Fulton County to hire lobbyists as state seeks to control tax rate

By David Pendered

Fulton County on Wednesday is slated to hire a team of lobbyists that includes a top Washington firm and two local Republican firms that have connections at the state Capitol. The annual fee would total $216,000, with a three-year renewal option.

Fulton County's federal lobbyists would seek to ensure continued funding for  program such as the Second Chance Act, which seeks to improve the outcomes for people after their leave the Fulton County jail. Credit: bossip.com

Fulton County’s federal lobbyists would seek to ensure continued funding for program such as the Second Chance Act, which seeks to improve the outcomes for people after their leave the Fulton County jail. Credit: bossip.com

The team at the state Capitol could help Fulton resolve disputes with top Republican lawmakers, who have sued the county over tax collections. The team would include a chief advisor to then Gov. Sonny Perdue, and a former leader of the state GOP who oversaw Republicans begin their take-over of state government in the 1990s.

In Washington, Fulton intends to hire Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm with a strong lobbying presence on Capitol Hill. The firm’s Atlanta office represents a state authority in the proposed sale of most of Fort McPherson to filmmaker Tyler Perry.

According to the pending legislation, the purpose of the lobbying contract is to, “advise county on state and federal legislative issues that may impact county policies and revenues.”

Contracts with all three firms would begin Oct. 15 for a total fee of $45,000, according to county records. The total fee of $216,000 would begin in January, contingent upon the funds being included in the county’s 2015 budget that takes effect Jan. 1, 2015.

The proposal to hire the lobbyists follows a Sept. 18 ruling in a lawsuit filed by top state lawmakers. The lawmakers, led by Rep. Jan Jones (R-Milton), intend to prevent Fulton County from collecting property taxes at the current rate by enforcing a disputed law they helped pass.

Cobb County Senior Superior Court Judge Grant Brantley declined to halt the collections, an issue that is part of a broader effort by the state to set a cap on the tax rate that can be set by Fulton County’s Board of Commissioners. Brantley has yet to rule on the broader issue.

This scoring sheet shows the ratings received by four contenders for Fulton County's lobbying contract. Credit: Fulton County

This scoring sheet shows the ratings received by four contenders for Fulton County’s lobbying contract. Credit: Fulton County

The firms were selected through a competitive bid process. They include:

  • Greenberg Traurig, LLP – The law firm is on a hot streak in Washington, where politico.com reports it has added nearly 40 lobbyists and lawyers this year. In July, the firm attracted a former senator and two former representatives from a firm headlined by former House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The story describes the firm as, “one of the most successful lobbying firms of all time.” Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked there, but the firm was not implicated.
  • Peachtree Government Relations – Don Bolia founded the lobbying firm this year, following his work in a former bi-partisan company with a similar name, Peachtree Government Affairs. Bolia’s clients are in industries including architecture and construction, paving, health care and insurance. Bolia’s lobbying expenses this year total about $1,526, according to state records – all for dinners of state representatives and senators, and the senate staff. Bolia started his political career with Newt Gingrich in Washington and later served as chief of staff to then Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis. Bolia has served as both political director and executive director the state GOP.
  • Thompson Victory Group – Owen Graham Thompson founded the firm in 2008, following three years in the legislative affairs office of Perdue. Thompson’s website says he served Nathan Deal as chief policy advisor when Deal was in Congress, and focused on agriculture, healthcare and telecom. Thompson is the only lobbyist registered to represent amazon.com in Georgia, according to state records. Thompson’s website says he manages governmental affairs in 12 southeastern states for Sprint Nextel. Other clients are in financial services and IT, and healthcare. Thompson’s lobbying expenses this year total about $277, state records show, all for dinners with representatives and senators.

Fulton’s selection team sent a total of 31 bid notices and received responses from seven firms.

The seven firms that responded were:

  • Arnall Golden Gregory, LLP
  • Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  • Holland & Knight, LLP
  • Hall Booth Smith, PC and Alcalde & Fay, LTO
  • Capitol Affairs
  • McKenna Long & Aldridge
  • Troutman Sanders Strategies

Four firms made the short-list and were ranked in the following order:

  1. Greenberg Traurig, LLP
  2. Holland & Knight, LLP
  3. Troutman Sanders Strategies
  4. McKenna Long & Aldridge, LLP

 

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow. David was born in Pennsylvania, grew up in North Carolina and is married to a fifth-generation Atlantan.

3 replies
  1. Burroughston Broch says:

    Fulton County taxpayers would be better served by using the money to reduce County taxes and to protect themselves from County Commissioners.Report

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What are your thoughts?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.