UPDATE March 26 at 12:15 p.m.: The problem appears to be fixed, as the option for 2012 lobbyist reports is available once again
ORIGINAL POST from March 22:
Not in Georgia, at least not right now. As the 2012 session winds down and a number of important, far-reaching bills are being passed or defeated, lobbyist expenditure reports for this calendar year are not available on the website of the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission. See this screen shot I took this afternoon:
This problem cropped up just this week: Last week, while researching a column about ethics reform and the proposed $100 gift limit, the 2012 reports appeared to work fine. The outage apparently began after a problem Friday with the state’s data servers (I’ve placed a call to the responsible state agency to confirm that and will update this post when I hear back). In the meantime, only reports through 2011 are available.
One doesn’t have to suspect any nefarious activity to see this is trouble when the only thing standing between legislators and lobbyists allowed by law to ply them with unlimited gifts — food, drink, sports or concert tickets, junkets, etc. — is the public, armed with knowledge about the giving and receipt of said gifts. (Campaign contributions are not an immediate concern, because legislators are prohibited by law from accepting donations during the session. After the session is, of course, another story.)
Oh, I assume the website will be back up and functioning before this summer’s primaries and November’s general election, should someone want to make a campaign issue of a given legislator’s acceptance of lobbyist gifts during the 2012 session. It may well be restored before legislators adjourn next week — although it’s not exactly comforting for the future to know the Senate yesterday voted to cut $150,000 from a line in the fiscal 2013 budget calling for “IT upgrades to address challenges to systems due to an increase in traffic” (see page 19 of this budget document). The House had inserted that item into the budget at $250,000, or one-thousandth of 1 percent of the $19.2 billion spending plan.
But if you want to know right now who’s been giving what to whom leading up to, say, this week’s votes on tax reform or the fiscal 2013 budget? Well, in that case, too bad for you — and too bad there wasn’t a $100 limit in place so that the gifts were at least reasonable in case the state’s computers went on the fritz.
– By Kyle Wingfield