Political RoundUp: September 2008

Golden opportunity: You can add the name of state Sen. Tim Golden (D-Valdosta) to the list of possible Democratic candidates for governor. Golden got the word out that he’s giving serious consideration to the race, although he might not announce a final decision for several months. “I really think we need to see what the elections bring in November,” said Golden, a moderate, business-oriented Democrat who cites Mark Warner and Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia as political role models. He once worked for Sam Nunn and Charles Hatcher as a congressional aide.



Drug payments: Georgia Attor-ney General Thurbert Baker, working in concert with his counterparts from other states, reached a settlement with Bristol-Myers Squibb over charges of illegal drug marketing and the pricing of prescription medications. Under the terms of the settlement, the drug company will pay $12.1 million to Georgia’s Medicaid program (as part of a $389 million nationwide settlement between several state Medicaid programs and the pharmaceutical giant). “The allegations were that these companies not only engaged in a pattern of kickbacks and false reporting to drive up both the sales and prices for its drugs, they also encouraged healthcare providers to prescribe a potent drug to both children and seniors for uses that had not been approved by the FDA,” Baker said.



Giving it back: Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens has been generous in giving campaign money to his Republican friends over the years. One of his beneficiaries – Georgia’s Saxby Chambliss – received at least $10,000 from Stevens’ political action committee. After Stevens was indicted in late July on charges stemming from a federal corruption investigation, however, Chambliss was one of several GOP senators who handed off the Stevens contribution to charitable causes. Chambliss donated $5,000 to Camp Sunshine and $5,000 to the Georgia Chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.



Broun’s coffers run low: U.S. Rep. Paul Broun positions himself as a fiscally conservative congressman who opposes wasteful government spending, so it must be a little embarrassing that he’s already overspent the yearly budget allocated for his congressional office expenses. Broun relied heavily on the use of taxpayer-funded mailings in his successful Republican primary race against Barry Fleming – but the wide-scale “franking” of mail to Broun’s constituents also depleted his congressional office budget. Within two weeks of the July 15 primary, a lack of funds forced the resignation of one of Broun’s top congressional aides. On top of all that, Broun still has some serious debts hanging over his campaign.



Major milestone: Georgia Lot-tery officials announced recently that the amount of money raised for HOPE scholarships and pre-kindergarten programs has now passed the $10 billion mark after 15 years of lottery operations. The Lottery transferred $858.4 million to its education account in fiscal year 2008, breaking the 2007 record by about $4.8 million. Lottery sales for fiscal year 2008 totaled $3.52 billion, the highest in history.



Charter systems: The state Board of Education has signed off on applications from the Decatur, Gainesville and Marietta school systems to become part of the Georgia’s first group of “charter systems.” Charter systems, like individual charter schools, will be allowed more flexibility in their teaching programs. “Charter systems offer the truest form of local control, and Georgia will see a genuine paradigm shift as more charter schools advance flexibility, innovation and resourceful teaching,” said Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who supported the charter system legislation.



Cox sworn in: Former secretary of state Cathy Cox was formally inaugurated on July 26 as the 21st president of Young Harris College, a Methodist Church-affiliated institution in Towns County that numbers among its alumni no less a personage than former governor and senator Zell Miller. Cox actually became president of Young Harris in June 2007, but her official installation was delayed for several months. Her top goal is to lead the college’s transition from a two-year to a four-year institution. She was elected secretary of state in 1998 and 2002.



Handel named: Secretary of State Karen Handel has been elected to the position of vice president for the southern region of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS).

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