Georgia Gov. Kemp, allies shield details of major Rivian deal from public view ahead of GOP primary

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Choo Choo

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Critics accuse officials of keeping citizens out of the loop, using underhanded, backroom dealings.

“O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.”  Psalms 95:6 (KJV) 

Just over one week before Georgia’s Republican gubernatorial primary, incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp and his allies backing a massive new economic development project in the Peach State are concealing key details of the agreement from the public, with critics alleging the use of underhanded tactics and shady backroom deals to push it through despite local opposition.

State and local officials in Georgia earlier this month announced a deal to dole out $1.5 billion of incentives to electric vehicle startup Rivian for it to build a $5 billion manufacturing plant east of Atlanta that will create 7,500 jobs.

The incentive package, by far the largest Georgia has ever offered to a company, includes major tax credits, a 25-year no-cost lease, and more than $198 million in site and road improvements on the 1,978 acres where the plant will be built in Morgan and Walton counties.

The deal to construct Rivian’s new electric vehicle manufacturing hub was first announced in December. Since then, Kemp has touted it as the biggest economic development project in Georgia history.

However, Kemp and other backers of the deal didn’t advertise that the land transactions for the site still haven’t closed.

“Standard confidentiality provisions within the real estate agreements prohibit sharing information until closings on the real estate have occurred,” said Marie Gordon, communications director for the Georgia Department of Economic Development. “The transactions are continuing to move through the process.”

The rural land on which the Rivian plant will be developed will be owned by the state of Georgia and leased to the Joint Development Authority (JDA) of Jasper, Morgan, Newton, and Walton counties, which in turn will rent the land to Rivian.

Officials in Georgia had to acquire much of the land from private sellers, who were asked to sign non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) to prevent them from discussing the transactions, sources told Just the News.

Of the nearly 2,000 acres meant for the Rivian plant, about 675 earmarked for the project are owned by Alan Verner and his four siblings.

The Verners could pocket more than $20 million combined, according to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, which described Alan Verner as integral to bringing the $5 billion plant to Georgia.

Verner was serving as chairman of the JDA when talks to sell the land began early last year. He vacated the position in August, when talks were well advanced. While ethics experts have expressed concern about a potential conflict of interest, the JDA and people close to Verner have said he had no involvement in JDA votes and meetings concerning Rivian.

Just the News attempted to find out if the land designated for the Rivian plant was appraised and, if so, for how much. Requests for information were denied because the land deals are still pending.

“Your request for information relates to pending land transactions and any doc…

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