Politics

GOP Lawmakers Want Criminal Investigation Over Cagle Recording

Two Republican state legislators in Georgia are calling for a criminal investigation into Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Two Republican state legislators in Georgia are calling for a criminal investigation into Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
Credit John Amis / Associated Press
Audio version of this story here.

Two Republican state legislators in Georgia are calling for a criminal investigation into Republican Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, a candidate for governor.

But a former prosecutor and law professor said the complaints against Cagle were not “even close” to criminal, and the incidents that brought them about were political maneuvering.

State Sen. Bill Heath and state Rep. Susan Holmes signed a letter requesting an investigation into Cagle that cited two reports from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Heath said the letter – addressed to the U.S Attorney for the Northern District of Georgia, the FBI in Atlanta, and Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard – was sent on Wednesday afternoon.

The first story cited in the letter included a secret recording of Cagle in which he said he backed a bill in the state legislature that was “bad public policy” because if he didn’t, his opponent would have received a $3 million campaign donation.

The second story quoted a Republican state Senator who told the AJC Cagle backed another bill, because it would mean a donation from an outside education group.

“I got a feeling that they [investigators] will uncover more than has been made public,” Sen. Heath said.

“People need to have confidence in their elected officials, that we are acting in their best interest and not being bought off by someone who can use their money to influence legislation. That’s the way our law is setup and I believe that it should be followed.”

Sen. Heath and Rep. Holmes have endorsed Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp in the race for governor. He faces Cagle in a July 24 runoff for the nomination.

Cagle’s statements may hurt his election chances, said Bennett Gershman, a former a special state prosecutor in New York investigating corruption, and professor of law at Pace University.

But a prosecutor is unlikely to bring charges against Cagle, Gershman said.

“I think it’s clearly dirty,” Gershman said. “It’s unethical, maybe. It’s certainly embarrassing. But I think it’s far removed from any criminal violation.”

In an emailed statement, Cagle’s campaign manager attacked Sen. Heath and Rep. Holmes for signing onto the letter.

“No one capable of shame would put their names on such nonsense – and any lawyer who saw this letter would laugh these poor, manipulated souls out of the building,” said Scott Binkley. “But if you take their charge at face value, then they need to be arrested for sending out a purely political letter for the Kemp campaign on what appears to be official state letterhead.”

Spokespeople for the U.S Attorney’s Office and Fulton County District Attorney’s office both said their respective offices had not received the letter. The FBI office in Atlanta did not respond to requests for comment.