The governor is making the first use of a 2010 law passed by the General Assembly that allows politicians accused of ethics violations to go after their accusers for attorney fees if the allegations are deemed frivolous. Meaning, one assumes, not proven which is actually not frivolous unless district attorneys can be similarly sued when losing cases.
Guess who that law was likely aimed at to begin with? It’s Anderson and the tiny band of those now similarly inclined he has inspired not by having his allegations thrown out (fairly often) but also having them turn out to be correct and upheld (also fairly often).
Besides, Anderson is notoriously rich in moral outrage and otherwise pretty much poor as a church mouse. He represents himself at most formal hearings — and once even won a ruling saying that he can act as his own attorney when the State Bar of Georgia unsuccessfully tried to shut him down.
AS IS — correct or not, annoying or not — petitioning the government for a redress of grievances, a right established by the First Amendment as Anderson instantly pointed out when asked for comment about Deal’s lawsuit. It is also no secret among those who know him — and this newspaper was probably the first to become acquainted with his vigilante zeal back in 1991 — that he never gives up, never goes away, and will always fight on and on and on. As regards this lawsuit, and the 2010 law, if initial rulings go against him Anderson will doubtless fight it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if he has to.
And, along the way, probably pick up some big-name lawyers and civil-rights funding to help him as what is being raised could easily be considered a federal constitutional question.
Let’s grant that Anderson can be irritating and often sees murder where only jaywalking has occurred. It may be safe to say that if he were put in charge of the IRS every American taxpayer would be deep, deep trouble if they forgot to dot the proverbial “i”.
However, pressing this sort of action against the background of state voters, of both parties, registering extreme anger at their elected officials in an advisory election question earlier this year for accepting gifts, trips, free meals and similar from those trying to advance/influence legislation is really strange timing.
Sure, Anderson claimed Deal’s campaign was involved in a supposed kickback plan with a family member’s firm (the governor has a very thin skin where family/friends are concerned), and that he conspired with a former state ethics commission chairman to deep-six complaints. Anderson was shot down. Of course, this took place before the same panel, which is appointed and funded (very badly) by the same politicians it is supposedly policing. The allegation was also nothing that hadn’t shown up in the print media earlier.
ON THE OTHER hand, back in July, Anderson won three complaints against the Deal campaign before the same commission regarding what were found to be “technical defects” in campaign filings. Anderson claimed 14 such whoopsies. The investigation turned up 53. Deal wound up having to pay $3,350 in “administrative fees” to have the official records corrected.
And while much of what Anderson finds — he is really, really good at digging out paperwork and knowing where mandated documents are likely to have been “misplaced’’ in courthouses — would be what most citizens (and politicians) consider nitpicking ... well, that’s just how Anderson looks at things. Jaywalking and bank robbery are both illegal and, in his view, elected officials/leaders most of all should not engage in such behavior.
It is well worth remembering that Anderson, who began his “career” by uncovering the Floyd County Commission’s quit-claim deed that signaled a secret move was afoot to sell taxpayer-owned Floyd Medical Center to private interests, has been hip deep in the big muddy on a lot of well-known major state scandals. Those included such names as former House Speaker Glenn Richardson, former Senate Majority Leader Charles Walker, former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell and former State School Superintendent Linda Schrenko — some of whom, it may be recalled, wound up not only disgraced but in prison.
Anderson has even been singled out by Georgia Common Cause for citizen heroism.
And when Anderson is shown to be correct — or calls enough media attention on a matter to have those other citizen hounds from hell join in the pursuit — apple carts can indeed be upset.
THE CONTINUAL effort to try to shut him and his kind down is getting to the point where it seems to be sending a negative message of its own regarding some in governing circles.
So, what is going on here? After all, any extra attention given Anderson actually only lets the masses know what the crazy prophet wandering the desert of high principles is babbling about.
What is afoot is an apparent effort to shut down or dissuade the raising of questions by any and all citizens that must be answered because they take place within a legal framework. What Anderson and others of similar inclination bring up with their paperwork are questions that must be answered. Were Anderson simply a blogger or newspaper columnist who believes Deal is not an American but rather a Muslim born in Kenya — or something like that — he could be ignored. The constitutional shield under which allegations like this can be raised — no matter how wild — is well known.
In that sense, trying to force Anderson to shut up by making him and others pay the legal fees of those being asked to prove something that looks a bit funny but actually is above board is really an attempt to keep all taxpayers and citizens from ever raising the same sort of questions ... and getting answers.
It is troubling that anyone in elected or appointed office would be inclined to desire members of the public to “shut up and go away.” To try to fine/bankrupt/fee them into submission is not only troubling, it is dangerous.
TROUBLEMAKERS, in our form of self-governance, are part of what is expected to make our entire edifice work so long as they do it nonviolently and within the legal process and right of free speech.
Deal, and others of like inclination who want to eradicate mosquitoes with nuclear weapons, might want to consider what not only Anderson but most citizens would likely tell them:
“Hey! Now it really looks like you’ve got something to hide!”