• Cagle defends decision to back controversial bill he admitted was bad policy

    By: Richard Belcher

    Updated:

    DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle acknowledged Friday that he may have said some things the wrong way in a conversation that was secretly recorded by a defeated political rival.

    Channel 2 investigative reporter Richard Belcher and The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionbroke the story of the recording on Thursday. That recording included controversial remarks about an education bill that Cagle supported in public but privately described as bad.

    Clay Tippins recorded the conversation during a meeting at Cagle‘s campaign headquarters in DeKalb County two days after last month’s primary election, in which Cagle finished first and Tippins came in fourth.

    Their talk was partly about whether Tippins would endorse Cagle in the runoff election, but also about an education bill that Cagle had supported aggressively.

    Fifteen days later, in the same room, Cagle sat down with Belcher to talk about the recording, and said Tippins had set the tone of the conversation.


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    “I hosted him here in this campaign office,” Cagle said. “He really went into an exchange where he said, ‘I’d like to have a very open, honest conversation, man-to-man, between just you and I.’ Obviously, I had no idea that it was going to become public, but it, but it did."

    Cagle said they talked at some length about the education tax credit bill that came up in the last General Assembly and was opposed by Tippin’s uncle, state Sen. Lindsey Tippins, who was then the chair of the Senate education committee.

    The audio first reported by Channel 2 Action News and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution revealed that Cagle criticized the bill he had supported.

    “Is it bad public policy? Between you and me, it is, and I can tell you how it is -- 1,000 different ways,” Cagle said in that recording.

    Cagle told Tippins that he had to support the bill because there might be millions of dollars in political contributions tied to it.

    “I’ve never received any money,” Cagle told Belcher.

    “But you did bring it up a couple of times?” Belcher said.

    “I did not receive any money whatsoever,” Cagle said.

    The Walton Family Foundation confirmed that it has contributed no money to the Georgia campaign so far.

    “What you said didn’t sound great to a lot of people?” Belcher said to Cagle.

    “Yeah, well, absolutely, and, listen, you know, I think everybody recognizes that when you come into an environment and someone is, you know, taping, that you are not aware of, those are things that are said in private that came across sometimes in a wrong way,” Cagle said.

    “Anything you’d like to say to Clay?” Belcher asked Cagle.

    “I don’t think there’s anything that I need to say to Clay,” Cagle said.

    “Anything you’d like to say about him?” Belcher asked Cagle.

    “I don’t think there’s anything that I need to say about him,” Cagle said.

    In the recorded conversation, Cagle said that the bill was bad in 1,000 ways. On Friday, he said that was really an overstatement and he argued repeatedly that the bill advanced the cause of student scholarships even if it was imperfect.

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