Congrats to Sonny Perdue on becoming President Donald Trump’s secretary of agriculture.
Trump seems to be adept at picking like-minded folks. For example, both Perdue and Trump have made some questionable ethical decisions, particularly around their finances. Like president, like secretary, as they say?
And at the same time, back in 2006, Perdue faced accusations of signing a tax bill to benefit himself. As the AJC so adeptly lays out:
“The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported in 2006 that the governor spent $2 million on land near Disney World, bought from a developer he’d appointed to the state’s economic development board in 2004. The next legislative session, a bill passed with a backdated provision allowing him to defer about $100,000 in capital gains taxes on the sale of family land that provided the money for the Florida purchase. As he campaigned for re-election, Perdue said he didn’t know he would benefit from the tax break before he signed the measure into law.”
Perdue, like Trump now, had people who were close to him manage his assets, and did not place them in a blind trust. In both cases, it leads to questions about ethics, particularly when a leader can make financial gains from their decisions.
Both Perdue and Trump seem to be willing to break a long-held tradition of placing assets in a blind trust, so that as an influential elected leader, there’s no conflict of interest between the best decision for your family’s economic future and the present well-being of the state.
It’s a funny problem to have to begin with, because it speaks to the significant wealth disparities that exist in this country. Many Americans don’t have much in the way of assets, so this wouldn’t be a problem most of us would have to deal with if elected to office.
While in office, Perdue also came under fire for a land deal — buying land near his home — that he did not disclose as required. The following year, the state passed on buying a pristine piece of forest in the same area and it instead went to private developers. The planned Oaky Woods development sent real estate prices in the area soaring, and raising more than a few eyebrows about then Gov. Perdue’s decision not to disclose his own interest in the matter.
Of course, no official connection between the two sales was made. But these sorts of things make it hard to trust elected leaders.
Now, Trump seems to be on track to face similar ethically curious incidents. Oh well, at least he’ll be in good company.