The Week: Home Deport co-founder, Bannon discuss Senate renovations


Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus is apparently unhappy, so far, with the amount of bang he’s gotten for his bucks.

So the man who made a fortune selling tools now may be looking for a big hammer.

It could be Steve Bannon.

The former White House strategist has met with a number of wealthy Republican donors, seeking financing for primary challengers to incumbents aligned with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

It was Marcus’ turn earlier this month. Meeting in Atlanta, they discussed how little they feel establishment Republicans have accomplished so far. Those misfires on health care apparently left a sting.

Marcus may have been hoping for more when he handed over $2 million to a Super PAC closely associated with McConnell, as well as tens of thousands more that he gave to the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

There’s also an estimated $7 million he dumped in Donald Trump’s toolbox during last year’s presidential campaign.

Marcus still has more to give. The May edition of Inside Philanthropy magazine puts the 88-year-old’s net worth at $4.3 billion.

To call Bannon controversial is an understatement, but Marcus has had his back in the past. Shortly after last year’s presidential election, the hardware mogul said “what is being done to Steve Bannon is a shonda” — using the Yiddish word for shame.

Marcus, however, is not quite ready to write a big check to fund Bannon’s war on the GOP establishment.

Steve Hantler, a Marcus adviser, told Politico that the multibillionaire plans to wait to see whether Republicans pass legislation by the end of the year.

  • Trump and Churchill, they’re like twins: Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue who considers himself an ally to both President Donald Trump and Tennessee U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, wouldn’t take sides publicly in the most recent Twitter spat between his two fellow Republicans. He did, however, compare the president to a leading statesman of the past: Winston Churchill.

“I think he’s misunderstood,” Perdue said of Trump. “People see him through the lens of Washington, and I don’t have that lens. I really liken him to a man like Winston Churchill. Winston Churchill didn’t fit that mold either, even though he was in politics and all that. But he was nobody’s choirboy at the time. He was a man of destiny who pulled that country together and survived one of the greatest debacles in their history. Here we’ve got, I believe, a man that’s willing to break some eggs in Washington. He doesn’t know what the traditions are or the rules or anything else. He’s just trying to get results. That’s why the people back home relate to that so strongly, I believe.”

  • A hurricane divide: Perdue and Georgia’s other Republican U.S. senator, Johnny Isakson, broke different ways on a vote this past week for emergency hurricane relief. Isakson backed the $36.5 billion disaster aid package, which would help finance recovery efforts for the victims of hurricanes Maria, Irma and Harvey. Perdue, whose home base of Sea Island was in Irma’s path, was one of 17 GOP senators to say no to the proposal. Perdue indicated his concerns were that the package would add to the deficit

As part of its romancing of Amazon, the governor’s office has sent out warnings that the courtship could be in peril if any “religious liberty” bills surface during the upcoming legislative session. The bills don’t even have to pass.

Some are taking it to heart.

During a Wednesday evening forum of GOP candidates in state Senate District 6, three of the four hopefuls backed Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of a major religious liberty bill in 2016. The holdout, Leo Smith, who used to head the state Republican Party’s minority outreach efforts, said he would support such a bill if it “doesn’t discriminate against Christians or Muslims.”

The stances taken by the other three candidates — Leah Aldridge, Kathy Eichenblatt and Charlie Fiveash — are meaningful because they’re vying to replace Hunter Hill, now a candidate for governor who has pledged to sign any religious liberty legislation that comes to his desk.

At the same forum, all four candidates said that while they personally oppose casino gambling, they think it should be up to local communities to hold referendums on whether to legalize it.

Hill identified the co-chairmen of his campaign as state Rep. Sam Teasley and Joe McCutchen, a party activist from Ellijay who just happens to be Hill’s father-in-law. District chairmen include Kay Godwin of Georgia Conservatives in Action and Brant Frost V, the GOP chairman in Coweta County.

Hill made a claim in a press release that his is the “first gubernatorial campaign of the 2018 cycle to have all 159 counties and 14 congressional districts organized,” although it did not deliver county-by-county names.

Kemp did produce a detailed list of grass-roots supporters in all 159 counties.

House Bill 332, the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, didn’t make much progress during this year’s legislative session, but environmental groups and other supporters hope it will land on state ballots in 2018. It would shift 75 percent of the existing sales tax on outdoor recreation equipment to a conservation fund to buy new parkland and improve existing greenspace.

The bill would need two-thirds support in the Legislature and approval by a majority of voters before becoming Georgia law.

“It’s not a red or blue issue,” said Robert Ramsay of the Georgia Conservancy. “This would give the state new advantages because you’d have the ability to plan long-term to acquire this land. This would be a real game-changer.”

Ramsay said the new funding would finance land acquisitions, new roads and improvements for existing parks and matching funds for regional and local greenspace initiatives.

The governor said through a spokeswoman that he is “receptive” to the idea.

  • Candidates, endorsements, etc.:

South Fulton Mayor Bill Edwards has endorsed Democrat Stacey Evans for governor, giving her another prominent African-American leader in her corner. Evans, a former state representative, is running for the party’s nomination against former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, who hopes to become the nation’s first black female governor.

A GOP straw poll last weekend in Gwinnett County gave state Senate President Pro Tem David Shafer of Duluth 59 percent of the vote in the lieutenant governor’s race. It’s hard to gauge the validity of the poll, though, because its organizers did not say how many people voted.

— Democrat Jon Ossoff, who finished second in a special election runoff in the 6th Congressional District to replace Tom Price, has now gotten into the endorsement game. Ossoff is backing state Senate candidate Jen Jordan in the race to succeed Hill.


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