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Former Georgia state Senate candidate Tom Mills has sued the state Democratic Party for libel, claiming the party sent out a campaign mailer that made him look like a Klansman. “Meet Tom Mills,” the brochure says, with robed Klansmen pictured in the background. “He sells hate for a living. … Tom Mills owns something called ‘St. Andrews Cross Publications.’ He peddles pictures of the guy who founded the Ku Klux Klan. … That’s Tom’s idea of a hero. Tom Mills even runs a Web site that’s a link to racist hate pages on the Web. … Stop Tom Mills. Before he stops you.” Mills was the Republican candidate for the District 29 Senate post, which comprises the city of LaGrange, and Heard, Pike, Meriwether, Troup counties and part of Spalding. The Democratic incumbent, attorney Daniel W. Lee, won the race 17,642 to 16,986. But Mills and his lawyers, Walker L. Chandler of Zebulon, and Robert J. Proctor and Bradley A. Hutchins of Proctor & Chambers in Atlanta, claim the Democratic Party libeled the Republican candidate. Mills v. Democratic Party of Georgia, No. 01VS17638E (Fult. St., filed May 3, 2001). Mills is claiming invasion of privacy (false light), libel and intentional infliction of emotional distress. He is seeking an undetermined amount of general and punitive damages, plus legal fees. KLAN LABEL Chandler says the brochure goes beyond the bounds of fairness — even for political campaigns. “It essentially says, ‘This guy is a Klansman,’ ” he says. “ It steps way over the line of fair comment.” Proctor says calling his client a Klansman is libel per se. Simply being called a racist and a member of the Klan is enough to harm Mills’ reputation, he says. “How would you like to have a flyer go out all over the state, calling you a member of the Klan?” he says. “I don’t have to prove any special damages.” One brochure went to voters in his district, the suit claims. Another, which went out statewide, claimed that Mills “makes a living as the owner of a racist website that links to white supremacists spewing hate and the ‘n’ word.” “Explicitly, or at least by innuendo, the campaign brochure states that Plaintiff is a racist, a member of the KKK and Plaintiff’s occupation is the selling of hate,” the suit says. “The statements in the campaign brochure about Plaintiff are absolutely false.” David J. Worley, chairman of the State Democratic Party says the facts of the brochure are true. “It’s a completely frivolous lawsuit that was politically motivated and we will fight it vigorously,” he says. Emmet J. Bondurant and Jeffrey O. Bramlett will represent the State Democratic Party in the suit, Worley says. Mills, a junior high school history teacher in La Grange, “has never been a member of the KKK or any other white supremacist organization. Plaintiff is not a racist and does not sell hate for a living,” the suit claims. WEB SITE SELLS CONFEDERATE ITEMS The former candidate does run a Web site for his company, St. Andrew’s Cross Publications (http://www.standrews-cross.com/). On that site he sells limited-run prints of his sketches of Confederate generals. Among his subjects are Robert E. Lee, J.E.B. Stuart, Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson and James Longstreet. The site also includes a print of Nathan Bedford Forrest, who founded the Ku Klux Klan. The sales site is part of the Yahoo “Confederate Ring” of Web sites. Such rings link sites with similar themes. The sites linked to the ring that Mills shares focus primarily on amateur Civil War history, Civil War re-enactments and Southern culture. Typical site names include “11th Virginia Cavalry Company F,” “Cathe’s Civil War Shoppe ‘n’ Centre,” and “Big Frank’s Redneck wonderland.” Proctor says he has checked out personally the more than 200 Web sites in the ring and hasn’t found anything racist. His client simply has an interest in the Civil War as part of his family history, and couples that with his hobby of drawing sketches. Those sketches, he says, depict men honored in statues and other memorials all over the state. They don’t come close to making Mills a racist, Proctor says. “Anyway, almost every person my client draws and sells pictures of is a Democrat,” he says. “I didn’t see any Republicans up there.” In his suit, Mills claims that the mailer went out to hundreds and maybe thousands of voters, persuading people not to vote for him and possibly giving Lee the push he needed. Several recent Georgia state campaigns have resulted in libel suits against one of the candidates or their party. In 1995, former Fulton County Commission Chairman Mitch Skandalakis paid an undisclosed sum to settle a libel claim by former Fulton County Commissioner Gordon Joyner. Skandalakis admitted paying for a campaign flyer during Joyner’s run for re-election that altered a photo of Joyner, darkening his skin and exaggerating some of his features. In 2000, Skandalakis donated $50,000 to the Georgia Sheriff’s Boys Ranch to settle Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor’s libel claim. The complaint stemmed from a 30-second TV spot that ran during Skandalakis and Taylor’s acrimonious scrap for the lieutenant governor’s seat. In a statement accompanying the settlement, Skandalakis said the ad’s suggestions that Taylor had spent time in a rehab clinic and was a user of illegal drugs were false.

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