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Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

NAACP: Cobb County chairman mailers `stupid, insulting'

The Cobb County Commission chairman's race between incumbent Tim Lee and challenger Mike Boyce generated a stack of paper -- nearly $1 million in donations and more than a dozen campaign mailers stuffed into mailboxes all over the county.

As The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Sunday, more than $143,000 in secret donations supported Lee's failed re-election bid, along with an additional $100,000 that came through independent political committees supporting the chairman.

In addition to that spending, Lee's campaign raised at least $500,000 this year alone compared to Boyce's $200,000.

One of those PACs was Committee For A Better Cobb, led by political consultant Jeff DiSantis, which spent $11,000 on mailers that targeted heavily minority areas in the southern portions of Cobb County.

The mailers featured pictures of African Americans, including a young black woman inexplicably holding a gas pump to her head like a gun: "We already pay enough for gas, but Mike Boyce wants to raise our gas taxes to pay for thousands of dollars in tax cuts for millionaires."

Deane Bonner, president of the Cobb branch of the NAACP, was also featured in a mailer, with a quote from her in the Marietta Daily Journal saying the only black person marching with Boyce in the county's 4th of July parade was his employee.

"Tim Lee's followers reflected the county," Bonner is quoted as saying in the mailer.

Bonner, who publicly feuded with Lee in December, didn’t dispute the quote, but took issue with the implication that she endorsed the chairman.

“At the NAACP, our advocacy is for the under-served,” Bonner said. “I would never endorse a candidate. That mailer is stupid and it’s insulting. It’s an insult to me, and it’s an insult to black people.”

DiSantis said the mailer doesn’t claim that Bonner endorsed Lee.

“The item is contemporaneous reporting by the newspaper of Ms. Bonner’s observations about the parade,” DiSantis wrote in an email to the AJC.

As a PAC, Committee For A Better Cobb had to file campaign disclosure reports with the state, which show it was partially funded with $35,000 from former Gov. Roy Barnes.

The committee also spent $20,000 on pro-Lee radio ads.

Cobb Commission Chairman-elect Mike Boyce won the July 26 runoff with 64 percent of the vote.

"We ran a positive campaign and did not answer" the negative ads, Boyce said. "It was a gamble, but it was a cognitive decision. Obviously, the chairman had some issues we could have gone negative on. But I didn’t believe that kind of campaign would provide any benefit to us.

"From the sample we got going door-to-door, we got the feeling that people would respond to a positive campaign."

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About the Author

Dan Klepal is a reporter on the AJC’s investigative team, focusing mainly on local and state governments. Klepal previously covered Atlanta City Hall and Cobb County, where he wrote extensively about the public investment in SunTrust Park. Prior to coming to Atlanta, Klepal covered city governments in Cincinnati and Louisville, Kentucky.