Atlanta: Influential Borders Supporter is Republican Politico

10-02-09, 10:23 am

Original source: The Atlanta Progressive News

(APN) ATLANTA -- Mayoral candidate and City Council President Lisa Borders's most influential supporter--who helped guide her back into the race and reportedly raised about $270,000 for her at a fundraiser he hosted--Mr. Tom Bell, is a well-known Atlanta business leader. However, many people do not realize that Borders's primary benefactor is a national Republican politico with deep ties to the corporate, developer community [even deeper than Borders's own ties to the same].


When Lisa Borders dropped out of the race, Tom Bell, Borders's former employer as CEO of Cousins Properties, urged her to get back into the race, according to an article by Maria Saporta in the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

'Tom Bell, [former] CEO of Cousins Properties Inc., Borders’ former employer, said many business leaders had asked him 'how can we get Lisa back in the race,' and many of them were asking Borders directly,' the Chronicle wrote. Bell retired as CEO shortly after the article was published.

'I know I have encouraged her to get back into the race,' Bell told the Chronicle. 'Many people have encouraged her and convinced her she should go back.'

Bell also said the business community had not been completely satisfied with the other candidates in the race, including Councilwoman Mary Norwood or State Sen. Kasim Reed.

Shortly after Borders re-entered the race, Bell raised about $270,000 for her in one evening from corporate donors at a fundraiser he hosted, according to several published reports. This was about half of her fundraising total during the spring 2009 disclosure period.

Borders has worked for Bell in two capacities: first, at Cousins Properties; then again, indirectly, at the Grady Foundation, where Borders serves as President. Bell was an extremely influential force in the privatization of Grady and serves as a Board Member; he also claims to have lobbied for Borders to get the job.

Cousins Properties' founder Tom Cousins was a driving force behind the mass demolition of public housing and mass eviction of poor, mostly Black families in Atlanta. Bell and Borders, who both worked for Cousins, clearly supported the demolitions as well.


Bell has worked for former US Sen. Howard Baker (R-TN); on the campaign for former US Sen. Bill Brock (R-TN); as Chief of Staff for Sen. Brock; the reelection campaign for Republican President Richard Nixon, who resigned in scandal; the campaign of former Gov. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who went on to the US Senate; the campaign of former US Rep. Dan Quayle (R-IN), who went on to be Vice President; the campaign of former President Ronald Reagan's 1976 challenge against Gerald Ford; and indirectly for President Reagan as the leader of a think tank called the Committee on the Next Agenda, which greatly influenced Reagan's policy agenda--all according to Georgia Trend Magazine. [Bell has a financial interest in Georgia Trend, so it is likely Bell approved the accuracy of the article before its publication.]

More recently, Bell served as the Finance Director for Republican Presidential candidate Fred Thompson in 2008, according to Georgia Trend. He also served as finance director for former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed's campaign for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 2006, according to the Nashville Post.

Also according to the Post, Bell has given several donations to Republican candidates in the last few years.

'A review of federal election campaign finance disclosure forms by indicates that he has personally contributed in excess of $65,000 in the last few years to Republican candidates, including Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker. That figure does not represent how much he has donated to political action committees or raised on behalf of candidates,' the Post reported.


In a recent speech Bell said, 'the restructuring of the economy with more government intervention... has continued at an increasing rate under President Barack Obama’s administration,' according to a summary on SaportaReport's blog.

'If current patterns continue, Bell said the nation’s economy will be more of a democratic socialism with a heavily regulated market where a few pay for many,' SaportaReport summarized.

'But he expressed real concern about what may be coming, although he didn’t mention the energy bill or healthcare reform by name,' SaportaReport said.

'More historic legislation is on its way at truly unprecedented speed and unprecedented cost,” Bell in quoted as saying. “You can [sic: probably should read 'can't'] spread the wealth if there is no wealth.'


'Bell is vice chairman of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which is in line to lead the organization from July, 2010 through June, 2011,' SaportaReport reported.

'But starting in September, Bell will chair the U.S. Chamber’s Campaign for Free Enterprise, a national campaign that is expected to last through the 2010 mid-term elections.'

The Campaign for Free Enterprise's 100 million dollar mission is to oppose Obama's proposals which they see as a threat to the free market--such as his plans for universal health care--in the lead-up to the 2010 Elections.

Bell also served in the leadership of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce and Central Atlanta Progress.


Republican Fulton County Commissioner Lynne Riley recently sent out an invitation, obtained by Atlanta Progressive News, to a fundraiser she is co-hosting for Lisa Borders at the Pampas Steakhouse in Alpharetta on October 13, 2009.

Borders's website created a special donation page for the event at [case sensitive] that Atlanta Progressive News was able to access. Riley promoted the web link in her email and has advertised the event on her personal/campaign website.

Riley has supported the succession of North Fulton from Fulton County.


Earlier today, a group representing Atlanta's business community gave Borders the highest evaluation out of all Mayoral candidates. The Committee for a Better Atlanta gave Borders a score of 95 out of 100. State Sen. Reed followed close behind at 91, Norwood received 86, and attorney Jesse Spikes received 81.

This is likely what the noted memo by Clark Atlanta University professors on behalf of the Black Leadership Forum meant when it stated: 'Lisa Borders... is the best black candidate in the race who has a chance to win the election because she can attract downtown white support.'

A previous analysis by Atlanta Progressive News found that Reed and Borders both raised about twice the amount as Mary Norwood had from real estate and developer interests in the Spring 2009 campaign disclosure period.

Borders's previous roles as an Executive Vice President of Cousins Properties and as the President of the Grady Foundation--raising funds for the privatized hospital that recently left patients lives in jeopardy by deciding to close its dialysis center--have helped cement her role as the favorite of corporations and developers.

Borders's ties to Bell raise the question, though, if Borders is a Democrat with any kind of pro-working family agenda, why is she being supported in such a significant way by a Republican, corporate, anti-Obama politico? What kind of influence can he and his colleagues be expected to have on her Administration? What does their support for her suggest about what kind of Mayor she would be if elected? These are open questions that voters will have to consider this election.

--Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for Atlanta Progressive News and is reachable at