Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The business of keeping secrets

I like reading James magazine, but sometimes it's infuriating. From the April issue:
In the early 1980's a scandal that never became public cropped up in state government. One of Georgia's most powerful men - he's now dead - had for decades apparently been entering million-dollar orders with a vendor that did business with this kingpin's very prominent elected office. The problem was that the vendor never produced the product; or at least they never delivered more than a small portion of the orders.

The vendor, also long dead, frantically tried to cover his tracks after the GBI began investigating him. His biggest problem was that his elected official pal had recently died, so the vendor had no political cover and no explanation for the massive fraud.

But this potentially major crime never came to light. The vendor hired what was one of the state's two most recognizable and influential attorneys; a man who had held high office himself.

The whistle blower, a relatively new name in the world of Georgia politics, was persuaded that to stain the memory of the deceased political legend would be a blow that state government could not take - and would likely keep the whistle blower from reaching his own political ambitions.

There were never any indictments. There was never a newspaper story. The whole incident remains the knowledge of a handful of individuals. And dead men tell no tales.

So, this whistle blower - the one who helped hide a multi-million-dollar defrauding of the taxpayers - is he still in state government? Does he, by any chance, have any control over the state budget?

How about the GBI - are they still sweeping other major fraud cases under the rug these days, or was it just this one time?

I had an editor a while back named Bernie O'Donnell. He's at 13WMAZ here in Macon now. One day we were talking about whether or not to print a story. The conversation basically ended when he said: "We're not in the business of keeping secrets."

No, we're not. Perhaps James magazine is, though.

UPDATE: Gary Reese, the magazine's editor, makes me feel much better:
All players in the drama you cite are long gone from state government. We should have made that plain in the article. The whole thing is now an historical curiosity. To ID the watchdog might open a road to identifying all parties involved. I like to refrain from maligning the dead when they have no way to defend themselves. It's that's keeping secrets, then mum's the word. Even so, your point is well taken.


Not anyone said...

someone should investigate...hmm, someone should...I just wish I could think of the name of a dashing bold young journo who wants to make right in the world.

Lucid Idiocy said...

That's a fair point. But I have enough on my plate without trying to crack a 28 year old case.

And it sounds to me like someone already knows a hell of a lot about it, and they're running a magazine.

Raleighwood said...

That's the beauty and mystery of Georgia politics. Brings back memories of Ronnie Thompson and other capers in our state! BTW