A hush hush payment to a former state employee has led to a tempest in a teapot. It remains to be seen if the teapot boils over and spills into the public awareness, but, as with most things of an insider nature, the insiders care deeply.
So, let's check the scorecard to see how they fared.
The Field of Play
On July 28 of this year, a Senate administrative committee paid $80,500 to an Atlanta law firm stating that it was to deal with a personnel issue. According to those involved, the sum came with a confidentiality agreement and the principles said no more.
Enter state Senator Vincent Fort. Sen. Fort claims the money settled a discrimination lawsuit filed by a former senate secretary. Fort is then followed by Democratic Senator Donzella James who not only furthers the story of discrimination but also names names. She claims the allegations were against Republican Senators Barry Loudermilk and William Ligon.
Enter Democratic Party of Georgia chair Mike Berlon. Berlon issues a press release asking Republican Senate leader Tommie Williams to release the details of the settlement. Later, Berlon releases a second statement echoing Donzella James' accusations
Loudermilk and Ligon issue statements hotly denying the implications.
With the gag order in place, what took place was a proxy war that played itself out on the states two most prominent partisan blogs.
Let's tally up the score.
DPG Chair Mike Berlon
Reality - As a lawyer, Berlon knows it is sticky to play around with a confidentiality agreement. As a politician, he knows that attacking when your opponent can't speak is a rare opportunity. As the DPG chair, he has a responsibility to fire up the troops and he would be derelict if he let this particular chance pass.
The Politics - Berlon is using a tactic since time immemorial but was crystallized by Lyndon B. Johnson in a congressional race when he ordered his campaign manager to tell the press his opponent fornicated with swine. When the campaign manager offered it was not true, Lyndon responded, "make him deny it".
Blog For Democracy
Reality - Blog For Democracy is doing its dutiful duty of releasing tidbits passed down from the DPG.As exhibited by their comment sections, they are accomplishing the number one task of an activist website; the troops are getting fired up.
The Politics - Passion has to have practice or it becomes a quickly extinguished flame. If this episode becomes another exercise in liberal epistemic closure, merely reinforcing the hard left's notion that all "rethuglicans" are racists, then it goes nowhere. If it is used as a smaller plot line that carries into a larger narrative of a lack of transparency by Republicans, then it may keep the base rallied.
Reality - It's rare the Republicans are put on the defensive and as Republicans are so adept at doing, they've fired back pretty hard. The charge is led by Todd Rehm (his fellow contributors are curiously quiet) who notes that if the Democrats want answers they can ask one of there own. Democratic Senator Steve Henson sits on the committee that approved the payment.
The Politics - Rehm's riposte is a good one but it's not as clean a narrative as "racial discrimination". Complicating the Republican's response is their flank is tender from pokes by tea party and others who always look askew at government.The comments by the anonymous and the trolls have not been kind. But more importantly, Debbie Dooley with the Atlanta Tea Party seems to be having none of it as well.
The Final Tally
Berlon and the BFD are narrowly winning this round. However, Democrats tend to get wrapped around the axle on relatively minor issues (Alan Powell's residency) while Republicans were clutching the steering wheel of the entire car (winning practically every election in the state). Whether this issue stays a minor distraction or gains traction with the general public will determine the final tale of the tape.