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Charles Walker

For trying to revive his old-school graft machine

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During a two-decade career in the Georgia Statehouse, Charles Walker wasn't content with simply pushing the ethical envelope. Rather, he often would fold, spindle and mutilate that sucker. And every time he was called out on one of his many ethical peccadilloes, the Augusta Democrat predictably would accuse his critics of racism.

Just two years ago, he was hit with an $8,500 ethics fine -- the largest ever for a Georgia legislator -- for failing to disclose his interest in a temp firm that did more than $2.5 million in business with the publicly funded Grady Memorial Hospital.

In 1999, Walker was criticized for a letter he sent urging lobbyists to do business with his son. Later, he used his legislative clout to redraw the Savannah congressional district expressly for Charles Jr. -- who proved to be such a poor campaigner that he lost the election for the largely Democratic seat to Republican Max Burns.

As far back as 1995, Walker came under fire as chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for overseeing a debate on increasing Medicaid payments to companies that do health screenings -- while keeping mum about the fact that his family was launching just such a company.

In short, Walker has long been rightly regarded as one of the state's most ethically compromised politicians, the kind of self-dealing ward-heeler that Georgia can do without.

Now, even as Walker prepares for the Democratic primary to reclaim the Senate seat he lost in 2002, it appears the chickens may have come home to roost. Last week, a federal grand jury in Savannah handed down a 142-count indictment that accuses Walker of using political muscle to strong-arm Grady into hiring his temp firm; defrauding advertisers in his weekly newspaper in Augusta; and, most shamefully, stealing tens of thousands of dollars from his own charity that was supposed to fund college scholarships for underprivileged students.

In typical fashion, Walker has labeled the investigation a witch hunt and has vowed not to drop out of the race -- even though he would not be allowed to take office until his legal woes are settled.

We're confident that, after tossing Walker once already, Augusta realizes it deserves better.

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