Candidate for Georgia Governor Bought Condo From Lobbyist
6/1By Greg Bluestein
Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle bought a condo in downtown Atlanta a decade ago from a well-connected energy lobbyist who owned the unit next door.
The $97,000 condo purchase, first reported by The New York Times, involved a 2008 sale of a unit at the Landmark high-rise, which is known for "hospitality rooms" stocked by lobbyists for lawmakers. It was sold by Terry Hobbs, a veteran lobbyist who represented the natural gas firm Scana Energy.
The condo was appraised at the time for $127,800, roughly 24 percent higher than the sale value. In an interview, Hobbs pointed to other units in the building that were sold at comparable or lower prices during the volatile economic downturn of the late 2000s.
"I thought I got a very good deal on it," he said in an interview. "I was tickled to death to be able to turn it over."
Cagle told the Times that it was a "legitimate transaction" between a willing buyer and a willing seller. And he said that Hobbs had not lobbied him on any issue near the time of the sale. He sold it last year, as he was preparing a run for governor, for $125,000.
Cagle faces a July 24 runoff against Secretary of State Brian Kemp, and his campaign is grappling with the fallout of two revelations involving private discussions over contentious education legislation.
He was secretly recorded by a former rival saying he supported "bad public policy" by pushing a private school tax credit expansion to try to undercut another opponent.
And a GOP state senator said Cagle insisted on passing a measure to increase charter school funding to secure $2 million from an outside group. Cagle has denied any wrongdoing, and he characterized the conversations as a "political exchange."
Cagle's campaign said he bought the apartment for his three sons, who were students at Georgia State University. He said he posted a notice in the building's lobby and soon received a call from Hobbs to broker a sale. They closed the deal without a real estate agent.
"There was no bickering, there was no dealing," said Hobbs, who said several real estate agents had earlier told him his asking price was too high. "I thought I got a better deal out of it than Casey. I thought he was going to be mad at me when he realized prices were going down."
Hobbs said he lived next door to the Cagle sons for several years, but never saw Cagle in the building and rarely saw his children. He said he got no special favors from the lieutenant governor, who presides over the state Senate, for brokering the deal.
"It had no impact on my legislation," he said. "I've been down at the Capitol since the early 2000s and I've never had my credibility or integrity questioned."
Hobbs is a veteran lobbyist well known by both statehouse politicians and members of the utility regulating Public Service Commission. He frequently took lawmakers to sporting events back when giving legislators tickets was legal.
Over the past decade, Hobbs has reported spending more than $150,000 on lawmakers and state officials, making him one of the highest-spending lobbyists in the state. He also regularly shared in the cost of "hospitality suites" at the Landmark, where many lawmakers owned or rented condos.
A 2013 Atlanta Journal-Constitution article showed about 40 percent of all lobbyist spending on members of the PSC over a four-year period came from Hobbs. He paid for lodging, hunting trips and more than 100 meals for three PSC members over that period, often picking up the tab for their wives as well.
(c)2018 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)