Is it power that corrupts or is it being a member of the Republican party?
With the GOP’s barely contested strategy of trying to dominate control of state governments across the nation, they have power in spades and ample opportunity to misuse that control for corrupt ends.
It’s been demonstrated by the election fraud scandal in North Carolina, numerous sex scandals across the country, and voter suppression in multiple states, most notoriously in Georgia where the state election supervisor was allowed to run the mechanics of the voting in a contest in which he himself was running for governor.
Georgia is also the location of the latest scandal to envelop a major state Republican official, insurance and safety fire commissioner Jim Beck, who was indicted on 38 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering yesterday after being elected just last November, according to a report by Fox affiliate WAGA-TV in Atlanta.
“The indictment alleges Beck defrauded a state-established insurance company by helping set up fake companies to produce fraudulent invoices,” the TV station reports. “Beck is also accused of involving the Georgia Christian Coalition in the fraud scheme. In total, the indictment alleges Beck used fraudulent schemes to embezzle more than $2 million between 2013 and 2018,” the report continues.
Commissioner Beck surrendered to federal authorities this morning after the indictment with his attorneys denying all the charges against him.
According to WAGA-TV, Beck’s attorney Bill Thomas said, “Jim strongly denies these charges, and we intend to mount a vigorous defense. Jim is justifiably proud of the work that he did at the Georgia Underwriting Association (“GUA”). Any accusation that he defrauded GUA is false.”
Thomas added, “He acted legally and in good faith. Under his leadership, for the first time in its history, GUA made millions of dollars of profits. Jim looks forward to clearing his good name. We are also pleased to note that these allegations do not relate to Jim’s performance as the Commissioner of Insurance where, among other things, he has led the fight against insurance fraud and for transparency. The allegations relate solely to his prior work experience at a private, non-governmental association for insurance companies. Jim looks forward to continuing his work as Insurance Commissioner protecting Georgia consumers.”
Despite his attorney’s protestations, the indictment that charges Beck presents the grand jury’s evidence of felonious embezzlement in great detail.
It appears that — like the Trump administration itself — the Georgia Republican party is woefully failing to attract “only the best people” to its ranks. Unfortunately, with the state election apparatus still firmly within the party’s control, the struggle to oust the party from the helm of state government will be a long and difficult slog unless serious progress is made in reforming the conduct of voter registration and elections in the state.
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Original reporting by Dale Russell and Cal Callaway at WAGA-TV in Atlanta.