On Sunday, the governor’s hometown newspaper revealed a major concern with a personal business deal the governor tried to bury in the July 4 news cycle.
Thanks to the Gainesville Times, we know today that the company that recently bought Gov. Deal’s auto salvage business in Gainesville owes the state of Georgia $74 million in back taxes and penalties.
In a nutshell:
Nathan Deal had a political problem when he walked into the governor’s office because of ballooning personal debt and lingering ethical concerns over his auto salvage business. Today we know the company that recently solved one of Gov. Deal’s biggest political and financial problems has it’s own $74 million problem with unpaid taxes and penalties owed to the state.
We are calling on Gov. Deal to collect every penny of back taxes and penalties owed to the state by Copart Inc., the governor’s newest tenant and one of the state’s biggest debtors.
And we’re calling on the governor to tell Georgia taxpayers what he knew about Copart’s debt to the state and when did he know it.
Before running for governor, Deal faced allegations he violated ethics rules in Congress by lobbying Georgia officials to favor and protect his auto salvage business at 1602 Athens Highway. Less than two months after the allegations were filed, Congressman Deal ended his $300,000 per year business agreement with the state.
After winning election, Deal faced ballooning debt. He gave a trustee “unilateral authority over his homes, his investments, [and] his half-interest in an automobile-salvage company,” according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At the time, the newspaper reported that Deal gave up “an unprecedented level of control over his assets and debts before he takes office.”
Fast forward to May 14, 2013. Gov. Deal’s “blind trust” sold the political albatross to one of the state’s largest debtors, a Texas-based company that owes nearly $74 million in back taxes and penalties.
Gov. Deal and his business partner made $4 million up front on the sale, plus they still own the land and get $240,000 per year in lease payments, or another $2.4 million. (At the end of 10 years, Copart Inc. can buy the land for just north of $4 million).
On July 3, seven weeks after the business deal became final, the public finds out about the transaction. The AJC reported that Gov. Deal personally “signed off” on the sale, even though the business was operated by a trust that was reported to have “unilateral authority” over the business.
Here are just a few of the questions that taxpayers deserve answers to:
- If Gov. Deal’s businesses are in a “blind” trust, why did he personally “sign-off” on selling Gainesville Salvage to Copart, Inc.?
- Other than Copart Inc., who are the state’s top corporate tax debtors?
- Are there any businesses that owe the state more than $74 million?
- How much corporate debt is owed to the state and is the state trying to collect?
- Who is Copart Inc.?
- If Copart Inc. is in the same auto salvage business as Gov. Deal, what did he know about the company before the business transaction?
We encourage you to call reporters and write letters to the editor at your local newspaper and TV station. Ask them to find answers to these questions and more. Here are a few numbers to help you get started:
- Athens Banner-Herald | 706-208-2211
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution | 404-526-7003 | firstname.lastname@example.org
- Augusta Chronicle | 706-724-0851 Ext.2
- Columbus Ledger-Enquirer | 706-571-8565
- The Gainesville Times | 770-532-2222
- Macon Telegraph | 478-744-4411
- Savannah Morning-News | 912-652-0327
- Valdosta Daily Times | 229-244-1880 Ext.3
- WSB-TV | 404-897-7000 | email@example.com
We wouldn’t know as much as we do today without the reporting of the Gainesville Times and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Ask them to keep digging.
It’s critically important that you tell your local newspaper and TV station that you want answers to these questions. Without your call, local reporters may choose to work on other, less important stories today. Georgia taxpayers deserve answers.