Georgia Utility Regulator Drops Bid to Divert State Funds to Anti-Abortion Charity

first_img Related Stories Share 2:08 | Play story Add to My ListIn My List For Whom The Bell Rings ‘It’s Fractured’: Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan On Healing Republican Party Legal Advocate Discusses Medical Abuse At Shut Down Georgia ICE Facility A Georgia utility regulator has dropped his bid to divert state funds to a Christian-based, anti-abortion group where his wife volunteers.2:08Georgia Public Service Commissioner Doug Everett wanted a private telephone company that was delinquent on paperwork to donate to the Atlanta chapter of the nonprofit Care Net, rather than pay a $10,000 state fine.“[Care Net has] adoption education. They bring in the young man who’s the father of the child and they have an earn-while-you-learn program…It’s sexual integrity and abstinence education and prenatal and parenting classes,” said Everett, adding he learned of the charity group through his wife’s volunteer work. Commissioner Tim Echols joined Everett in requesting the funds be diverted to Care Net.Watchdog groups, however, argued the request violated the state constitution and represented a conflict of interest due to Everett’s connection to the charity.“It’s not really about it being a religious organization,” said Debbie Seagraves, head of the Georgia ACLU. “It’s about diverting funds based on someone’s preference – someone’s pet charity. There’s no process in place that ensures transparency and nondiscrimination.”Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens called Everett’s request “well-intentioned” but unconstitutional on grounds that no state agency is allowed to divert penalty fees or any other type of state funds to charity groups.Everett said that was news to him. He said for years the PSC has used penalty fees in exactly that manner. He cited the Salvation Army as a charity that has benefited from such funds.“These other groups will now be getting hurt because of the ruling by the attorney general and so those are the people that I feel sorry for,” said Everett.Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for the attorney general, said the Care Net request was the first time Olens’ office was called upon to advise on such giving. Kane would not address previous cases in which the PSC had diverted funds to nonprofits. In any case, Everett says he accepts the attorney general’s opinion but still defends his request and the charity he attempted to help.“Tell me when it’s not appropriate to talk about Jesus Christ. I don’t care what you do. It’s appropriate to talk about Jesus Christ. But [Care Net doesn’t] talk about it. My wife is standing right here and she said they don’t do that. But you know if they don’t do it, I wish they would. I’m a strong Christian, I believe in Christianity. I’m not an atheist and I would hope that they do talk to these young people about Christianity and I would hope they would talk to them about abortion.”The $10,000 fine will now go to the state’s general fund. last_img read more