Brain Drain: The Southern Response to Ed and Business Atrophy

The challenge of brain drain has existed for years in areas around the nation.  The South is no different, although perhaps more exaggerated and slower to respond.  As I grew up in Social Circle, all I wanted to do was get the hell out of my small town and find a job, home, and surroundings that seemed to fit me more than from whence I came.  Many college-age kids and younger are the same.  This is not to say I do not deeply love Walton County (God’s country) and recognize the idyllic childhood I had there.  I grew up recognizing I was a square peg in a round hole, and I felt like an escape would provide the upward mobility I sought while not interfering with/ ruffling the feathers of those within the cultural climate I was reared.  The early recognition that I was a bit different forced me to reconcile that staying in my small town would mean a constant outsider feeling accompanied with a general uphill battle for any of my ideas and presence in certain circles.  So like a number of youth across the nation, I left and come back for family visits, events of friends who stayed behind and not much else.  I wait with baited breath for Walton County’s prosperity and commercial growth.  I sing its praises as often as I am able and I encourage as many to move there as possible, yet the struggle to be accepted as I am (more progressive, assertive, and business oriented) will always halt any dreams of returning.

But what if an entire generation chooses to leave their home towns?  What if few decide to come back?  What happens to the rural small towns they leave and how do those towns sustain themselves over time?  What happens when my generation reverses white flight and we all move back into urban areas?

You may have noticed it in your own town and among your own neighbors.  My generation has little patience for lack of amenities and we frankly do not comprehend how you work or live without reliable WiFi.  This isn’t unique to a certain area of the Southeast.  This is representative of a larger generational shift across the nation.  The opportunity to be something other than someone’s child has its own draw, and readily available choices of higher paying jobs is incredibly seductive.

In the last six months I have engaged in a leadership class called Georgia Forward.  Initially a nonprofit offshoot from Central Atlanta Progress, this organization partners with cities around Georgia to produce solutions to the local community’s challenges.  These challenges are identified by a steering committee of local officials (namely the local Chamber, from what I can tell), and are then posed in the form of questions to the group of fifty class members, a third of which are locals.

The area to which my class was partnered is Troup County.  Rich in textile history and manufacturing industry jobs, Troup County is an ideal location for Georgians to stake their claim and build their dreams.  Yet the cities of LaGrange, West Point, and Hogansville are finding it challenging to attract and retain young talent.  With little to no quality of place attributes (nightlife, retail establishments, civic organizations), I found myself both very familiar with and appallingly shocked as to why the residents could not recognize their own challenges.   The juxtaposition of those who enjoy the non-urban lifestyle that Troup County offers is in direct contrast to the preferences of those they wish to attract and retain.

This is not new, or foreign to me.  It is becoming so damn common across Georgia I often wish to beat my head against the wall in frustration.  I have seen this manifest in Macon, Augusta, Monroe, on recent visits to Americus, Albany, and certainly in my hometown of Social Circle.  There is a generational difference that contributes to the challenge, but also an ever-present racial one, and at its roots, economic.

I did not think of it as a generational problem across the nation until I recently finished the memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, by J.D. Vance.  The book was so incredibly gripping- painfully so at times.  The tome spoke such truth to the life I have known here where, albeit less violence and drugs as represented in Vance’s life, my own experience knows well the depth of family loyalty, the need for escaping one’s hometown, and the ties that forever bind us by the heartstrings to the challenges we try to leave behind. Continue reading “Brain Drain: The Southern Response to Ed and Business Atrophy”

Power As A Test of Character: Georgia’s Campus Sexual Assault Bill

 In every political system we have abuses of power, some more than others.  They are not uncommon, and as long as the abuses are not egregious they can often times be overlooked.  That does not make it right, yet one must pick their battles.  It should also be said that the very legislators who commit these may do so because they sincerely have good intents.  Sadly though, the general public is not always aware that some bills begin under these circumstances, and a bill’s origins often offer a more comprehensive view of the legislation.  I would like to shed some light on one such case.

In 2016, the AJC reported on Representative Earl Ehrhart (R-36, Powder Springs) intervening in an investigation at Georgia Tech where he threatened and then followed through on reduced funding for the research institution the next legislative session after the outcome of the school’s investigation.  You see, despite thirty-eight years in the Georgia General Assembly and being a past Rules Chairman under Speaker Richardson, Ehrhart is only a sub-committee Chairman.  That subcommittee happens to be the House Appropriations sub-committee on Higher Education.

That’s right- Rep. Ehrhart holds the purse strings for all the colleges and universities across the state.  Those same universities that are churning out the talent in our state to put it on Forbes’ List of the next tech meccas.

Follow me now? Continue reading “Power As A Test of Character: Georgia’s Campus Sexual Assault Bill”

Gwinnett, the New Ground Zero Post-Trump

Most people do not pay any attention to their local political scene.  They vote every four years in a Presidential election and they pat themselves on the back for check off that mental box of participation in the political process.  As of late though, the Gwinnett County Commission has become a more embroiled entity.  The good Lord KNOWS Commission Chairman Charlotte Nash is trying her hardest to smooth things over like every Southern woman has done for one foolish man or another in her circle.  But we all know there aren’t enough hand written notes IN THE WORLD that can smooth this one over!  This hits close to home for me because it literally IS my home now.  And it is of particular interest to me now that my last home (Atlanta) has become involved in Gwinnett County Commission dealings via a letter from Mayor Kasim Reed to Commissioner Tommy Hunter’s employer, United Consulting.  You can find the text of the letter and coverage by Adrianne Haney and Duffie Dixon of WXIA here. Continue reading “Gwinnett, the New Ground Zero Post-Trump”

EBD:  The Kiss of Death for a Child in Georgia

As an educator, I am always behind the times when it comes to my kids’ education.  I mean, I am in charge of 1800 of them, so when I get home, assisting with homework and, you know, talking to the little people about school, is a bit exhausting. I want to talk about other stuff, like being quizzed on football team names, or being trounced in a game of Uno by children in the single digit age range. What with dinner to be made,  baths to be taken, and all that, it’s kind of hard to keep up with what’s shaking in education from a parent’s perspective.

Flash forward (backward?) to an old article I recently read about The Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports ( GNETS), the alternative placement for little people who don’t make the cut in the traditional educational setting.  These are children who, for whatever reason, are missing out on some sort of behavioral more that the rest of the world of six year olds understand.  The majority of GNETS students are 3-10 years old.  Three years old! Who can be afraid of a kid who just recently got out of diapers?  The teachers.  The principal.  The school.  The county.  The state. Apparenlty, a squatty little kid who still has baby fat is a force not to be reckoned with.

So what does the school do?  The school slaps an Emotionally and Behaviorally Disordered (EBD) label on him and paperworks the kid right on out of traditional school,  shoving them into a setting that is frightening at best, and terrifying at worst.   Many of these children, predominantly Black and predominantly Male, are warehoused into a building or the hall of a building where they are restrained, secluded, and academically neglected.  Parents are pressured into believing that the school actually cares about the child and wants to help.  The nice lady at the eligibility team meeting states that “The Team” only wants what is best for the child.  So the school brings in a Behavioral Specialist, who makes more than the average teacher but does none of the leg work.  The “specialist” gives the teachers ten days of “specific data” to collect and waltzes off to the next meeting.

The teachers at this time can follow the data collection with 20 other little people in the room, or can, you know, do their best, and if Johnny pisses them off, they can fabricate the information fudge a little here or there to  make it look like Johnny truly is a menace to society ensure that Johnny gets the “help” he needs.   After all, there are 20 other cherubic little ones in the class, and some of them can’t read, so they really need help. Why waste time on a six year old who is bound for prison anyway? And the Behavioral Specialist?  S/he doesn’t check the fidelity of the data; doesn’t question the findings.   GNETS’ primary criteria for eligibility?  EBD.

Georgia, in all of its glory, is fighting vehemently to keep GNETS.  Georgia is throwing down the States Rights card so that Georgia can warehouse its students who have behavioral difficulties.  Georgia is going straight 1930s and throwing these children into the Millennial version of an institution.  “Don’t know how to handle them?  Put ‘em in GNETS! That’ll show those parents who don’t know how to raise them!”‘

So the parents, many of whom may not have the education to know what’s up, trust the school to do what is best for Johnny.  Two weeks after the EBD label and an IEP, Johnny is in the Georgia Network for Educational and Therapeutic Supports (GNETS).  Johnny is now, truly headed for prison because the school threw him away.  The school and the school system tossed him aside because he is difficult; he’s too challenging; he’s too angry; they don’t know what to do with him.

The school took a little boy, who once thought school was the best place ever, and placed him in a setting where the teachers are beaten down, worn out, and overworked.  They put him in a place where there is a 90% chance that he will never, ever, see a traditional classroom, participate in school sports, or be able to sit in circle time.

Here in Georgia, schools and school systems refuse to educate the teachers in the area of behavior.  What with all the impetus to raise test scores, and raise graduation rates (another smoke and mirrors for another time), locks some of the brightest students into a hellhole and throws away the key.  Besides, having too many conduct referrals affects CCRPI, now, doesn’t it?  Can’t have that on our school record.  Better to just get rid of the little buggers.

So what alternative do the parents have?  Many are unable to afford private school.  Some may not be able to home school due to financial restraints or because they are single parents.  So Johnny has to stay in an educational vacuum until he either drops out or gets schooled in prison.

Back in the day, I was an educator who vociferously defended the rights of many.  Now I’m a mom who needs for Georgia to assist the rights of a few who need attention.   Georgia has made great strides in the area of  including those who sturggle academically, yet it just can’t get its act together to help those who stuggle behaviorally.  Like the little ones who can’t read, there are little ones who can’t sit in a seat for hours, or who may get upset when they don’t understand something, or who may pay too much attention to what the teacher is saying and become anxious because they internalize more than others.  Or maybe, just maybe, the school gave up on them in kindergarten, and they know it.  Why not act like a tool?  No one cares any way.

It is imperative that the folks at the Dome look to these kids and help them just as much as the cherubic ones who may not do well academically.  No child deserves to be thrown away.  They’re children. They deserve more than a one way ticket to GNETS simply because they are behaviorally challenged.

Amendment One: Fail

I am tickled pink that Amendment One got a big, fat, red F. It failed, failed, I say! I’m sad the others passed, but that’s not the point of this piece.
This amendment crossed party lines in its proponents and its opponents.

The proponents appeared a bit paternalistic in their approach: “We know what is best for the poor black and brown children in Georgia, and their schools, their teachers, and their community members are simply sitting around on their asses, doing nothing but eating bon bons on taxpayer time.” Dealio even had the gall to go into a majority minority community and tell those folks in East Point that his was that of the great white hope, and if the OSD became reality, kids could graduate from high school, and then they could go to technical schools. He didn’t mention university, mind you.

The opponents seemed to be a bit more anarchist in their approach to defeat the amendment: “Get the government out of my school. I don’t trust you folks to pick your noses without making them bleed, let alone to educate my kid.” I could be wrong, but that was the vibe I got…

My take is a little different: We have this nebulous CCRPI metric, which changes every year. Last year, Schools can get points for graduation rates, test scores, teacher and parent surveys (Nice! Poke a mama bear, and that survey goes down the crapper). Fulton County has advisers set up to help the schools earn more points based on the ever changing scale. Advisers! It’s all a number game, folks. And it seems that the scale is changing so that more schools are failing…struggling…sorry Richard Woods (nice change in rhetoric after the fact, though).  So more schools got on the watch list as this amendment became more viable to the Opportunity School District. In fact, the amount of schools who were determined failing skyrocketed in 2016. One Hundred and forty two schools were added to the list of 2015’s 81. Almost a 200% increase in failing schools. DANG! Coincidence? Maybe. Probably not, though.

It was a grab for money and for power, and it failed, as it should have. I think the voters got this one right (I voted Libertarian, so I am exempt from any blame for TP in the WH).

Research like a reporter, Part 2: Who’s backing the constitutional amendments?

Elections day is less than a week away, and for many that’s not soon enough. However, down ballot of the Trump-Clinton circus are actually pretty impactful candidates and issues, including four constitutional amendments.

In brief, they are:

Amendment 1, Opportunity School District: This is a piece of legislation that allows the state to take control of chronically failing schools, as measured by the state’s annual College and Career Ready Performance Index or CCRPI. (Full disclosure: I wrote in opposition to this bill here).

Amendment 2, Safe Harbor Fund: Creates new taxes/fees which will be dedicated to funding support services for survivors of child sex trafficking. (I wrote about this amendment, as well, here).

Amendment 3, Judicial Qualifications Commission: Abolishes the current JQC and recreates a new commission that would be made up solely of political appointees. This body oversees ethics complaints against judges. (Oops, can’t hide my dislike of this sleazy measure).

Amendment 4, Fireworks: Like Amendment 2, this creates a new dedicated fund, in this case to support trauma care, firefighter training, and public safety services. (No, I have not written about this one. Why are fireworks such a big deal in this state?).

Check out the ballot guide from the YWCA of Greater Atlanta for good, in-depth analysis of the amendments.

What can you learn?

Pulling up the disclosures is a fairly quick process, you just need ten minutes. In this year’s batch of reports you can find out what measure(s) AT&T is backing, what Washington D.C. groups have donated to these amendment fights, what legislators are involved in these projects, and what measures the Walton family (of Wal-Mart fame) have put money behind.

Everyone likes to toss around this claim about the “other” side of a policy debate: special interest, out of state money! coming in to ruin real Georgia values! There are, indeed, small numbers of very wealthy people who can dump tons of money into political issues they care about, because we live in a nation that faces such severe income and wealth stratification that that’s possible. Lots of in-state groups solicit and benefit from out-of-state money; it’s not a surprising phenomenon. These donations can and should still be interrogated, but are quite common.

As in Part 1 of this series, financial disclosure reports reveal how different people and organizations are connected to each other. Are they people and organizations that share your values? How are political leaders connected to the funding of these amendments? This may require a little more googling to figure out exactly who is involved, as oftentimes intermediaries are making large donations to the groups campaigning for or against a constitutional amendment, but it’s definitely a rewarding process.

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As an example, let’s to go through the campaign report for Yes2SaveLives, Inc., which was involved in a 2010 campaign to support an amendment to raise funds for trauma care. This example does not use current campaign information.

Here is the document you will see when you pull up amendment campaign finance disclosures (link here). Note the Chairperson and Treasurer on the summary page. A quick google search reveals that Israel was the President and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Joe Parker was the President of the Georgia Hospital Association. So GCC and GHA were heavily invested and likely leading this campaign (more confirmation of this later).

Googling the address or P.O. Box listed might also tell you information about affiliated business or organizational interests. Often, technically separate organizations, like the c(3) and c(4) arms of an organization, might share an office and thus an address.

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Next up is the summary of their fundraising and expenditures. This group fundraised over $3.1 million (line 6) from their inception in August to the date this was submitted, and they spent $2.3 million (line 12, not pictured) of that in the same time period. The $1.25 million figure in line 3 (wow this feels just like doing taxes!) is the number this report will break down into individual donors.

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And now…what people and organizations make up the $1.25 million in donations?

Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Columbus Medical Center were both big donors. Additional confirmation that the GCC was heavily invested in this issue; not only was their President the Chairperson of Yes2SaveLives, but the GCC is “donating” office spaces and related services. As you scroll through the document, you’ll see the same holds true for GHA. The donors this filing period were 100 percent in-state medical institutions, so it’s clear they were very invested in this.

Interpretation if you opposed the measure: hospitals are spending big bucks to pass this special interest measure that will line their pockets; we should never raise taxes, especially not to benefit these corporate interests.

Interpretation if you supported the measure: deaths from traumatic injuries are 20 percent higher than the national average because of lack of access to care, and medical groups recognize the urgent need for a well-funded trauma care system in Georgia to prevent these unnecessary deaths.

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Not shown are loans and itemized expenditures. Still worth perusing, but often not as great a source of information.

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If you are interested and looking at these reports for the current campaigns for and against the various amendments, here’s how to do it:

(1) Go to ethics.ga.gov, which is the home of the Georgia Government Transparency and State Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. Along the black bar at the top of the page, select “Search.”

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(2) Select “Campaign Reports” from the list.

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(3) Scroll down the the second box labeled “Non-Candidate Committee Search.” Select “Constitutional Amendment or Statewide Referendum,” type in the name of the organization you want to search and select “View Non-Candidate Committees.”

Amendment 1: Better Georgia Action, Inc.; Committee to Keep Georgia Schools Local, Inc.; Opportunity for All Georgia Students, Inc.

Amendment 2: SafeHarborYes

Amendment 3: Georgians for Judicial Integrity; Save the JQC-Vote No on 3

Amendment 4: None

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(4) Select “View” next to the name of the committee.

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(5) Select “Campaign Contribution Reports – EFiled (Click to Expand Information).”

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(6) Select “View Report.” Everyone should have their “15 days Before Date of Election” report filed by now.

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(7) Select “View Report in PDF,” to take a look at the entire report. (The other options are more excel friendly versions of the same information, broken into segments).

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Nerdy Details

Passing constitutional amendments is quite involved. First, both bodies of the Georgia General Assembly must pass the legislation with a two-thirds majority. Right now, Republicans only have a two-thirds majority in the State Senate (so Democrats only have to co-sign if some of the far right Republicans aren’t backing the party agenda). In the House of Representatives, Republicans do not have a two-thirds majority, so at least some Democrats must also vote for a constitutional amendment for it to pass. Then it goes before the Governor, who has the ability to veto it. Then it goes before voters, where it must pass by a simple majority.

Fun facts: the only thing the General Assembly is constitutionally mandated to do is pass a balanced budget each year, everything else is just gravy. Legislators are also constitutionally protected from arrest during the legislative session!

Comment with any questions or just to let me know what you dig up.

Research like a reporter, Part 1: Who’s giving your candidate money?

It’s election time and you may — like many — be pulling out your hair wondering where to get good information about non-presidential candidates and state ballot measures. I am going to go through some of the tools I’ve learned to use as a freelance reporter, to help you get some baseline information about the people and issues on your ballot.

First up: who is giving your state candidates money? (Obtaining local candidate’s campaign contributions disclosures requires going through your local elections office).

Fundraising efforts across the state can range from the anemic $2,450 of Rep. John Corbett (R-Lake Park) to Speaker David Ralston’s (R-Blue Ridge) $110,100.

Digging through campaign contribution disclosure reports requires equal parts googling, channel your inner Mafioso, and taking it all with a grain of salt. What this information tells you is who your candidate is connected to. Are they people and organizations that share your values? Are they people and organizations trying to build relationships with legislators to influence them? Are they people and organizations trying to repair relationships with legislators after some contentious legislation was passed? How does this information compare to what your candidate says about them self?

It’s worth mentioning, too, that sometimes powerful people just know each other and do things for each other without an immediate benefit. Relationship building is a huge part of the game, and elected officials underestimate (or don’t care) just how much it influences their judgement.

Let’s first walk through what the campaign contribution disclosure reports look like and what kind of information they contain, and then dive into how to find them yourself for your state candidate. As an example, let’s look at Rep. Andrew Welch (R-McDonough), who is running unopposed.

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Here is the document you will see (link here). The first page is basic information about the campaign. Then, you’ll see a summary page that goes over the total figures. After that is the itemized breakdown for contributions, expenditures, and loans.

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Next up is the summary page. Quite frustratingly, candidates aren’t consistent in how they calculate “previously reported” (i.e. cumulative) figures. Some candidates start fresh at every new campaign cycle, while others may keep the tally running from campaign to campaign. You may have to go back through old filings and do the math yourself to figure out which method your candidate used, especially if you are going to compare between candidates.

Also, Welch is running unopposed and will clearly be reelected, so it’s no surprise he has so little fundraising and expenditures to report. Candidates that are running unopposed, but hold lots of power, however, would likely see more activity. And, of course, candidates that are actively campaigning against another candidate should be fundraising at least $10-30,000 just to print signs, print flyers, get their website designed, maybe pay a staff person or some phone bankers. Candidates also fund their campaigns sometimes by loaning themselves money, which I just think is weird (but I’ve also never had a “spare” $45,000 that I could just do whatever I want with).

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Now the fun stuff: itemized contributions. For Rep. Welch, here’s what I notice: these are mostly out-of-state donors, so guessing these are big corporations or PACs working in all states (or key states) on particular agendas, and so probably just donating pretty widely. I’d definitely contextualize these by looking at what committees Rep. Welch is on (here) and what legislation he’s sponsored (here).

Alkermes, Inc is a biopharmaceutical company with a Georgia office, I’ve seen them on several candidate’s reports. Biomedicine is actually quite big in Georgia, especially with the CDC and big research institutions, like Emory, located in Atlanta.

GUCA Political Action Committee is the Georgia Utility Contractors Association, Inc. PAC. I’m not very familiar with them, but I suspect a little bit of googling would help establish a baseline of who they are and what their goals are. (There also is a way to see everyone who GUCA has donated to, that view would definitely provide interesting information into the kinds of elected officials they are targeting).

Looking at the TitleMax donation, I’d want to find out if he serves on a committee that is important to them or sponsored legislation that would impact their business. Alternately, they may be proactively building relationships with key legislators. These title pawn and paycheck loan companies are starting to come under higher levels of scrutiny around their exploitative business practices, and states are looking to more tightly regulate what they do.

I also notice that someone who works for the Nelson Mullins & Scarborough law firm donated separately. I am not familiar with them, and it could be interesting to investigate more about this firm and who that employee is in relationship to state politics.

Other things you may see on your candidates report: expect lots of PACs, especially for businesses with big stakes in Georgia law, across all people and all parties. Medical associations, insurance companies, telecommunications, hospital groups, lawyer groups are all quite common. The folks trying to allow breweries to do direct sales are also making selective investments. Also, candidates donate to each other. It’s a way to bolster someone who isn’t a great fundraiser, but is a party favorite, a “team player,” or someone whose seat is being meaningfully challenged by the other party.

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Itemized expenditures. For Rep. Welch, here’s what stands out to me: Alright, we see him donating to fellow Rep. Brian Strickland, who I think he’s fairly politically aligned with. Both are very principled conservatives. Deidra White is the conservative running against incumbent Dexter Sharper. Looking at her campaign filings would tell you more about what other Republicans, if any, have donated to her campaign. If it’s just him, then this may be his personal decision — she may be a friend, they may be politically aligned — or, if many Republicans are donating to her campaign, then it could be the donations are being solicited from the higher-ups in the party.

Apparently he was a Ted Cruz fan. Also, not surprisingly, a supporter of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson‎ (R-Ga).

Super weird that he donated from his campaign (rather than personal) funds to the Georgia Life Alliance Committee. GLA is a pro-life group (the official Georgia chapter of the National Right to Life) and they lobby at the capitol. I haven’t seen this practice a lot and it just strikes me as ethically murky…to donate to a group that directly lobbies you and your colleagues. That also says a lot about his politics: (1) that he is pro-life, and (2) that he is aligned with GLA over Georgia Right to Life, which is ideologically more rigid in their politics.

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If you are interested and looking at these reports for your own state candidates, here’s how to do it:

(1) Go to ethics.ga.gov, which is the home of the Georgia Government Transparency and State Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. Along the black bar at the top of the page, select “Search.”

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(2) Select “Campaign Reports” from the list.

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(3) You’ll be taken to a page called “CAMPAIGN REPORTS – NAME SEARCH.” Type in your candidate’s name in the box at the top of the page, and click “Search for Candidate.” As an example, let’s look at Rep. Andrew Welch (R-McDonough). Note: You can always navigate back to this page at anytime by selecting “Search By Name” from the menu on the sidebar.

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(4) Now select “View” for the appropriate candidate. Some things to note here: some candidates run under a middle name or nickname, and file under their legal name. Try searching just their last name if you don’t see them in the list. Alternately, some candidates will file under different variations of their name for different campaigns they’ve had. You’ll have to click around to find the current campaign documents you are looking for.

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(5) Double check you found the right person. The “Office Sought” should be for the position they are currently running for on your ballot. “Status” should be “Active.” If it says “Terminated,” then the candidate is no longer running for that office. Under the first box, there is a tab that reads “Campaign Disclosure Reports,” and another tab that reads “Registration Information.” Clicking on the second tab will take you to some basic information about the campaign, we’re interested in the first tab right now.

Select “Campaign Contribution Reports – EFiled (Click to Expand Information).”

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(6) Now you’ll see a list of all the reports the candidate has filed. Rep. Welch has reports going back to 2010, when he first ran for his House seat. Candidates have different reporting requirements for election years and non-election years.

  • Note: If you like diving deep into numbers, it can be interesting to compare the same time period across campaigns (e.g. looking at the “September 30th – Election Year” reports for 2016, 2014, 2012 and 2010) in order to understand if the candidate is more or less active in fundraising at this point in the campaign cycle when compared to previous years. It can also be interesting to look at just the most recent two or three reports to see what’s changed over the course of one campaign. If a candidate had a primary opponent, but no general election challenger, then they may have more aggressively fundraised early on in their campaign. Also, state Senators and Representatives are not allowed to engage in fundraising or campaigning during the legislative session, so that often means big pushes from folks currently in office for donations before and after session.

Let’s take a look at the most recent filing. Select “View Report” next to the first report, “September 30th – Election Year.”

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(7) Select “View Report in PDF,” to take a look at the entire report. (The other options are more excel friendly versions of the same information, broken into segments).

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Phew. Okay, that was quite a bit of information. Just a reminder: you absolutely don’t need to be an expert to vote. Dig into this as much as is interesting to you (certainly freelance reporting is my profession because this work fascinates me). In this case, it may be enough for you to know Rep. Welch is so committed to pro-life politics, he’s giving them money.

As I wrote earlier, definitely be willing to channel your inner Mafioso, but don’t get carried away thinking that every dollar donated is a vote bought.

Next post, I’ll look at who is spending money on the four constitutional amendments on the ballot.

Comment with any questions, and I’ll do the best I can to address them, as well as your own experience looking through campaign contribution disclosure reports.

Will HRC Really Win Georgia?

redclay

I enjoy discussing Presidential campaign politics as much as I enjoy tilling the red clay in my backyard when it hasn’t rained in a few weeks.  It’s tedious, gets me hot under the collar, and only has marginal capability of providing me with anything of beauty or worth in the end.  So I tread carefully when discussing our Presidential picks.  I leave that to my friends in the District.  I keep my feet firmly planted in state and local affairs.  Yet my ears perked up when I was listening to FiveThirtyEight’s podcast some time ago on Hillary making ad buys in Georgia.  And then again today when the DPG emailed out the NY Times front page line indicating Georgia may be a swing state for HRC.  First, the NY Times knows little about Georgia politics.  Yet FiveThirtyEight is a strictly data oriented site.  If you are unaware of FiveThirtyEight, it’s really a fantastic podcast and the analysis of polling is really both delightful and heartbreaking, depending upon how you perceive the results.  Nate Silver, Harry Enten, Claire Malone, and Jody Avirgan are the political nerds people like me look to for the cold hard numbers to back up or destroy our assumptions.  I find their humor engaging, their discussions meaningful to understanding the macro in our nation’s politics, and I always find their insights thought provoking.

It should be said, aside from admiring this team, their work and their expertise, I admire data above all.  I trust the 538data more times than not.  If the numbers tell you something, believe it.  In their August 29th podcast, Nate Silver encourages the listeners to look beyond the numbers though, for the inevitable “swing” where Clinton’s lead across the nation will inevitably fall in certain areas.  The group discussion centers around where that swing and fall may occur. You can click on the link and at about minute 29 they get into the Georgia discussion.

Spoiler alert: I disagree. Continue reading “Will HRC Really Win Georgia?”

Education: A 21st Century Crucible

witchuntAt the turn of the 17th Century, there was a witch hunt.  Men and women, mostly women, were rounded up and were made to prove that they were not what others accused them of.  Lots of tests, or crucibles, if you will, were put into place to see if someone was actually a witch, and all the sorceress had to do was to admit it, and she could spend the rest of her life as a devil worshipper.  A whisper from a child, a look from a neighbor, or an absence from a meeting became grounds for inquiry or tests.  To be convicted as a witch meant you lost your life.  To admit it and bear the stigma of devil worshipper meant that you lost everything but your life. Anyone who associated with that “witch” became suspect, so everyone stayed away.  A whisper could change everything…

In the 1950s, the McCarthy Trials were the witch hunt and the political upheaval of the time. Men and women, mostly men, were taken to the court of McCarthy and put on trial.  A whisper from a child, a look from a neighbor, or an absence from a meeting, and the Communist label becomes truth. mccarthy The McCarthy Trials were akin to the Salem Witch Trials.  One could deny it or admit it, but either way, the accused lost everything but his life.  Anyone who associated with that “communist” became suspect, so everyone stayed away.  A whisper could change everything…

The crucible is a vessel that is able to withstand violent chemical reactions, or a test or trial.  Education has become a crucible on many levels, but the one that has become the most used today is the test, the trial:  one where a student lays claim that a teacher said something, or did something, or wrote something.  There is an investigation, and even if the teacher is proven innocent, it is game…over.  A whisper from a child, and an educator’s career has effectively ended.   Even if he keeps his job, how will he be able to do his job with the stigma of being…a Witch? A Communist? An Activist? A Christian, a Jew, a Muslim, Republican-Democrat-Libertarian, Gay-Straight-Bi, Man-Woman-Mom-Dad-vegetarian-pescatarian-unapologetic carnivore…fill in the blank.

And anyone who associates with that teacher becomes suspect, too, so everyone stays away.  A whisper could change everything…

When a child accuses a teacher of something “unspeakable”, no matter what it may be, the teacher is in the crucible for the rest of his or her life, whether it is true or not true; whether the teacher is guilty or innocent. A whisper from a child, and a career is over.

A whisper…

GettyImages-182566801-EI would like to wish everyone a happy Equality Day!  August 26th is the date we commemorate (since 1971, thanks to Rep. Bella Abzug (D-NY)) the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920, giving women the equal right to vote in elections in the United States.   As part of the memorialization of this day and women in our nation’s history, one can still step into the Capitol rotunda and look for a statue of the Suffragettes: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and Susan B. Anthony.  When you find it, you will notice there is still a part of the statue that remains uncarved.

This space is reserved exclusively for the bust of the first female President.

So while we wait, I thought today might be a great time to discuss other smaller ways to demonstrate equality in our midst.  I’ve experienced some great examples of sexism from people who never considered their comments to be sexist.  Here’s my list of things we could do (some individually and some collectively) to promote equality of our sisters, mothers, daughters, partners, and friends.  Enjoy! Continue reading