As salacious mudslinging reaches its peak in the lead up to this Tuesday’s contentious Republican run-off election between Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Lt. Governor Casey Cagle for the party’s gubernatorial candidate, a local business owner, Patrick Greco, is caught in the crosshairs of an alleged political scandal.
As Cagle and Kemp battle to become the next Republican candidate for Georgia Governor in a race where both candidates hold similar political views and support for President Donald Trump, discrediting the character of each other with a litany of corruption and mistruth allegations has become the primary focus of both campaigns.
Cagle’s campaign is alleging Greco, who held a private fundraiser for Kemp in April, bought Kemp’s silence and inaction regarding sexual abuse claims filed against Massage Envy, a franchise business formerly-owned by Greco. The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in May that various sexual abuse claims had gone unheeded by the Board of Massage Therapy and that Greco was a donor to Kemp. According to the AJC, “The concerns about Kemp center on two Massage Envy clinics that face at least four complaints of therapists groping women during massages. The Board of Massage Therapy, under Kemp’s purview, has not sanctioned or revoked any of the accused therapists’ licenses, even though an investigator for his office looked into at least one complaint. Three of the therapists still have active licenses, and the fourth lapsed with no public action taken by the state. After an Atlanta Journal-Constitution investigation revealed the owner of those clinics is a donor to Kemp’s campaign for governor, Cagle backers pounced. Chiropractor Patrick Greco gave $1,000 to Kemp, and in April he and his partner hosted a fundraising gala at their lavish estate in Madison, in a renovated antebellum home called the Honeymoon 1851 Mansion.”
The revelation prompted calls for an investigation into the matter from Cagle supporters and Cagle himself used the matter as ammunition during a televised debate last week and in campaign letters and advertisements.
“As Secretary of State, Brian Kemp is solely responsible for regulating businesses and issuing professional licenses. But under his watch, 96 percent of sexual assault allegations at massage parlors were not investigated. Some of which occurred at companies owned by major donors to his campaign,” posted Cagle on his campaign website. “Brian Kemp’s office even renewed the massage license of a man who pleaded guilty to ‘molesting a woman in 2011 at a Massage Envy clinic’ three years after the assault took place.”
Greco declined to comment on the matter. But Massage Envy released a statement denying the allegations on July 15.
“Patrick Greco no longer owns Massage Envy franchises and did not own them at the time of the fundraiser he held for Mr. Kemp,” said Melanie Hansen, Massage Envy chief compliance officer and general counsel. ““First and foremost, we and our franchisees fully support the Georgia Board of Massage Therapy thoroughly investigating every sexual assault complaint – just as our franchisees are required to do – and, where they find sexual misconduct, immediately revoking the therapist’s license.”
Kemp’s campaign has also denied the allegations of accepting improper financial contributions.
A spokesperson for Kemp’s campaign called the allegations a “botched political stunt” to distract the voting public from Cagle’s own alleged.
“The Attorney General’s office and board members appointed by Gov. Nathan Deal are charged with holding licensees accountable — not Brian Kemp,” Ryan Mahoney, spokesperson for Kemp’s campaign.
Kemp’s campaign has harped on a leaked audio-recording of Cagle to question his conservative persona and policy decisions. Cagle appears to insult his party’s far-right base while discussing Kemp’s now notorious campaign ads—that Cagle describes as made for a “rabid audience.” Cagle complains that the primary race devolved into a pandering match over “who had the biggest gun, who had the biggest truck and who would be the craziest.” Cagle made these remarks privately, unaware of being recorded, after Kemp released a controversial ad that drew national attention in which Kemp is seen toting shotguns, revving chainsaws, and driving his “big truck” while promising to use it to “round up” illegal immigrants.
During the seven-minute recording leaked to the media on June 7, Cagle is heard admitting to advancing a policy he was against for political gain. Cagle pushed the controversial school choice bill during the 2018 Legislative Session despite being against it for years.
On June 7, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and WSB-TV broke the story and released seven minutes of the recording.
“It ain’t about public policy,” said Cagle on the recording. “It’s about (expletive) politics. There’s a group that was getting ready to put $3 million behind Hunter Hill…Is it bad public policy? Between you and me, it is. I can tell you how it is a thousand different ways.”
Georgia Republican voters will decide the candidate’s political fates this Tuesday, July 24. Recent polls show the race is neck and neck. According to the AJC, “The poll of likely voters in the July 24 GOP runoff showed Kemp with a lead of 44 percent to 41 percent over Cagle, within the margin of error of 3.5 percentage points.” Whoever wins this Tuesday will go on to face the Democratic challenger for governor, Stacey Abrams this November. system.
Under the new policy announced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in April of this year, the parents were detained and sent to the criminal system, and the children were placed into detention centers, she said.
On June 20, President Trump signed an executive order to keep the families intact but in detention with the Department of Homeland Security. The order did not specify a plan to reunite more than 2,000 children currently detained with their parents. Critics worry that the order not only fails to reunite children with their parents, but also overlooks another moral conundrum by swapping one inhumane policy for another.
“The new executive order promises to keep families intact, but in extended government custody. We, concerned local citizens, call on our President to reunite the children with their families immediately, and we ask our elected Representatives to pass legislation NOW to require INS to keep families intact and free from confinement as they navigate the asylum process,” said Dufort.
Winfield noted immigration court is already overloaded with cases even before the Trump Administration enacted its “zero-tolerance” policy.
“There are 619,000 cases pending in immigration courts in the country,” Winfield said. “Where are these people going to wait?”
Audience members held up signs that read, “Do Unto Others” and “Compassion not Talking Points.”
Other people were invited to the microphone to read quotes condemning the administration’s current practice. Interspersed between these readings were celebratory songs like “This Land is Your Land”, “We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger and “Somos El Barco” by Peter, Paul and Mary. Terry Reeves-Martin led the crowd in singing.
Don Mosley, founder of Jubilee Partners in Comer, spoke about his experience offering hospitality to refugees and urged the community to act.
“Be part of the light end of that darkness,” Mosley said. “Act of that compassion.”
The speakers also mentioned several options to show support for the undocumented immigrants.
“The easiest way to help a cause is donations,” Winfield said. “To be able to hire attorneys to fight these cases. You can get together, hold meetings and write to congressmen.”
Dufort urged the crowd to channel their outrage into activism.
“We are also going to share some suggestions of some things we can do with our time and our money, so we aren’t just talking tonight and we are not just singing tonight and we are not just hugging one another tonight, but we are going to translate our anguish into action…to hopefully make a difference in our little corner of the world.”
Organizers of the event put together a brochure of organizations for people to considering donating to, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the American Immigration Council, The Center for Community Change, the Human Right Initiative of North Texas, Human Rights Watch, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, National Immigration Law Center, Immigrant Legal Resource Center, and the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services.