PolitiFact Georgia cranks up the Deal-O-Meter
By Willoughby Mariano
Published on Sunday, January 16th, 2011 at 6:00 a.m.
Like the Truth-O-Meter? Then meet the Deal-O-Meter.
AJC PolitiFact Georgia's new gizmo detects whether our freshly minted governor, Nathan Deal, lives up to his campaign promises.
We rolled it out just in time for Inauguration Day on Monday. It has already ruled on promises Deal made on ethics, personal finances and a slew of other issues.
Not that the Truth-O-Meter is idle. We sent it to south central Georgia to learn about wild hogs, then to D.C. for an item on the national debt.
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Promise: Deal "will carry this [ethics] policy into the office of the governor and will put his personal assets into a blind trust to ensure conflicts of interest do not exist."
Deal will have plenty to do now that he's governor. But managing personal businesses shouldn't be one of them, ethics watchdogs say.
So the former congressman made the above vow "to ensure conflicts of interest do not exist."
On Jan. 6, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that a Tifton-based accountant will oversee Deal's investments and business interests. Deal will have no say in decisions about buying, selling or holding his assets, his attorney said.
His business interests include ownership of a Gainesville auto salvage company that, until recently, earned about $300,000 a year from business with state government. The deal prompted a congressional ethics inquiry that ended when he resigned to focus on his gubernatorial bid.
Deal's finances are also under scrutiny because of a bad investment in his daughter's failed sporting goods business.
We rate this as a Promise Kept.
New Georgia Encyclopedia: Georgia lawmakers fuel up for the session by feasting on "wild" hogs.
There are a lot of peculiar political rituals we could talk about, but few are more colorful than the Georgia Legislature's yearly pre-session feast.
"Since 1962 the Georgia General Assembly has opened its new legislative session each January with the 'Wild Hog Supper,' at which legislators enjoy such state delicacies as barbecued wild pig and Brunswick stew," notes the New Georgia Encyclopedia entry on hogs in Georgia history.
Are they still serving "wild" pigs?
PolitiFact trekked to the swamps of south central Georgia to talk with Bob Addison, who runs Addison Wild Boar Hunting near Abbeville. His family and community supply the victuals for the Wild Hog feast.
The hogs begin life in litters born deep in the dark undergrowth of Addison's swamp. Addison supplements their diet with grain, peanut shells and candy.
Then they're captured in large "Jurassic Park"-looking cages just weeks before the supper and fattened on grain before slaughter.
These critters never see a pen until they are captured.
Promise: "As governor, I will implement a total gift ban for executive branch employees to send a strong signal to Georgians that we will not be subject to undue influence."
Ethics was a major topic of debate during Georgia's 2010 race for governor, and the conversation was not kind to the eventual winner.
Deal, a former congressman, was the target of an ethics investigation in early 2010 on allegations that he pressured state officials to retain a contract for his auto salvage business.
The investigation ended when Deal resigned to focus on his campaign, but the scrutiny didn't. Deal announced he would not allow himself or his staff to accept gifts.
The AJC reported Monday that one of Deal's first executive orders was to ban gifts to his staff and executive agency heads.
The policy prohibits any conflicts of interest by state officials in the governor's office. Gifts greater than $25 must be returned or donated to a charitable organization.
Violate the policy and you could get fired.
We rate Deal's executive order as a Promise Kept.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): "Our debt soon will eclipse the entire size of our national economy."
Republicans say the government is spending like a drunken sailor. Democrats say the government needs to keep spending, albeit strategically, to jolt job creation.
Boehner, in the above statement, provides a perspective that Americans outside of Washington might not think about.
But is our debt really big enough to eclipse the size of the economy "soon"?
Even if the total eclipse is a decade away, "to me, that counts as soon," an expert from the conservative Heritage Foundation told us. It can take five to 10 years for congressional decisions "to turn the budget ship around," he said.
Some suggest that with policy changes and a stronger economy, these fears will never come to pass.
But since the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office and the Democratic president’s fiscal commission agree with Boehner on the problem's scope, both citing the prospect of public debt at 185 percent of gross domestic product, Boehner's prediction is reasonable.
Promises: Deal on the port of Savannah, charter schools and water
Deal's first State of the State address Wednesday was short, simple and offered few goodies. But he did announce specifics on initiatives for four of his 37 campaign promises. We therefore rated the following commitments In The Works:
Will deepen the port of Savannah
Deal said that he wants to set aside $32 million for the deepening, which he and others say is critical to Georgia's economic development.
Will develop a plan for more specialized charter schools
Deal said that he wants to include $15 million for funding for STEM charter schools, those that focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics education.
Will create more reservoirs
Deal said he wants Georgia to spend $300 million over the next four years for reservoir creation and expansion. He proposed $46 million in bond funding for the effort.
Will enhance storage capacity for the state's water resources
Deal proposed that the state spend $35 million on water and sewer infrastructure.
See original entries.
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