GOP must move on ethics reform

The Ghost of Speakers Past still stalks the Gold Dome.

That statement will ring oddly for some denizens of the Georgia Capitol. The 2010 session, despite grim budget numbers, has in many ways been a modern Era of Good Feelings. And much credit flows to the present speaker, David Ralston.

“He has just been a breath of fresh air,” Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said in an interview last week. “He’s very measured, he’s tempered, he’s a person that wants to build consensus, wants to see the two branches of government, the legislative and executive side, work very well together. He has been true to his word and I just can’t tell you what a difference that has made.”

Suffice it to say, neither Cagle nor many others offered such hosannas for Ralston’s turf-guarding predecessor, Glenn Richardson. And Cagle is not alone in praising the new speaker this way. Ralston has changed the tone, building interinstitutional trust.

Yet the story of Richardson’s demise — a past affair with a lobbyist who had multimillion-dollar business before him, revealed on television last fall by his ex-wife — shook the public’s trust. Ethics reform was demanded, and promised.

We’re about to find out how much reform we’ll actually get.

The first ethics bill to drop, HB 920, was sponsored by House Judiciary Chairman Wendell Willard, a close Ralston ally. Headlining the bill was a $100 limit on lobbyists’ gifts to officials, such as meals.

That idea was popular after the fall of Richardson, who in 2009 alone accepted more than $9,000 in meals, event tickets and golf outings. But arguably more important were restrictions on the ways in which money given to one campaign fund can be relayed to another.

Richardson, in a tradition pioneered by longtime Democratic Speaker Tom Murphy, routinely took in hundreds of thousands of dollars beyond what his own re-election campaign needed. He then redistributed much of it to friendly candidates or to the state party.

This is legal as long as the donor isn’t intentionally funneling money through one candidate to another to dodge contribution limits. But it adds power to the powerful and gives rebellious officials one more reason not to buck the leadership.

Individuals and companies should be allowed to donate to candidates of their choosing in most cases. But direct contributions are the most transparent.

A substitute for HB 920 is likely, and it’s unclear which elements of the original bill will remain intact. Both a gift limit and a cap on campaign-to-campaign transfers appear to be on the chopping block.

On the plus side, House Ethics Chairman Joe Wilkinson wants to implement “immediate” disclosure of lobbyist gifts while the Legislature is in session, probably with a requirement to file reports within 48 to 72 hours. That would boost transparency.

The political rationale for treading cautiously, with less than eight months to go before Election Day, is understandable. But this is no time for lawmakers to lose their nerve.

Republicans tightened some ethics laws upon consolidating power in 2005, particularly for the personal financial disclosures that lawmakers must make. After that, the Washington-based Center for Public Integrity promoted Georgia to sixth place nationally, from 26th, in its rankings of state disclosure laws. (We now rank seventh, higher than our neighbors.)

Yet the picture is bigger than that, and there’s more work to do. As the first chapter on Republican rule of Georgia closes, with Richardson out and Gov. Sonny Perdue completing his second term, the party needs to maintain its resolve for reform.

The GOP promised to be different from Murphy’s imperial Democrats. To fulfill that vow and put the Richardson debacle firmly behind them, Republicans can’t stand still.

45 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 17th, 2010
8:12 pm

Headlining the bill was a $100 limit on lobbyists’ gifts to officials, such as meals.

I’ve never in my life had a meal that cost even half that. How ’bout they pick up their own tab? Since the 70’s, we’ve been hearing about Ethics Reform and all we’ve seen is a little window dressing from time to time to calm things down when the heat is on. Pardon me, if I don’t have much faith in this latest round.

Michael H. Smith

March 17th, 2010
8:29 pm

Here’s one for Brucie, simply because he is soo-deserving: The reason backwater bare-foot hook-worm infested Georgia didn’t have a seat belt law for pick-up trucks until recently is found in that backwardsDemocrat Speaker Tom Murphy! See, he drove a pick-up truck and he hated to wear a seat belt.

It is good to see the Republicans making a move in the right direction whether it is believable or not. Until the Republican Party returns to its first love of reform they will continue in decline.

Yes, Glenn Beck, I said reform not transform. You’ll find that word used in defining Progressive: favoring or advocating progress, change, improvement, or reform, as opposed to wishing to maintain things as they are, esp. in political matters: a progressive mayor.

No More Libertarians!!

Road Scholar

March 17th, 2010
8:58 pm

Nothing less than what Tennessee and Maryland did is acceptable. And where is the investigation of the Richardson affair when, after he resigned it was said “…and everyone knew about it..”. So?

Hillbilly Deluxe

March 17th, 2010
9:03 pm

And where is the investigation of the Richardson affair when, after he resigned it was said “…and everyone knew about it..”. So?

Bil Shipp had written about it several times 2-3 years ago and then a few months ago, it strangely appears out of nowhere? It was all rather strange.

Karl Marx

March 18th, 2010
6:38 am

They can’t move on ethics reform because they have to follow Republican Michael Harden and make the unemployed take drug test. What a bunch of bozos. He will have more business since the state just set a new record at 10.5% unemployment. According to Harden those people are unemployed because they are drug addicts. Vote them all out. It may be the only way we get drug testing where it is needed under the gold dome.

Shiftless

March 18th, 2010
7:20 am

To mention Glenn Richardson’s name is wrong. Forget him. Move on. They send you to prison for sexting in Dubais. Congrats, Georgia Assembly, you’ve finally made it all the way to Arab scum. So what if a man cranks a colleague. I thought that was the prize. I guess the legislative fat-bellies are eating the bon-bons they’re supposed to give away to get sex.

Besides, candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker, you know.

The Georgia Assembly is nothing but a bunch of G-spotists Jihadists.

jt

March 18th, 2010
7:44 am

Michael H. Smith -

Most of us have already “progressed” from needing a nanny or mommy to tell us to buckle up.
It usually happened in grade school.

Chump.

Will

March 18th, 2010
8:06 am

Kyle:

You appear to be an earnest, sincere enough young fellow but you are naive beyond your years regarding politics.

Power and control is nonpartisan. Whoever has it will invariably abuse it. There is no difference between democrat and republican power and control.

Republicans in Georgia, like democrats in Washington, are finding it difficult and unpopular to govern, just as democrats in Georgia and republicans in Washington are finding it both popular and rewarding to be popular without the consequence of governing.

For example, congressional republicans very well may regain majority status in the House and Senate after the fall elections.

Do you really think republicans will manage Congress in less of a nonpartisan manner than democrats do today? Do you really think they will quietly accept the democrats’ fillibuster tactics because republicans use the fillibuster today as the minority party? Do you really think they will never consider reconcilation when they return to a razor thin majority?

You MUST get beyond this silly infatuation with party politics.

Cutty

March 18th, 2010
8:53 am

So is there a caveat that the most a lobbyist can give ‘at one time’ is $100? Or is that the total? It shouldn’t be any money, lest they give up their salaries that we pay for and live on the lobbyists’ dime.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 18th, 2010
8:53 am

“Ethics” is a national problem too. For those who define ethics using the term “earmarks,” maybe you would wish to know the list of the republicans who joined democrats in preserving earmarks for the duration of this Congress (opposing the DeMint proposal):

Alexander (R-TN)
Bond (R-MO)
Bunning (R-KY)
Cochran (R-MS)
Collins (R-ME)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Lugar (R-IN)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Roberts (R-KS)
Shelby (R-AL)
Snowe (R-ME)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Wicker (R-MS)

I credit the two Georgia senators, whom I regularly brand as “RINOs,” with voting correctly. Maybe they are taking the first step toward rehabilitation.

Neyland de toilet grande

March 18th, 2010
8:55 am

I was at Legislative Plaza in Nashville the day the FBI started cuffing lawmakers in the Tennessee Waltz sting. Maybe a good dose of salts like that might get some real reform done in Georgia.

Willie

March 18th, 2010
8:58 am

Will

March 18th, 2010
8:06 am
The filibuster is designed to keep one party from ramming legislation down the throats of the other party unless there is a super majority to kill the filibuster. The repulbicans became more like the democrats and left their conservative values. Now, with the help of the tea party and others, the conservatives have moved to push out those who do not express their conservative values with their support of any lesgislation. As it should be! The progressive liberals are reaching for REFORM as Michael H. Smith stated. This reform is government control over everyone’s lives suchas what we eat, drink, smoke or not, and redistribution of wealth. I rather be free than have the government controlling my life. Also earlier responses mentioned “civil rights” reflects the movement in the 1960’s but I look at it as “states rights vs federal rights” which was the reason for the War Between the States. It will do me great harm if the federal goverment makes me buy health insurance.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 18th, 2010
8:58 am

“Ethics” is not defined by the extent to which a politician is wined and dined by lobbyists. The better definition is measured by the politician’s willingness to raid the public treasury, to spend where individual taxpayers elected to not do so.

Fix-It

March 18th, 2010
9:25 am

Seems like as long as you change the way you say things as opposed to what it really means is a game in DC. How about call earmarks what they are BRIBES, call lobbyist what they are corporate bribers, why is this even legal? This is why we have an ethics problem to begin with, I thought that bribery was illegal, unless you are a government official; I guess.

The Tar and Feathers Party

March 18th, 2010
9:27 am

An Honest Republican? Internal Conflict, Does Not Compute, Contradiction in Terms, Abort, ABEND, Abnormal End.

Churchill's MOM

March 18th, 2010
9:49 am

Ragnar…both of our Senators have traditionally voted to ban earmarks but continue to use them after the measure is defeated. They also both voted against yesterday’s jobs bill. The Insider said Saxby had written Obama saying that his clients in the Agriculture industry were too poor to take a freeze in the farm bill. As always with Saxby, the Lobbyist Money talks and the taxpayer walks.

I understand that Allen Buckley,the Libertarian who ran against Saxby, may be entering the the Republican primary against Johnny the Socialist, if he does he’ll get my check and vote.

HDB

March 18th, 2010
9:49 am

Tar and Feathers: Add – divide by zero!!

insert talking point here...

March 18th, 2010
9:52 am

Willie,
Ramming legislation down the throats, Please… pick a new catch phrase.

Do you currently have health insurance? I’m guessing you do. So what harm will come to you then?
Drive a car? Bet you have insurance for that. By choice? No.

States Rights vs Federal Rights was the reason for the Civil War? Really? So it wasn’t slavery after all? Maybe you’re reading the advanced copy of the Texas approved text books.

retiredds

March 18th, 2010
10:00 am

Kyle, on this issue you’re right on. Trouble is are the Republicans in charge really ready to give up the fine perks they receive from lobbyists? If so the model is already on the table – Tennessee and Maryland. I’ll be interested if the legislature can go that far. And that would fulfill a campaign promise that the Republicans promised when they took over, to change the way government was done in GA for the prior 100 years.

Churchill's MOM

March 18th, 2010
10:05 am

If Richardson had filled out a from for value received, what value would he put on his roll in the sack with the Georgia Power Lobbyist?

Morrus

March 18th, 2010
10:12 am

Vote out the incumbents and start over

Churchill's MOM

March 18th, 2010
10:18 am

Hillbilly Deluxe 9:03 pm

It is too bad that Bill Shipp has retired, he was by far the best and most knowledgeable reporter the AJC has ever employed.

The Anti-Wooten

March 18th, 2010
10:20 am

Kyle,

You can’t have it both ways. The Robert’s Court just settled this matter. These lobbyists work for Corporate Persons and as such they have the freedom to spend their money pretty much any way and anywhere they choose to do so. As long as they follow the proscribed reporting requirements at the end of the quarter or year what’t the big deal?

No More Progressives!

March 18th, 2010
10:45 am

GOP must move on ethics reform……….

GOP (and the Donkey’s) must first learn the meaning of the word “ethics.”

Congressional ethics is a classic oxymoron.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 18th, 2010
10:57 am

Dear Mom @ 9:49, thanks for info, that is good news to me. I would be delighted to send some money to Mr. Buckley for a candidacy against the housing-development industry’s best friend in Congress.

Tyler Durden

March 18th, 2010
11:01 am

Hmmm.. the SAME people who protected Glenn Richardson and his shambolic affiar that nearly defrauded the state of over $100 million are now going to spearhead ethics reform??!!

Wow… are you GOP supporters really that naive or is this just blind support of ideology with no consideration of the facts?!

Suddenly, the Liptonites look like the smart wing of the Repulican party.

NEVER let the facts get in the way of ideology :-)

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 18th, 2010
11:05 am

And Mom @ 9:49, I would support Mr. Buckley even though I know he actually thinks the income tax is superior to all of the consumption-based tax alternatives. I don’t regard the perfect as the enemy of the good.

Churchill's MOM

March 18th, 2010
11:12 am

Ragnar ….Allen has had several “Fair Tax” debates with Bortz and Bortz finished a distant 3rd. If we could sober Linder up for long enough for a debate, he would do worse that Bortz.

Ragnar Danneskjöld

March 18th, 2010
11:17 am

But Mom, as I affirm repeatedly, I do not hold Mr. Buckley’s single area of blind ignorance against him. I will send him money the day he announces, because he is so good on so many areas, and his upside in tax is unlimited.

Jefferson

March 18th, 2010
12:22 pm

Ethics instead of the budget?

StJ

March 18th, 2010
12:24 pm

Ethics reform will not happen in either party until we, the voters, force the issue, either by voting out individuals or a whole party. Who knows, it might just happen in the next election. The public is getting real tired of all the corruption…

No More Progressives!

March 18th, 2010
12:38 pm

Suddenly, the Liptonites look like the smart wing of the Repulican party.

Compared to Queen Nancy & Court Jester Reid, you’re right!

The Austrian Brotherhood

March 18th, 2010
12:59 pm

Yes, the civil war was primarily about state succession, not slavery. Lincoln jailed thousands of northerners too. He was a dictator and every bit as racist as the general population was at the time.

Don’t believe it? Don’t like it? Who cares.

The U.S was the ONLY country to fight a war to “end slavery” and KILL SIX HUNDRED THOUSAND INDIVIDUALS in the process.

Stay indoctrinated like good sheep. Freakin’ evil pro-murderers.

retiredds

March 18th, 2010
2:12 pm

Kyle I have a further thought about ethics reform. If the guys (and you know they are mostly “good olde boys”), thought of ethics with the following formula in mind, we just might get reform and more integrity under the Gold Dome.

Ethics should = the highest level of family values= 5 tenets of the Boy Scout Oath (trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, kind)

Marcos

March 18th, 2010
2:29 pm

I love how GA Republicans are willing to bash the 10%+ unemployed in this state by making then take AND pay for drug tests in order to get benefits, yet they are unwilling to address their own ethics. The perfect example of “do as I say and not do as I do.”

Michael H. Smith

March 18th, 2010
4:04 pm

Willie

March 18th, 2010
8:58 am

The “so-called progressive liberals” are SOCIALISTS, end of story. What they are pushing is not reforms. These SOCIALISTS Democrats like Brucie jt whose mommy needs to teach him how read and comprehend, intend to TRANSFORM America into a Big Government controlled Socialist country, which is something it was never meant to be.

No More Dunkey Dung, No More Libertarian Corporatist!!

Michael H. Smith

March 18th, 2010
4:16 pm

No More “p”rogressives! – The Liptonites are not a wing of any political party. At the moment they are a political movement. And for what it is worth, The Liptonites are a REFORM movement. By definition that makes them, Progressives!

Michael H. Smith

March 18th, 2010
4:30 pm

Okay Kyle, time to change the blog. The evening spiel has been made to foment the crowd on both ends of the political elitist scale, from the Socialist to the Corporatist.

Before the GOP reforms ethics it should reform itself back to the Populism of its founder’s words: …that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Kyle's Korner

March 18th, 2010
5:59 pm

Oh pardon us, Michael Smith, is the discussion below you?

O great swami of the blog!! We’re not worthy.

Why don’t you start a blog. No, really, we’ll all follow and comment and have a party blog thing and everything.

cool word

No More Progressives!

March 18th, 2010
6:32 pm

Michael H. Smith

March 18th, 2010
4:16 pm
No More “p”rogressives! – The Liptonites are not a wing of any political party. At the moment they are a political movement. And for what it is worth, The Liptonites are a REFORM movement. By definition that makes them, Progressives!

I like my tea sweet…….kind syrupy, ya know……………………

Michael H. Smith

March 18th, 2010
6:36 pm

Can’t anyone have fun with Kyle without one of you yahoos getting bent-out of shape? Good grief! The discussion is fine but since you obviously missed what I was getting at it really doesn’t matter. Kyle was the only one particular who was suppose to see the good nature of my intended humor in that remark.

Michael H. Smith

March 18th, 2010
6:42 pm

I prefer green tea myself, of course the regular stuff is good too. But here’s a snippet of something that clears up the Tea Party misconceptions many hold, some intentional out of opposition.

Brewing tensions between the Tea Party and GOP

(Reuters) – Some Tea Partiers say they can pinpoint the precise moment when they made it clear to the Republican Party they had no intention of being its lapdog.

On a bright, brisk afternoon in mid-February, with snow still thick on the ground from storms that had battered Washington the week before, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele met with more than 50 members of the Tea Party, the Twitter Age conservative movement that is reshaping the U.S. political landscape.

Steele, RNC chairman since January 2009, had invited them to the plush Capitol Hill Club, built as a clubhouse for the party’s top brass next door to RNC headquarters.

According to several accounts, not long into the meeting JoAnn Abbott, an activist from Virginia who calls herself the ‘Tea Party Grandma,’ raised her hand to ask a question.

She asked about a web page on the RNC site where visitors could send their member of Congress a postcard with a tea bag. On the tag at the end of the string were the letters ‘RNC.’

“Respectfully, sir, while we do not have a trademark on the tea bag, you are well aware that people associate it with the Tea Party movement,” Abbott, 50, recalls saying to Steele. “If you co-opt that image, you damage our brand and weaken our movement.”

Lest there was any confusion, she added: “It does not belong to you, it belongs to us as an independent movement.”

http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE62H2YW20100318?loomia_ow=t0:s0:a49:g43:r1:c0.199288:b32004630:z0

Kyle's Korner

March 18th, 2010
8:59 pm

lovelyliz

March 19th, 2010
9:57 am

GOP must move on ethics reform

If the GOP acted ethically, they wouldn’t have to.

No More Progressives!

March 19th, 2010
10:39 am

lovelyliz

March 19th, 2010
9:57 am
GOP must move on ethics reform

If the GOP acted ethically, they wouldn’t have to.

Replace “GOP” with “Government” and I’ll agree with you.