There’s no doubt that money follows power. When your primary measure for the most important appointments is “who has money and who will give it to me” then you have a government like Nathan Deal’s, which is dominated by a few major donors instead of reflecting the diversity of Georgia’s citizens.
Last week the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported that, “Three powerful Georgia boards help to bankroll Gov. Nathan Deal.” The three boards reviewed include Washington County’s own Tarbutton family.
As noted by the AJC, Ben Tarbutton, III, often referred to in conversation as Ben III by people in Washington County, currently sits on the Georgia University System Board of Regents . Ben III is a former Chair of the Board of Regents and was appointed by Gov Deal for a second term in 2013. He will sit on that Board until 2020. The AJC reports that Ben Tarbutton, III has donated $158,100 to Deal’s campaign since 2009.
The AJC quoted Ben III describing his donations as part of “modern day politics.”
During Ben III’s first term on the Regent’s Board he was joined by Dean Alford, who holds a no-bid contract to build a coal-fired coal plant in Washington County called Plant Washington.
Alford’s second wife, Debbie Dlugolenski Alford, was appointed to lead the Georgia Lottery in October 2012. The AJC reported that Ms Alford was the sole finalist for the job. She had no previous experience running a lottery. One Lottery Board member, Frances Rogers, resigned because she thought Gov Deal had interfered in the process for selecting someone to lead the Lottery.
Just a few months after Debbie Alford was appointed to lead the Lottery, Benjamin R Tarbutton (Benjie to folks in Washington County) was appointed to the Georgia Lottery Board. I don’t know if Benjie filled the seat held by Ms Rogers. Benjie is Ben III’s cousin.
Benjie’s father is Hugh Tarbutton, Sr. Hugh Sr. was re-appointed to the Georgia Ports Authority two years ago by Gov Deal. He had served 20 years on the Ports Authority Board but former Gov Sonny Perdue wouldn’t extend his term. Hugh Sr. has donated $157, 200 to Deal’s campaign according to the AJC’s infographic and he is back on the Ports Authority Board. (Hugh Sr. has a son who is also named Hugh, hence the use of Sr. here.)
It gets even cozier.
The Tarbuttons own Sandersville Railroad, a short-line railroad, that would move hundreds of cars of coal every week to Alford’s proposed Plant Washington, if the plant is ever built. They also own B-H Transfer, a trucking company based in Washington County. The Tarbuttons have a vested interest in transportation, and Georgia’s ports are tied to transportation.
Plant Washington will also require thousands of acres of land. The proposed plant site include large tracts of land owned by Hugh Tarbutton, Sr. A few tracts of Plant Washington land that don’t belong to Hugh Sr. are connected to Washington Timberland, LLC. That LLC is registered to Dean Alford. According to county tax records (Tuesday, August 26, 2014), property taxes due in December 2013 by Dean Alford’s LLC are still unpaid, and are subject to auction next month at the Washington County courthouse.
Oh yeah-Debbie D. Alford’s daughter Sasha Dlugolenski, is Governor Deal’s Press Secretary. A complaint was filed against Sasha Dlugolenski earlier this summer concerning her Tweeting in support of her boss, Gov Deal.
People may think Atlanta is the center of power in Georgia, but it seems to tilt towards Washington County and the checkbooks of a few campaign donors.