Transparency just a click of the mouse away? (Updated)

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:

Ethics Commission Web shot

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

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55 comments Add your comment

ByteMe

March 22nd, 2012
2:46 pm

Don’t get mad. Get even.

Name names. Show how much money it takes to feed a fat hog.

arnold

March 22nd, 2012
2:48 pm

Shouldn’t we trust and believe in our elected politicians. Aren’t they the best money can buy?

arnold

March 22nd, 2012
2:49 pm

How about directly questioning a politician or two as to what they received from what lobbyist. See what kind or response you get.

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
2:58 pm

Lack of transparency in government is nothing new. It’s been going on forever. Even at the Constitutional Convention, the doors were locked, windows closed and guards placed at the doors.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep trying, though.

carlosgvv

March 22nd, 2012
3:26 pm

Oh Kyle! Did you really think your dearly beloved Republicans would actually make this kind of information public?

@@

March 22nd, 2012
3:30 pm

Wonder if it has anything to do with Kyle & jay’s call to action.

Kyle Wingfield

March 22nd, 2012
3:40 pm

carlosgvv: Well, it wasn’t public until they took over. And it was public until the technical problems this week; I know of no other time since the transparency law was passed that there was such an outage. So, things have improved. The point is that they are not good enough yet.

Road Scholar

March 22nd, 2012
3:42 pm

After “Obamacare”, The repubs would never do anything that wasn’t transparent!?! Would they? Where are their minions and tea partiers to cry foul?

Kyle, you know the story about the word Assume, don’t you?

@@

March 22nd, 2012
3:43 pm

I checked on my reps’ “gifts” BEFORE the site went down.

The one I know personally? Let’s just say he eats well.

I’ll bend his ear next time we all go out to dinner. Sometimes he picks up the tab…sometimes we do…other times, the cajun neighbor does.

I’ll confess, favors are sometimes on the menu. Our commissioner is ABSOLUTELY worthless. At times, we have to go over his head to get anything done.

I’ve got friends in low places.

schnirt

Kyle Wingfield

March 22nd, 2012
3:45 pm

Road: Actually, the tea partiers have been one of the loudest groups complaining about the lack of transparency with the tax bill that was introduced Monday and sent to the governor just a few minutes ago. And I’ll be checking back with the ethics commission’s website between now and then to see if my assumption proves correct.

E. Denise Caldon

March 22nd, 2012
3:48 pm

Kyle and Jay’s “Call to Action” should include transparency and Open Records by our state’s own, AJC media-portrayed “Open Records” advocate, Attorney General Sam Olens. See the two latest “Alerts” at http://politicalvine.com/ – copies now in the hands of the Senate Rules Committee and Sponsors of HB 397 and many others statewide. Sadly, the AJC will not touch the topic of confirmed ethics and fiscal violations by top officials at the Board of Regents – just our elected officials. Is it because their attorney is Attorney General Sam Olens and they are told not to go there? One would think that the fact that Attorney General Sam Olens just filed his 2nd “Response in Opposition” to the Motion that would have finally released the violations by HIS defendants would be a “red flag” to someone at the AJC.
No wonder “Georgia Ranks Dead Last in Ethics, Integrity Scorecard.”

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
3:55 pm

The one I know personally? Let’s just say he eats well.

Makes you wonder why they get a meal allowance when they’re in session, don’t it?

Lil' Barry Bailout (Revised Downward)

March 22nd, 2012
4:00 pm

Well, it wasn’t public until [Republicans] took over.
——-

Ouch, carlosgvv, that’s GOT to sting!

Junior Samples

March 22nd, 2012
4:01 pm

It’s not down, it’s a new feature.
Now the data is transparent as well.

@@

March 22nd, 2012
4:05 pm

Hillbilly:

Makes you wonder why they get a meal allowance when they’re in session, don’t it?

Never thought about it like that.

Maybe it’s ’cause they can’t always find a lobbyist when they’re hungy? In that case, there’s always “petty” cash.

(ISH)

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
4:12 pm

@@

If somebody isn’t smart enough to get somebody else to buy his meals, what’s he doing at the State House? (IW&SH)

AmVet

March 22nd, 2012
4:30 pm

Great job, Kyle. Stay on them.

This travesty is unacceptable and heads should roll. (figuratively, of course!)

Michael H. Smith

March 22nd, 2012
4:33 pm

Kyle Wingfield

March 22nd, 2012
3:45 pm

Nah, can’t be the TEA PARTIERS, Kyle.

Drum roll please…

You got it all wrong, go get your facts straight from Stacy Abrams, bet she said it before them old TEA PARTIERS! :roll:

The loudest group Kyle are these leftwingers who think their volume can substitute for their lack of validity.

obumerCare arguments before the Court should start soon. Now we’ll find out if paying the price for electing a LIBERAL President George Dubya Bush to get two SC Justices was worth the sacrifice that was made by the right.

Linda

March 22nd, 2012
4:34 pm

Kyle’s on-going series of articles prove that his personal integrity in intact. There’s no amt. of lavish meals, tickets & trips that are worth more than maintaining one’s moral & ethic principles. Lapses in one’s moral character will follow a person his or her entire life. Great example you are setting for all of us.

Kyle Wingfield

March 22nd, 2012
4:39 pm

MHS @ 4:33: Not sure if you’re being sarcastic or not, but Abrams and almost all the other Dems lined up and voted for the bill.

Michael H. Smith

March 22nd, 2012
4:52 pm

You’ve hit the nail on the head Linda: Personal integrity is the only thing that will ever make the positive difference.

All the laws, ethics, limits on gifts(which should be in place) commissions, regulators and enforcers in this world can accomplish what only personal integrity can do when no one is looking.

@@

March 22nd, 2012
4:54 pm

Looks like the site is back up.

http://ethics.ga.gov/main.aspx

Just pulled up my reps “gifts” again.

Michael H. Smith

March 22nd, 2012
4:58 pm

Kyle Wingfield

March 22nd, 2012
4:39 pm

Ah, now Kyle… me, sarcastic?! :lol:

I’d be with you on this one presume. Don’t vote for a bill just to pass something when you know it is bad.

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
5:03 pm

All the laws, ethics, limits on gifts(which should be in place) commissions, regulators and enforcers in this world can accomplish what only personal integrity can do when no one is looking.

I agree with that and that’s why we need to be looking at all times.

@@

March 22nd, 2012
5:08 pm

Well…it’s kinda up.

IT overhaul may not be what’s needed. A urologist might do the trick.

schnirt

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
5:10 pm

@@

My Rep’s financial reports are there but they are unintelligible gobbledygook (I assume that’s a puter snafu). Of course, the biggest gifts to my Rep have been gifts he got legislated for himself. That probably doesn’t count anyway.

Kyle Wingfield

March 22nd, 2012
5:11 pm

@@: The site was not completely down before, but the 2012 records are still not available.

Jefferson

March 22nd, 2012
5:15 pm

Those boys & girls brag about not buying their on grub…

Michael H. Smith

March 22nd, 2012
5:15 pm

I agree with that and that’s why we need to be looking at all times.

Particularly when electing these politicians, so hopefully when we aren’t looking their morals standards serve as our eyes upon their soul.

I know I’ve said this far too many times by now, though, I’m going to once again as my father once told me: Son, every man has a price. I just hope I’ve set my price so high that no one will ever be able to meet it.

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
5:28 pm

MHS

I’ve often said that the two things I look at first in a politician is honesty and judgement. If they don’t have that, nothing else really matters.

carlosgvv

March 22nd, 2012
5:32 pm

Barry – 4:00

And it’s STILL not public. And if it ever is, do you honestly think it will be accurate?

@@

March 22nd, 2012
5:34 pm

Let’s face it. Jimmy Carter was a man of integrity.

Good judgement? Well…can’t have everything, can we?

Rafe Hollister

March 22nd, 2012
6:19 pm

Speaking of transparency, has anyone checked on Eric Holder’s whereabouts. He man be moon lighting a second job in Georgia, in anticipation of losing his day job.

Logical Dude

March 22nd, 2012
6:19 pm

Hi Kyle, Can you go ahead and post what you got when you ran the 2012 report last week? You should generate a lot of traffic since the State’s servers are down (well, for 2012 anyway).

Rafe Hollister

March 22nd, 2012
6:21 pm

@@
So, running as a segregationist in one election and a liberal in the next is a sign of integrity?

ld

March 22nd, 2012
6:23 pm

Most people that realize they’re stuck at the bottom of a hole would quit digging?

It seems each individual politition is intent upon digging deeper into the quagmire of corruption and crony capitalism until they hit their own personal vein of gold.

Eric

March 22nd, 2012
7:01 pm

Great article! Thanks, Kyle.

@@

March 22nd, 2012
7:01 pm

@@: The site was not completely down before, but the 2012 records are still not available.

Oh.

And…

@@
So, running as a segregationist in one election and a liberal in the next is a sign of integrity?

I’ve always thought of liberals as segregationists. They are, afterall, the ones who separate by class. It’s the ol’ identity politics thingy. I’ve never had much use for it.

xdog

March 22nd, 2012
7:08 pm

So Kyle, how far do you propose to push this? Are you willing to name names and match amounts to actions, or is that too reportorial for a columnist?

Regardless, you have enough of a platform to hold some deserving feet to the fire if you choose.

Remember, Mencken said that the only way a journalist should look at a politician is down. Go ahead and take a shot.

Rafe Hollister

March 22nd, 2012
7:20 pm

@@
I’ve always thought of liberals as segregationists.

Nice, I like that! Our thought of the day.

Linda

March 22nd, 2012
7:40 pm

The only hope that Obama has of getting re-elected is to find a way to convert pollen into an auto fuel by June, at the latest, OR maybe one of his chefs, you know, that one that whips up arugula, could come up with a recipe for pollen, say, over rice or potatoes. What did God intent for us to do with pollen? Life is still but a mystery.

ragnar danneskjold

March 22nd, 2012
8:27 pm

I could not care less if each member of the legislature is taking $1 million per year from lobbyists so long as there is no wasteful public spending. Any expenditure for a non-police or non-highway function should be suspicious.

@@

March 22nd, 2012
9:13 pm

What did God intent for us to do with pollen?

It’s a male thing. It’s only the male trees that release pollen.

Developers and municipalities tend to favor male trees since citizens complain about berries and nuts littering the sidewalks. It’s the female trees that litter.

I read ^^^ that somewhere.

@@

March 22nd, 2012
9:14 pm

Nice, I like that! Our thought of the day.

Feel free to redistribute.

Just a thought.

(ISH)

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
10:46 pm

While pine pollen is the most visible, it’s the oak and other pollens that cause you the most problems. Like many other things in life, what you don’t see can hurt you.

RW-(the original)

March 22nd, 2012
10:54 pm

Just wait until the grass pollens join the mix in a couple of weeks….

Hillbilly D

March 22nd, 2012
10:56 pm

RW

Oh yeah, we ain’t see nuthin’ yet.

RaceToTheBottom

March 22nd, 2012
11:10 pm

Uh Kyle, how about giving us the link to this website? BTW, how much do they pay you for this drivel?

jd

March 23rd, 2012
5:09 am

Kyle – I’m an old opposition researcher (since the 80’s) — the information was public prior to the Republican takeover. Since the Republican takeover — the quality of the information, and the quality of access, has become problematic.

sheepdawg

March 23rd, 2012
7:33 am

keep the heat on Kyle… these corrupt theives must be exposed and expunged