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Eric Stirgus
By Eric Stirgus January 9, 2011

Deal takes step to put assets in trust

Nathan Deal will have plenty to do once he takes the oath of office to become Georgia's governor on Monday.

Managing personal business interests that may intersect with state government should not be among Deal's duties, ethics watchdogs say.

Deal vowed several times during last year's campaign that he would put his personal assets into a blind trust to avoid concerns that Deal was using the governor's office for his financial benefit.

"To ensure conflicts of interest do not exist," as Deal put it.

On Jan. 6, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Alan Judd reported that Tifton-based accountant Jimmy Allen will oversee Deal's investments and business interests. Deal will have no say in Allen"s decisions about buying, selling or holding his assets, according to Randy Evans, Deal's attorney.

Deal's business interests include ownership of a Gainesville auto salvage company that, until recently, earned about $300,000 a year from business with state government, Evans said. According to government records, most of its earnings come from insurance companies -- all of which have lobbyists representing them in the state Capitol. Deal, who resigned his seat in Congress last year to run for governor, was the subject of a congressional ethics inquiry. The investigation ended when Deal resigned to focus on his gubernatorial bid.

State law contains no standards for structuring or operating a blind trust. Outgoing Gov. Sonny Perdue did not have a blind trust. Critics have accused Perdue of using his political power to increase his wealth. Perdue owns several hundred acres in South Georgia and some agricultural-related businesses. Perdue has said he decided against a blind trust because he didn't think an independent trustee could adequately manage his Houston County fertilizer and grain company.

Deal's finances are under scrutiny because of personal financial troubles stemming from his investment into his daughter"s failed sporting goods business in Habersham County.

With the arrangement to have Allen oversee Deal's investments and business interests, we rate this as a Promise Kept.

Our Sources

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Deal sets up payment plan for debt," Jan. 6, 2011

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "Blind trusts not cure-all," Sept. 15, 2006

Georgia Ethics Commission, Sonny Perdue's 2009 Financial Disclosure Report

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