The vote for Chairman of the State Republican Party on Saturday is dramatically heating up due to comments surrounding the federal indictment of Georgia Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck.  Also a topic of debate will be the party’s finances and voter outreach.

Following Beck’s surrender to federal authorities on charges he used an elaborate scheme to steal in excess of $2 million from his former employer, one of the candidates for State Chairman — Scott Johnson — publicly called for Beck to resign in a Facebook posting. Johnson posted: As this unfortunate process involving Georgia’s Insurance Commissioner plays out, having heard the U.S. Attorney’s press conference, and after reading the indictments, I strongly urge Jim Beck to be proactive and resign as Insurance Commissioner. This is the right decision for our Party and the right decision for Georgia.

Johnson then posted on Facebook, tying his opponent for State Chairman David Shafer to Beck, causing a war of words, not only between Johnson and Shafer, but with their supporters, as well.

The Posts:

Scott Johnson:

“The Georgia Republican Party does not need another leader clouded in controversy. David Shafer and Jim Beck have been intertwined for decades in both business and government agencies. This includes the fact that David Shafer sits on the board that approved all of Jim Beck’s allegedly criminal invoices at the Georgia Underwriting Association. As a business executive, I find it nearly impossible that 2 million dollars could be paid out for services that were largely never rendered and someone not notice. Whether it was negligence or compliance – either way Shafer failed by allowing Beck to continue his scheme right under his nose. The Governor, myself and others have called for Jim Beck’s resignation. David Shafer has yet to ask for Jim Beck’s resignation. That, in itself, is a problem. The AJC reported: “Shafer has pointed us to a statement by the Georgia Underwriting Association that noted the group is ‘considered by investigators to be the victim of this alleged crime.’” David Shafer is not a victim in this crime. If he is elected as chairman to lead our party it will be the Republican Party who is the victim, because we will have elected a Chairman who is in the media for all the wrong reasons and has ties to elected officials clouded in controversy, including himself, spanning decades. We need a Chairman who is focused on winning elections, not their own PR battles.”

 

David Shafer:

“The United States Attorney has made absolutely clear that the Georgia Underwriting Association was the VICTIM of this alleged wrongdoing and that its leaders cooperated fully with the investigation. I agree with Governor Kemp and will support whatever action he deems necessary. It is so deeply disappointing that someone I considered a friend would make such false and reckless allegations to win a party office. At the outset, we agreed to campaign with integrity. One of us has kept that promise.”

Scott Johnson:

“David Shafer, in an attempt to be a victim, yet again you have claimed I’ve falsely attacked you. So let’s go one by one and address my “false and reckless allegations.”

1) True or False: You served on the board that approved all of Jim Becks alleged criminal invoices?

2) True or False: You have worked with Jim Beck both in business and Government agencies?

3) True or False: you have not specifically called for Jim Beck’s resignation? (though your political side step was quite impressive)”

David Shafer:

“Scott Johnson, the answer to each of your three questions is FALSE:

  1. The Board never approved the allegedly fraudulent invoices.
  2. I have never had any business dealings with Jim Beck.
  3. Read my statement agreeing with Governor Kemp.

The United States Attorney made absolutely clear that the Georgia Underwriting Association was the victim of the alleged crime, that no other individual associated with the GUA was implicated and that the leaders of GUA cooperated fully with the investigation. It is so sad and worrisome to read your wild and defamatory late night Facebook postings.”

A final note.  The position of party treasurer is also a spirited contest to be voted upon.  Controversy has swirled in recent years over the party’s debts as well as its fundraising capacity.  Here is a link to the party’s current financial status: in April the Georgia GOP reported more than $138,000 in debt with just $100,000 in cash on hand.

UPDATE: 

In a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp, Beck stated that he is authorizing the governor to suspend him from the office of Insurance Commissioner until his case is decided.

While suspended, Beck will continue to draw his $120,000/year salary.

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