1/15: Ethics legislation: Limit dollar distractions

By the AJC Editorial Board, AJC columnists and guest columnists

It’s an old saying that locked doors do little more than keep honest people honest. That’s still an admirable goal, one that goes to the heart of why Georgia needs more-stringent ethics rules governing lawmakers and other key state officials.

Those carrying out the business of governance should be beyond reasonable reproach or suspicion that their actions are motivated by anything other than the common good. If that sounds naively idealistic, then so be it.

Admittedly, it’s unrealistic to expect that the throngs of red-badged lobbyists who pack Gold Dome hallways will thin out anytime soon. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t hold our state’s top leaders to a higher bar. That requires strengthening current ethics laws. A bill containing a package of ethics reforms was unveiled last week and is expected to be introduced soon in the General Assembly. It deserves prompt consideration and passage without substantial revision.

Read the rest of what the AJC Editorial Board has to say; along with Julianne Thompson, state coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots and co-organizer of the Atlanta Tea Party; and Rick Thompson, former executive director of the State Ethics Commission who now does ethics and governmental compliance consulting.

Also of interest: AJC columnists Jay Bookman and Kyle Wingfield weigh in on the topic.

What do you have to say about legislative ethics and legislation?

20 comments Add your comment

E Denise Caldon

January 17th, 2012
10:44 am

The fact that our State’s Attorney General Sam Olens was appointed the attorney for the new State Ethics Commission Director speaks volumes of the hypocrisy and “Conflict of Interest” in our state government that has become the norm. As a Plaintiff in a Georgia Whistlblower case, Attorney General Sam Olens has legally sealed the facts with a Protective Order to protect HIS Defendants -top officials at the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia. As one USG faculty member described his role, “It’s like the fox guarding the hen house.” I have on record repeated requests to apprise the members of the State’s Higher Education Committees as well – with no response. Georgians have not only lost faith in our Congressional elected officials and our federal government, based on my conversations with many USG faculty, staff and employees, they lost faith with our state’s elected officials (including Gov. Perdue and Deal) years ago. I have been encouraged by an employee of the Governor’s Office to “get your story out of Georgia as they will not report the facts here.” Their advice has proven to be corrent. I am now doing just that.

SorryGeorgia

January 16th, 2012
11:10 pm

This makes me sad for Georgia. Ethics reform is the first step in good government. All government is not bad. If it were, we would never have put a man on the moon or built our interstate highway system. We just need to clean out the money influence, and you start by limiting lobbyist gifts. Pick up the phone people and call your legislators. Stop standing on the sidelines while the wolves clean out the henhouse!! The same guy blocking this legislation (the speaker) is the same one who took a 17,000 trip with his family paid for by a lobbyist…over Thanksgiving. And, it was all LEGAL.

Bob Loblaw

January 16th, 2012
5:31 pm

Wake up, people! The AJC doesn’t want any competition! No freedom of speech for the unions, businessess, physician groups, retirees, nobody! Want a Member of the legislature to speak to your group’s annual meeting? Forget it! The AJC has decided that up to $100, you can trust your legislator! At $101, they can be bought!

Don’t be fooled, people. The paper hates competition.

BelieveIt

January 16th, 2012
10:49 am

Why is lobbying EVEN LEGAL?

Road Scholar

January 16th, 2012
8:51 am

How about outlawing PACS?

MrLiberty

January 15th, 2012
9:53 pm

The libertarians are the only ones who have always had it right on this issue. The problem is not about money paid by lobbyists, but fundamentally about the power that government has over the economy. That begins by their taking at all levels over 50% of all the income in america. It then extends to legislation, regulation, subsidies, bailouts and a whole host of unconsitutional behavior that enables the legislature (at state, federal, and even local levels) to be able to manipulate the market, the economy, the dollar, interest rates, etc. to the will of the lobbyists.

The problem will never go away with ethics legislation (I mean really, does anyone actually expect the criminals to write laws that actually restrict them – or worse, to actually obey them). We must gut the power from government. We must end income taxation (or slavery to government), we must use state powers under the 10th amendment to nullify all unconstitutional federal legislation (roughly 95% would be a good estimate), and then we must elect upstanding folks who understand these issues to state and local office to eliminate the power at the local level as well.

Everyone says that we MUST have all the government we have in order to survive. We did fine for over 100 years before things really got out of hand. No reason not to slash it all away, restore power to the marketplace and to the consumer, where lobbyists are powerless to rule our lives and run our economy. It is time to fundamentally challenge the role we believe government should play in our lives and our economy.

lynnbo

January 15th, 2012
9:33 pm

cheaters are going to find a way to cheat……………check out the money being made doing the paper work for the bond debt. Check out who owns the land around Glades Reservoir in Hall County.

hiram bronson granbury

January 15th, 2012
7:03 pm

“….. the standards were too strong for a North Georgia chicken farming operation, Fieldale Farms, who wanted to sell their product as “organic”, but did not want to feed their animals USDA certified organic feed, one of the requirements for selling chickens as organic under the new rules. Fieldale Farms contributed $5000 to Representative Nathan Deal’s political campaign during his 2002 run for the House of Representatives and the Speaker of the House of Representatives Dennis Hastert, at the request of Deal, with no public notification or discussion, inserted a rider in the $397 billion budget bill passed both houses of Congress in February (Section 771 of the Ominbus Appropriations Bill), addressing completely unrelated issues, that would weaken USDA’s organic standards and allow Fieldale Farms to sell its chickens as “organic”.

chelseacsa.org/articles/the-threat-and-protection-of-the-usda-organic-standards/

Go to the ethics.ga.gov website and search for the campaign contributions to “Candidate” Nathan Deal in the last governor’s election – both the primary and general elections. Add up all of the $6,100 “maximum” dollar contributions from Fieldale Farms, and the company’s principals, the “Hat”field and Arren”dale” families, then ask yourself, what did they buy this time?

Halftrack

January 15th, 2012
5:18 pm

The Legislature needs an affirmative action policy. They should have to keep records that they are contacted by Lobbyists from people that represent a 60% or more of the total as being from small business owners or private individuals. Companies grossing over 1 million a year are in the upper 40% bracket. Let’s spread the influence around.

AbbyYoYo

January 15th, 2012
2:22 pm

Lobbyists should only be permitted to spend unlimited $ on gratuities for legislators for issues that I support. For all other issues I agree there should be a cap, say $5.