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How Sonny Perdue Got a $100,000 Tax Break

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How can you get your friend to give you a $100,000 tax break?

According to former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue – President Trump’s nominee for secretary of agriculture – you become governor, as he said in a 2006 radio interview.

During the interview on WAOK-A Radio show “The Right Side with Shelley Wynter,” Perdue candidly admitted doing just this to a caller named Brian. During the exchange, the caller mentioned he had just married his high school sweetheart, like Perdue had, and then asked him about the $100,000 tax break.

Perdue: 'All right. I hope you make it 34 years like we have.' 

Brian: 'Well, that's my goal, Governor. The one thing I haven't been able to do is find a way to have a friend of mine write me a bill that saves me $100,000 on my taxes. I was wondering how I might be able to get that done.' 

Perdue: 'Well, you get elected Governor, Brian. I appreciate your question. That was really nice. I appreciate you being a fan, and I wish you well on your honeymoon.'

In a recent investigation, EWG found that in December 2004 Perdue used $2 million he earned from selling some of his family’s property in Georgia to purchase about 20 acres near Disney World in Florida. Under pre-existing state law, Perdue would have been required to pay $100,000 in taxes on the profits from the Georgia land sale, because those profits were used to buy land out of state.

However, on April 12, 2005, Perdue signed a new tax bill (HB 488) into law. The bill was written by Larry O’Neal, Perdue’s longtime real estate attorney and chairman of the Georgia House Ways and Means Committee. The legislation expanded an exemption to include out-of-state land swaps, and was changed at the last minute to be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2004.

Perdue repeatedly claimed that he was unaware that the new law would benefit him, but a memo obtained by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution shows that his deputy executive counsel recommended that he sign the bill, spelling out how it would apply to the very type of deal in which he was involved.[1]

As senators prepare for Perdue’s confirmation hearing on Thursday, it will be important for them to ask if Perdue signed HB 488 into law knowing full well it would benefit him financially.  

[1] James Salzer, Perdue Had Explanation of Tax Break. Atlanta Journal Constitution, Dec. 18, 2006.


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