Category Archives: Political Wankery

The Open Records law and Kirby Smart’s sudden bout of modesty

Here’s a story.

Kirby Smart acknowledged Tuesday that he was indeed asked about Georgia’s Open Records laws when he visited the state capitol recently. But Georgia’s new head football coach said he “doesn’t deserve credit” for a controversial measure that slows the public’s access to athletics information.

The bill, brought up and agreed to late on the night of March 22, would allow athletics programs in the state of Georgia to wait 90 days to respond to inquiries under the Open Records Law. That has been decried by First Amendment advocates.

The chief of staff to one of the bill’s co-sponsors, State Sen. Bill Cowsert, told the Macon Telegraph that it “came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA.”

Smart was asked about that after Tuesday’s practice.

“First of all, I shouldn’t get any credit for that,” Smart said. “When I went over to the capitol I was asked what’s the difference in our program and some programs I’ve been at in the past. One of the things I brought up, there’s a difference. And that was the extent of my conversation with those guys about that.

“So for me to get the credit for that is a little bit misleading.”

“Credit”?  I’d say that word doesn’t mean what Kirby Smart thinks it means, except I think he does know.  Exactly.  Which is why he declined to elaborate further when asked.

Smart declined a follow-up question on whether he felt changing the response time from three days to 90 was something the football program needs.

“I’ll be honest with you. I want to talk about our football program, and football practice,” Smart said. “That has nothing to do with as far as our practice today. I would rather answer questions regarding that. Appreciate it.”

Kirby is far from alone in wishing to avoid taking credit.

Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity, who has declined comment on the legislation, attended Smart’s press conference on Tuesday but left as soon as it ended. It’s rare for McGarity to attend such post-practice press conferences.

UGA president Jere Morehead “did not have a role in the legislation,” according to a spokesman in the University System Office in Atlanta.

I’m having trouble adjusting to McGarity as the strong, silent type.  Maybe Mark Bradley can get him to open up.

Anyway, here’s another story.

A House amendment to Senate Bill 323 was agreed upon and passed with the underlying bill last week, a little past midnight on March 23, which will allow for state athletics departments to delay open records requests for 90 days as opposed to three, which is what the law currently states.

Smart was asked what he told legislators on his involvement on getting this amendment through the General Assembly. Smart deferred credit but did say he spoke to lawmakers as to what could be done to help improve the Georgia football program…

With his response, Smart admitted he had a private conversation on the subject with the Georgia legislature. Prior to Smart being questioned about his role with the potential new law, which has been sent to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for a signature, Tom Krause, the Chief of Staff of state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, said Smart was the key influence to members of the General Assembly deciding to act.

“It’s a similar subject that, from what I understand, came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA,” Krause said. “It had to do with football teams or athletic departments that are recruiting people in state of Georgia. They had a (shorter) window where the documents were not yet public, but other states had 90 days.”

So, ultimately, here’s what you’re being asked to swallow here:

  1. In the midst of recruiting, organizing the program and his very first spring practice preparation, Kirby Smart somehow found the time to show up for a friendly chat with the folks in the Georgia General Assembly.
  2. In the midst of a typically contentious session, members of the Georgia General Assembly found the time to ask what could be done to help the Georgia football program.
  3. Kirby Smart casually mentioned that Nick Saban has an easier time of responding to open records requests but didn’t make a big deal of it, even though he’s described as “the key influence to members of the General Assembly deciding to act”.
  4. Just as casually, Georgia legislators tacked an amendment on to an existing bill that gives Butts-Mehre unprecedented scope in responding to open records requests in the future.
  5. Even though the bill’s scope clearly exceeds the stated nonsensical goal of protecting recruiting secrets, neither Georgia’s athletic director nor its president had anything to do with it.

I’ll buy number two on that list, but the rest requires a leap of faith I’m not capable of taking.  Before Kirby Smart ever showed up to glad hand, or whatever you want to call it, somebody laid the groundwork and found a representative or two willing to carry the athletic department’s water.  Somebody told Kirby Smart what he could expect on his visit.  And whoever that somebody is was shrewd enough to hide the proposal behind Kirby Smart’s honeymoon and the annoying fanboy concern about Georgia’s recruiting against Smart’s old boss.

That’s some effective lobbying there.  So why not step up and take credit for it, especially since Kirby sounds like he’s more than willing to share?  You don’t have to be so modest, mystery man.  If it’s all about recruiting, what citizen of this great state could possibly object, right?


Filed under Georgia Football, It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, Political Wankery

Today, in strained political analogies

Feel the Bern:

For Bernie Sanders, superdelegates are “kind of like” college football recruits, his campaign press secretary remarked Monday.

“I think what’s important to remember here is that superdelegates are kind of like football recruits,” said Symone Sanders in an interview with CNN’s “New Day.” “You know, they say they are coming but until they have signed on the dotted line and they’re in practice, you don’t know that they’re all the way with you and that they’re on your team…”

Hoo, boy.  If Nick Saban suddenly shows up as an advisor to the Sanders campaign, I guess we’ll know why.

By the way, Bernie, you know they say to win over recruits, you have to start by winning over their mamas.


Filed under Political Wankery

Just because they are doesn’t mean we should be.

I’m going to let Jason Butt have the last word on the change to Georgia’s Open Records law I posted about last week, because it’s eloquent enough to leave things there.

Exercising additional secrecy in government is a scary thought. Sure, this involves Georgia athletics and the average fan, who probably doesn’t care a whole lot about the subject, might even think this is a great idea because now reporters have a much longer time to possibly discover NCAA violations or any other dirt that could sully the reputation of the program.

But if it can happen in athletics, it can happen with any government sector. Now that athletics departments are possibly exempt from the three-day guideline, what’s next? This isn’t a football story, really. It’s more so dealing with the right of the public to know how its tax dollars are being used.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, was either duped or knowingly lied on the House floor late Tuesday night.

“At that recruiting time of year they get absolutely inundated with people wanting to have that recruiting information, and it’s not a level playing field because Georgia, our athletic associations, are private in and of themselves, and they don’t have that capacity, so this just allows that type of level playing field,” Ehrhart said.

That’s just wrong.

It’s the kind of embarrassing sports take that would get you laughed out of a backyard barbecue because it has no basis in fact. No recruiting reporter uses an abundance of open records requests to find out who Georgia is recruiting. Those reporters find that information out by talking to players themselves, high school coaches and the college programs recruiting the players. Fans can track where recruits are visiting by following them on Twitter. It’s that simple.

And while claiming this as a need for secrecy, the SB 323 amendment allows all intercollegiate documents — not just recruiting ones — to be delayed for 90 days.

So if you’re among those who admit Ehrhart’s excuse is hogwash but supports this amendment, you support a lie. Think about that for a moment. This amendment’s design is to delay and limit information to the media and to any taxpaying citizen of Georgia afforded the right of filing an open records request. This isn’t a specific privilege the media has. We all have it. And in this case, Ehrhart and state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, both misrepresented the amendment’s intention on the House and Senate floors.

And if they weren’t intending to mislead folks, they need to take a refresher course in sports because what they were sold in the most minor of backroom deals makes no sense. Cowsert presented the amendment to his fellow state senators, with the majority agreeing on it. In doing so, he pitched the recruiting angle, and 30 of his colleagues agreed that this bill, in a heated legislative session featuring many way-more-important bills, was necessary without review.

As much as I care about Georgia football, it offends me to see elected officials take advantage of fans’ passion to vote for something that isn’t in the public’s interest.  If Rep. Ehrhart was duped, what’s everyone else’s excuse?


UPDATE:  Though when I see a StingTalk message board thread header like “GA Congress Passes Kirby Smart Cheating Protection Bill”, I have to admit that maybe there’s more stoopid going around than I thought.


Filed under Georgia Football, Political Wankery

We’re not on a need-to-know basis. Why?

But McGarity doesn’t keep those journals anymore. He told me he quit doing it once he realized such recordings are subject to Georgia’s – as well as Florida’s – open records, or “sunshine” laws.

In fact, McGarity claims he doesn’t write anything down anymore, via pen or digital key stroke. He said he conducts as much of UGA’s athletics business as he possibly can “verbally,” so that there’s no record of it.

Chip Towers, AJ-C, March 24, 2016

You know, it’s funny.  We’ve had a couple of spirited debates at the blog this week about politically-related matters.  The one in response to the religious liberty bill that’s awaiting its fate with the governor, even though our discussion wandered far afield from the issue I posted about and even though some of you have been fairly heated in the bill’s defense or on the other side… well, that one hasn’t bothered me, because while I disagree on the policy, I can certainly understand and respect why some passionately advocate for the bill’s passage.

It’s the change to Georgia’s Open Records law and the reaction from many of you to it that has me scratching my head this morning.  I mean, here’s something that passes in the 23rd hour with little or no debate to speak of and gives a narrowly tailored break to a special interest.  Regardless of where you line up on the political spectrum, from avowed libertarian to Bernie Sanders’ staunchest supporter, by itself, that’s the kind of stuff that should get your hackles up.

Instead, many of you appear to be full-throated supporters of the rule change, and for the life of me, I can’t figure out why, other than perhaps from a knee-jerkish coach good/media bad perspective.  But I’d like to understand.  So for those of you who think the longer delay is a great thing for Georgia football, I’ve got a few questions for which I’d like to hear your answers.

Start with this one:  how does this change in the law help the football program win?  Or, to put it more crudely, if you thought Georgia was going to win, say, nine games this season, how many more wins this year do you see this new reporting delay adding?

I realize by starting there, I’m contributing to the fiction that this is about the football team and Kirby Smart’s recruiting efforts.  I’m not the one selling that.  Georgia’s lawmakers are.

“It’s a similar subject that, from what I understand, came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA,” Krause said in a phone interview with The Telegraph. “It had to do with football teams or athletic departments that are recruiting people in state of Georgia. They had a (shorter) window where the documents were not yet public, but other states had 90 days.”

Chip Towers has a rebuttal to that…

I see that some fans are applauding this as a move that is somehow going to “level the playing field” with Alabama and Auburn and some of the Bulldogs’ other rivals in football. Ehrhart actually asserted as much. But I fail to see how this bill could possibly have an effect on anything that happens on the football field.

Just so you know, here’s how we generally utilize public-record laws in the course of doing our jobs covering UGA athletics. At regular intervals, we ask Georgia for:

  • Documentation of any NCAA rules violations committed by any of their sports programs;
  • Copies of any new employment contracts or salary actions;
  • Copies of any new game contracts they might have made in football or other sports.

Yes, occasionally, we’ll ask for some kind of specific information like we did last month with regard to recruiting travel. All that happened there was it became apparent in December and January that Smart was traveling a lot by private jet and occasionally by helicopter to recruit and conduct UGA football business.

Somebody at the office asked the simple question, “I wonder what that costs?” So we asked Georgia.

And Georgia dutifully complied by producing the receipts and expense outlays. The public had a right to know. And certainly UGA Hartman Fund donors, who give athletics in the neighborhood of $22 million to $24 million a year for the right to buy season football tickets, had a right to know that the Bulldogs had run up more than $550,000 in private-air expenses since Smart came on board.

How in the world any of that could have prevented Georgia or will prevent Georgia from winning one football game is beyond me.

One thing I’ve never asked for, and I’m guessing nobody else does either, is for a list of recruits planning to make official visits on a given weekend. That was the assertion of Ehrhart in one of his comments on the need for this legislation. If ever we’ve wanted to know who is visiting UGA, we ask the recruits themselves. I suspect everyone else does, too.

… and while that’s all fine, it, too, skirts the question.  Kirby Smart is just the face they put on this bill to make the medicine go down smoothly.  The real beneficiary is Georgia’s athletic department and its athletic director, which leads me to my second question for you happy people.  If you haven’t been content with Greg McGarity’s management of Georgia athletics, how is allowing him to cloak his actions for any extended length of time a good thing?

There’s a third question worth considering, although maybe it’s just something that comes from me having a blogger’s perspective on this.  Sure, this new law will put a damper on any would-be Pork Rind Jimmys in our midst, but what exactly do you expect the professional media will do in response?  If a story worth investigating comes up, are reporters simply going to look at each other, shrug and say, “well, boys, I guess we’ll have to wait ninety days before we can do anything”?

Hardly likely.  Instead, they’ll do what the media does.  They’ll find other avenues from which to dig out the story.  And it’s worth remembering that there will be more stories.  You don’t go to the General Assembly to ask for help like this unless you know there will be more stories that you want to keep under wraps as long as you can.  (And it’s the Watergate-era in me, I suppose, that makes me believe the coverup is always worse than the original misstep.) So what exactly is being gained here, other than to inconvenience people you don’t like?  Is that really worth giving up finding out on a timely basis – or maybe even at all – about something that matters to you?

I’d like to understand what I’m missing here, especially since the folks who passed the law don’t seem to have given that much thought.  Help me out in the comments, those of you who think this is the best thing for Georgia football since Erk Russell.  (Yes, I know I exaggerate.  A little.)


Filed under Georgia Football, Political Wankery

Kirby Smart, lobbyist

This stuff just gets buttah and buttah.

Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart is the highest paid state employee in Georgia at a salary of $3.75 million per year. Along with the money the position brings is the influence — by his own recourse or not — of having a beneficial amendment added to a Georgia Senate bill that will allow for state athletics associations to delay the release of open records

So how does such an amendment involving the delayed release of open records from college athletics departments show up in a bill dealing with economic development that late? Tom Krause, the chief of staff of state Sen. Bill Cowsert, R-Athens, who presented SB 323 to the Senate, gave an answer to the question.

“It’s a similar subject that, from what I understand, came to light through Kirby Smart at UGA,” Krause said in a phone interview with The Telegraph. “It had to do with football teams or athletic departments that are recruiting people in state of Georgia. They had a (shorter) window where the documents were not yet public, but other states had 90 days.”

Whether Smart or the Georgia athletics department had anything to do with this bill has yet to be confirmed. Georgia athletics director Greg McGarity and the university through a spokesperson both deferred comment…

No comment?  Maybe Greg is finally wising up.

Which doesn’t mean we won’t hear the question being asked further.

Smart isn’t scheduled to speak with reporters until Tuesday. It’s yet another hot-topic issue his name has been tied to — the first being a change in stance regarding Georgia players wishing to transfer from the football program.

One can only hope that Kirby’s doing a better job of constructing an explanation than we heard at his last presser.  In any event, for a man who’s been on the job less than three months, he’s covering a helluva lot of bases.

Final word on this, though, belongs in the political sphere.  Take it away, Mr. Lieutenant Governor.

“I hope it brings us a national championship,” Cagle said. “That’s what I hope.”

Sadly, I suspect that’s how most of those folks think.  As I like to say, we get the government we deserve.


UPDATE:  So much for that “level playing field” BS.

Georgia’s current law is that a school must produce a requested record within three days, or provide a timetable at that time. A bill that Ehrhart co-sponsored is now on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk, and would expand that to 90 days. That would severely hinder the ability of the media to provide real-time watchdog ability on athletics departments and teams, according to media members and open records advocates.

A survey of other state bylaws show that most others in the SEC’s footprint have pretty short response times:

  • Tennessee: Seven days.
  • South Carolina: Fifteen days.
  • Mississippi: Seven days to respond and acknowledge the receipt of the request. Fourteen days to fulfill it.
  • Louisiana: Three days.
  • Texas: Ten days.
  • Missouri: Three days.
  • Kentucky: Three days.

In all of the above cases, those are business days, excluding weekends and holidays.

Florida and Alabama don’t have specific time frames in their statutes, but use “reasonable” as the standard.  As you can imagine, reasonableness is in the eye of the beholder.  And even including those cases, Georgia is doing something special in comparison.

But where Georgia will be unique is in having a separate state law for athletic departments, with protecting the Bulldogs – and specifically its football team – the stated aim.

Go Dawgs!


Filed under Georgia Football, Political Wankery

Bad for Mickey’s business

Disney is threatening Nathan Deal with a boycott if Deal signs the religious liberty bill into law.  On its face, that affects Georgia’s movie bidness, although for the bill’s supporters, that might be more of a feature than a bug.  (Ed Kilgore notes there’s always been a little tension between culture and Mammon when it comes to handing out those movie-making tax credits:  “It’s becoming a regular amusement to watch right-wing politicians who blame Hollywood and its godless liberals and Jews for poisoning American culture turn around and offer to help pay for all the filth so long as it is produced locally.”)

That’s not what I’m really interested in, though.  Disney owns ESPN.  Is it possible the hostility could trickle down to there in some form or fashion?  As we’ve seen in Louisiana, mentioning that college football could be affected by state policy is at least perceived as being an effective threat.  I don’t know if that translates over to Georgia and this bill, but does anyone really want to chance that?

As Ed concludes, “Hollywood is influential in Georgia. But football is holy.”


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery

“It just allows us to play on the same field as Alabama and everybody else.”

The Sabanization of Georgia continues apace.

Except I’m not talking about the University of Georgia.  I’m talking about Georgia’s state government.

An amendment attached to an unrelated records bill passed by the state House and Senate late Tuesday states that “athletic departments and related private athletic associations” will have 90 days to process open records requests. The lone exception to this would be to access salaries for “nonclerical staff,” which includes coaches and other various athletic department staffers.

Senate Bill 323 with the attached amendment will be sent to Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk for a signature.

This law would change how the University of Georgia operates, given that current law states that it must provide access to existing public records within three business days of it being requested, or the agency must give a timetable for how long it will take to produce the records.

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart, R-Powder Springs, is a co-sponsor of the amendment and said the intention is to add extra time in returning open record requests as other states and athletic departments are afforded.

“This will help the startup programs, this applies to every single intercollegiate program in this state, every university from the University of Georgia  … [to] any intercollegiate sport at a D2, D3 school,” Ehrhart said. “It just allows us to play on the same field as  Alabama and everybody else.”

This is absurd.  And what is with this “us” shit, anyway?  I must have missed seeing Ehrhart in the coaches’ booth last season.

What it’s really about is shielding B-M from having to say much about you know what.

National Signing Day, when high school athletes can sign National Letters of Intent with universities to play college athletics, occurred this year on Feb. 3. The Atlanta Journal Constitution published a lengthy story on how much money Georgia’s athletic department spent on recruiting-related expenses since Smart took the job on Feb. 21.

“At that recruiting time of year they get absolutely inundated with people wanting to have that recruiting information and it’s not a level playing field because Georgia, our athletic associations, are private in and of themselves and they don’t have that capacity, so this just allows that type of level playing field,” Ehrhart said.

Ehrhart claims this amendment won’t restrict information.

Do I really need to ask the question when can you tell a politician is making things up?

Maybe we just need to offer the Georgia governorship to Nick Saban.  Resistance appears to be futile.  Besides, doesn’t every Georgian deserve a level playing field?


Filed under It's All Just Made Up And Flagellant, Nick Saban Rules, Political Wankery