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Shipp: State out of touch as sky is falling

POSTED: January 21, 2009 1:00 a.m.

Talk about being out of touch:

The American economy is in collapse mode.

The Georgia budget is running more than $2 billion in the red.

State unemployment has hit a new high, and so have bankruptcies and foreclosures.

We have just inaugurated a president whom we don't know much about. The alternative was a candidate whom we knew too much about.

In the meantime, Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue must come up with $21 million by March 1 to pay off a secretive and private loan on his "small" personal business. Perdue refuses to say why he needs such a large sum.

On an unrelated note, the Legislative Black Caucus and the state NAACP want the General Assembly to apologize for slavery. Say what? Where have you guys been, and what have you been doing? Don't you know booze is not allowed in the statehouse? We have several clear and present crises on our hands.

Chicken Little may finally be right. The sky is falling. And while it is, Purdue's personal penury and apologies for the abomination of slavery just aren't at the tops of many people's worry lists right now.

If we're getting into the apology business, though, the Georgia House needs first to say they are sorry for electing and then re-electing Glenn "Pay-to-Play" Richardson as its speaker. In fact, both the House and Senate owe all of us an apology for even allowing Romeo to enter the Capitol in any capacity, except perhaps as a visitor.

Everyone who voted for Sonny for the state's top job probably needs to apologize too. As an enlightening news item, Perdue's private loan beats all.

Perdue's immediate predecessors as governor — Roy Barnes, Zell Miller and Joe Frank Harris placed their financial holdings into blind trusts to avoid any appearance of conflicts of interest while they were in office.

Perdue declined to follow their lead. During one of Georgia's most turbulent economic eras, Perdue continues to run his private enterprises, selling and buying real estate and operating his grain and fertilizer business in Houston County.

"Most people don't appreciate that (being governor) is a full-time job and your personal affairs suffer," Perdue once said in response to a question about his lack of a blind trust. Well, Governor, your predecessors somehow seem to have appreciated that once they were in the mansion on West Paces, being governor was their sole responsibility.

But not ol' Sonny. At one point, the governor even blocked the state from acquiring a public hunting preserve, Oaky Woods in Houston County. Letting Oaky Woods go public would have interfered with one of Perdue's real estate deals.

Perdue is a lucky fellow, sort of the Tim Geitner of Georgia. Geitner is President Obama's nominee for secretary of the Treasury, who has a few tax problems. Never mind that Treasury runs the IRS. Congress has shrugged.

Down here, we depend on folks like Common Cause of Georgia to scream bloody murder when possible public crookedness is outed. When Georgia Common Cause's Bill Bozarth was informed of some of Perdue's problems, the public watchdog wagged his tail and said, "It was probably just an oversight. I have no reason to believe he has deliberately tried to hide anything."

When asked about Perdue's pending secret $21 million loan, Bozarth said, "He's within the law not to discuss it."

Surprise! Bozarth contributed money to Perdue's gubernatorial campaign.

I suppose there's no use grumbling about Perdue or his buddies. The governor is a short-timer. If he gets into a squeeze over that big loan, he can just apply for a TARP bailout and probably get it.

Better hurry, though, Guv. Your March 1 due date will be here before you know it.

Bill Shipp's column on Georgia politics appears Wednesdays and on gainesville
times.com. You can contact him at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30160; Web site.



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