students -- no matter how academically qualified they may be -- don't move ahead of academically and legally qualified applicants at schools that for the past two academic years had to reject qualified applicants because of a lack of space or other reasons.Not all of the 510 undocumented students are illegal immigrants, the regents say. Some may have lost their legal status or cannot affirm citizenship. Regents ordered schools to verify a legal presence in the United States for those seeking in-state tuition.Under the new policy, illegal immigrants will not be able to attend the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia Tech in Atlanta, the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta, Georgia State University in Atlanta and Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, all of which have turned away students.That list of banned schools may change each year, depending on circumstances.Those five schools had only 27 undocumented students enrolled this fall, officials said.-- "When crazy people call you crazy, you know you're sane. When evil people call you evil, you know that you are a good person. When lairs call you a liar, you know that you are truthful. Know who you are and don't let others tell you who you are." - Dave Kitchen

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