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Cracker Squire


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Location: Douglas, Coffee Co., The Other Georgia, United States

Sid in his law office where he sits when meeting with clients. Observant eyes will notice the statuette of one of Sid's favorite Democrats.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I confess that the man is damned if he does and damned if he doesn't as far as I am concerned -- Commissioner of Insurance John Oxendine

You know the type -- it matters not what he or she does, you always suspect a rat, an ulterior motive, etc.

Well, I readily confess that this is my immediate thought and reaction to anything I read or head about what John Oxendine has said or done.

Friday I read in an insurance industry publication Insurance Journal: "Ga. Commissioner Fines Loan Company $400,000." Then in the weekend edition of one of our local papers I find the same article.

Just another press release from the Commissioner's office -- hardly? In this one the Commissioner is claiming to have actually done something that his job description requires him to do.

My cynical reaction -- what a dumb loan company. Doesn't it know that even though "cuff link Carl" Sanders beat "they ate my bar-b-que Marvin Griffin" decades ago, the same rules still prevail in certain departments in state government?

And even if that Georgia gubernatorial race -- being in 1962 and that represented good's triumph over evil for me when I was 13 -- was before this loan company's time, didn't it's officers see The Godfather? You pay up one way or the other.

(As an aside, 1962 was an important year in Georgia history. That year in Westberry v. Sanders a federal court invalidated our state's county-unit system, and thus was born the one man one vote concept. And Gov. Sanders became Georgia's first governor elected by popular vote rather than under the county-unit system. The county-unit system was somewhat akin to the electoral college on the federal scene, but with significant differences.)

(For the what it's worth department, while I generally agree with doing away with the county unit system -- there is some logic to having our state senate comprised differently than the state house just as it is with the U.S. Senate, not necessarily by county, but on some other basis than just one man one vote -- currently I am not in favor of doing away with the electoral college. It might need some revising, I really don't know; all I know about it is what I learned in college while minoring in political science and watching it every four years. Thus I am not an expert in the subject to say the least. But I do know that I don't want New York, California, Florida and Pennsylvania being the only states that determine who our president will be. But I digress big-time, and back to Commissioner Oxendine and unsolving the mystery: did he actually fine a company that had contributed to his campaign.)

Well, I checked out the poor company, and you are not going to believe what I found out. According to Cathy with a "C" Cox's records, the company -- Covington Credit of Georgia Inc. -- has made no contributions to his majesty. Not directly; not toward his state car with its leather seats and upgraded CD player and a premium cassette player and police package; nothing. What was the company thinking.

Now if the company was overcharging, put it to 'em, shut it down, make it hurt, whatever it takes. $400,000, if that won't do it, make it $4,000.000. If you are regulated under the Georgia Industrial Loan Act, you are already loaning funds to those least likely to be able to repay.

Well, although it was no surprise to learn that Covington Credit of Georgia, Inc. -- being a company that the Commissioner regulates and one that he fined -- had made no contribution to his majesty, I did find a couple of items of interest.

The first item of interest: Even though we are two years away from the Commissioner's re-election or his trying to move up the ladder to Lt. Gov. or some other office, he still needs the assistance of some heavy duty "campaign" advice, to the tune of paying $17,000 in January of 2004 to McLaughlin & Associates of New York for "campaign consulting."

Maybe Oxedine was paying this New York outfit to advise him that under Georgia law his office is not bound by the opinion of the Office of Inspector General (yes, this is one of the Governor's arms).

You remember the opinion and report: Georgia Insurance Commissioner Oxendine blatantly disregarded a state ban on automobile purchases and should repay taxpayers for the car with luxury upgrades that he bought, according to this report by the state's Inspector General.

Continuing, it said that if Oxendine does not repay the state the $25,689 he spent to purchase a 2003 Ford Crown Victoria with leather seats and six-disc CD player, the state Attorney General's office should consider forcing him to comply, Inspector General James Sehorn wrote in this report.

"Commissioner Oxendine's actions were in blatant disregard for established authority," this report stated. "When informed that he would not be allowed to purchase his automobile, his response was, in general, 'Try and stop me.' "

The second item of interest: What or who is "Oxendine Working for Georgia" at 1498 Buford Hwy, Sugar Hill, GA 30518-0000, which was good for a $5,000 expenditure in May 2004 as a "contribution" from Oxendine's campaign fund?

Were these payments indirectly relieving some of the Commissioner's financial pain for getting right when he succumbed to public pressure and undid what he would not even then concede was wrong anyway? Probably not; both probably as legitimate as they can be.

But this guy needs to clean up his public perception so that people who by nature are not cynical and who are trusting -- yes, I am talking about myself -- will not doubt what he says because he is the one saying it. Maybe the $17,000 campaign expenditure was for a course on being diplomatic and making a good public impression, and I just haven't been able to notice the results.

Oxendine's press release in my hard copy of The Douglas Enterprise reports that as Insurance Commissioner, Oxendine is responsible for regulating companies that make consumer loans of $3,000 or less under the Georgia Industrial Loan Act., and concludes: "Such companies . . . are regularly examined by Oxendine's office."

Maybe they are, but his saying it does not convince me that they are. As I noted early in this post, I just don't have a good comfort level with this guy, whether I should or shouldn't.

Based on my 25 to 30 years of working with local governments, I know that they do go through thorough annual audits, and that such audits by state agencies ought to be routine, just as routine as the State Department of Education's annual auditing of the finances of each and and every school district in the state of Georgia.

Well, it's almost 9:30 on Sunday morning. Time for my workout and watching The Georgia Gang on Fox 5 at 9:30. Then to church.


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