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Calculating the costs of influence-peddling

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In what has got to be in the running for "Most Disingenuous Statement of the Year," Richard W. Hendrix, the attorney for would-be dirt contractor C.R. "Ronnie" Thornton, told a federal judge last week that his client gave $130,000 to Mayor Bill Campbell's 1997 re-election campaign so his proposal to supply dirt for Hartsfield's runway would be "fairly considered on its merits."

So if it takes $130,000 just to get your deal a fair hearing, how much does it take to seal the deal? Who's doing Thornton's math and what's the formula?

According to Thornton, it was a city contractor with influence in the Campbell administration who suggested that he fork over the cash to hizzoner's re-election coffers. Anybody who's followed the federal corruption investigation knows exactly who that is, but it's anybody's guess when we'll see him in court. Thornton, meanwhile, pleaded guilty last week to violating federal banking laws when he funneled the cash to Campbell's campaign. He'll likely only do two years of probation since he's been cooperating with federal authorities. Oh, to be rich enough to afford a good attorney and have dirt on City Hall.

As for Campbell, he issued an uncharacteristically mild statement, sans "forces of evil" rhetoric, in reaction to Thornton's plea, which might be indicative of how close the investigation is drawing to the mayor. Steve Sadow, who was last seen at the Gold Club trial and is reportedly one of Campbell's attorneys, made sure to show up at the Thornton hearing.

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