When asked if Chip Rogers was worthy of his new position, State Sen. Steve Gooch replied simply: “No.”
In a caught-on-tape moment, Sen. Gooch — a GOP senate leader, tells a Georgia taxpayer that Georgia Public Broadcasting can’t fire Chip Rogers because of the governor’s political pressure, and, instead, “they probably would have cut three or four employees and kept him.”
Sen. Gooch said in a recorded telephone conversation that the State Senate never approved and doesn’t support the governor’s appointment. The same goes for members of the House.
But because of the fear of retribution, no elected Republican feels safe to say what they really think in public.
“That’s one you’d talk about behind closed doors,” Sen. Gooch said.
But in private, how does Sen. Gooch feel about Gov. Deal’s political appointment of Chip Rogers to GPB?
“As bad as it was, the way it happened, it does smack of cronyism,” Sen. Gooch said. “And it wasn’t a smart move on his part.”
Sen. Gooch said he doesn’t support the $150,000 per year appointment but his hands are tied.
“We can show our displeasure by it but if we do it in a disrespectful way then he can come back on us in other ways and punish us or put us in a bad position in our district,” Gooch said.
Sen. Gooch was right to take the time to talk with his constituent.
He was right about everything he said, but it’s a shame that he and his fellow senators can’t be honest with us in public.
Transcript of the telephone call:
Taxpayer: I understand. Since we’re on the phone and we have broached the subject I’d like to know where you stand on, do you believe Chip Rogers is worthy of that position?
Sen. Gooch: No, sir. I’ve told a few other people this and I’ll tell you the same thing. We’re in the Legislative branch. As you probably understand the three branches of government at the federal and state level.
We budget for the entire state government but we don’t tell the governor who to hire and who to fire. That’s his job, totally.
We don’t have any responsibility for hiring and firing employees.
Now I could cut $150,000 out of that budget if I had enough votes to go with me. We could have amended that budget and we could have taken $150,000 out of the Georgia Public Broadcasting budget but they probably would have cut somebody else’s job, to be honest with you. In fact, they probably would have cut three or four employees and kept him.
Because we don’t have any control over who they would have fired. That was more of a political move on the Democrats’ part.
Taxpayer: I understand that was a political move on the Democrats, and I understand what they were trying to get at. And I understand the fallout that could have happened.
What I’m trying to get across to you is that I would appreciate if you would bring some political pressure to bear on it. Get some of your Republican cohorts, or fellow senators and talk to Nathan Deal. Say that this is making us look bad. Because it does, it makes Georgia look real bad when that kind of cronyism is going on.
Sen. Gooch: Well, we sent that message to him privately. We don’t do it in front of a TV camera because of respect for him and his position.
You don’t go down here and fall down on your sword on things you really can’t change and you want to fight the fight that needs to be fought but that wasn’t one you’d want to fight in front of a TV camera.
That’s one you’d talk about behind closed doors.
And to be honest with you, Chip Rogers and I — I wouldn’t call us friends but we were acquaintances for two years.
He was the Majority Leader in the Senate. I respected him. He was a conservative from Cherokee County. I got along with him well but there were a lot of disagreements I had with him and one was the way we ran the Senate for the last two years.
It wasn’t functional at all.
So we moved him out of that position in December — November. And that’s when he decided to quit.
And he took the job with the governor’s, you know, influence there on that Georgia Public Broadcasting.
So we didn’t support him doing that.
The Senate did not support it. The House did not support it.
But it is the discretion of the governor who he hires and who he puts in places like that and all his appointments.
Some appointments he makes we have to confirm in the Senate but most of those are board appointments like the DOT or the Board of Regents or so forth.
But that’s not one we had any control over.
We can show our displeasure by it but if we do it in a disrespectful way then he can come back on us in other ways and punish us or put us in a bad position in our district.
We tend to pick our battles. As bad as it was, the way it happened, it does smack of cronyism. And it wasn’t a smart move on his part.
But I don’t …
Taxpayer: Well, I guess the political fallout is for him then, huh?
Sen. Gooch: That’s right, that’s exactly right.
And I just want to let you know I’m embarrassed by that remark that my aide made and it shouldn’t ever happen. That’s just not the way I operate. If you know me personally, you know that’s not me.
Taxpayer: I’ve actually met you.
Sen. Gooch: OK.
Taxpayer: I have nothing against you, it did perturb me coming from a public servant. And so I decided this person needs to be told that ‘I’m the boss.’
Sen. Gooch: I respect that greatly. I understand where my position is. I am a voice of the people in the 51st district and I respect that process so I would never respond to an email like that.
Taxpayer: well I appreciate your time and calling me, Sen. Gooch and you have a great day.
Sen. Gooch: I appreciate it. Bye, bye.
The audio presented in the video above has not been edited in any way. The telephone conversation was cut down to only the portion that addresses Gov. Nathan Deal’s appointment of Chip Rogers. To listen to the entire, uncut telephone conversation, visit this link.