I started looking around, and discovered that the $5,000 golf round given to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle last month would be illegal in every one of our neighboring states.
Tennessee limits lobbyist gifts to $55 per event. Alabama puts a limit of $25 on gifts. Florida allows no lobbyist gifts “except floral arrangements or other celebratory items given to legislators and displayed in chambers the opening day of a session.” South Carolina also allows no gifts, as does North Carolina.
But in Georgia, there are no limits. None, as in zero, which is also why House Speaker David Ralston was able to travel to Europe with his family at lobbyists’ expense totaling $17,000.
An “ethics alliance” among Common Cause Georgia, Georgia Tea Party Patriots, Georgia Watch and the League of Women Voters has formed to change that, pressing for a quite-reasonable limit of $100 per transaction, which would still be the highest in the region.
“We wanted there to be a reasonable allowance to let lobbyists have a business lunch or dinner, or even a round of golf, with legislators,” Common Cause director William Perry says in explaining the $100 limit. “But we didn’t want to provide opportunities for extravagance to curry favor.”
Our legislators have shown no interest whatsoever in changing that law, and that’s hardly surprising. In addition to the golf trip, so far this year Cagle has accepted a “technology gift” worth $1,040, a $400 hunting trip, five rounds of golf worth $710 and “lodging, meals and recreation” worth $426, split among nine different lobbyists, not to mention a lot of nice meals and tickets to sporting events.
Absent public pressure, why should he give that up?
The chairman of the House Ethics Committee is Joe Wilkinson, a Fulton County Republican. His office number is (404) 463-8143.
The chairman of the Senate Ethics Committee is John Crosby, a Republican from the Tifton area. His office number is (404) 463-5258.
At Granny G’s suggestion below, I’ll also add these:
Again: Your silence is their permission.
– Jay Bookman