About the ‘liberal’ plot to get those ‘good people’ at the Gold Dome

Following up on last week’s post about the state GOP’s chance to put ethics reform on the July primary ballot: Georgia Republicans did just that at their annual convention in Columbus, as well as approving a resolution calling on lawmakers to address the issue of lobbyist gifts in the next legislative session. It was a strong message from the party’s grassroots membership to the elected officials who wear the GOP label, and primary voters now have a chance to reinforce that message with a “yes” vote in July.

Speaker David Ralston was critical of this message, however, when he made his own remarks in Columbus:

In times of great majorities like we enjoy now, we must remember that there are those around us who seek nothing less than to divide us. There are those who would sow the seeds of dissension and discord in order to advance a self-absorbed agenda that’s not consistent with the best interests of our party.

Let me be very clear. Regardless of the course that others may take, as for me and the people’s House of this state, we are going to stand united, working hard, standing Republican shoulder to Republican shoulder, to make Georgia a better state –- and not align ourselves with media elites and liberal special interest groups.

Because that last part wasn’t very clear, reporters asked him afterward whom he meant by “liberal special interest groups,” given that tea partyers have been at the forefront of the ethics push. (Yours truly, who is a member of the media but has never considered himself “elite,” was unable to attend the convention.) He cited Common Cause and Georgia Watch.

But the more interesting part of his explanation, in my view, was this:

There’s been some continuing chatter, and you know, every once in a while I think that part of my job as Speaker is to remind people that I represent a caucus that are basically good people doing good jobs. The inference by some on this issue suggests otherwise.

I, for one, find it hard to reconcile the speaker’s assertion that legislators are “basically good people” with his constant warnings that these “basically good people” will be party to illegal behavior — i.e., underground, unreported lobbyist expenditures on them — if the ethics laws are changed.

If the legislators are “basically good people” — and let me say that, by and large, I agree with the speaker’s assessment of them — why in the world should we expect them to go along with law-breaking? Yes, there could be some “gotcha” moments in which the tab ended up over $100 without their knowing it. But there’s a pretty easy way to avoid that: Don’t accept invitations to restaurants where the tab is likely to break $100 a person.

If I’m trying to avoid running up that kind of tab, I generally don’t head for Hal’s Steakhouse. As it turns out, I’ve never managed to spend $100 on myself at Chili’s or Longhorn.

The whole point of a $100 cap is not to catch someone being naughty or prevent legislators from interacting with lobbyists altogether, even socially; that’s why I personally support a cap rather than a ban. The point is to cut out the mentality among some of our “basically good” elected officials that they are entitled to a lifestyle of expensive dinners and entertainment while they’re supposedly doing the people’s business — a mentality that may make some of them confused about what exactly the people’s business is.

And that, I can assure you, is not a point that only liberals are interested in making.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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47 comments Add your comment

SBinF

May 21st, 2012
11:38 am

Politicians are bought and sold. Nothing new here. They all have a price. I only wish we regular folks could afford it!

Common Sense isn't very Common

May 21st, 2012
11:41 am

Ethics is a partisan issue?

GT

May 21st, 2012
11:47 am

Liberals, such a general word that covers such a large universe of non right wing conservatives. Why do you constantly refer to the world at large as liberal. And yourselves as religious for that matter.

As for “gotcha” moments, you make light of the real problem. Corrupt government that are there for its own self gratification is the real problem and to camouflage that into a community “good” is real liberal by the true definition. This also would explain why you want us to believe that the majority of the crooks are good people, like German propaganda. You have a state last in about every category measurable yet legislatures that have time to dine on steak and wine? How can they leave that much work at the office?

Jefferson

May 21st, 2012
11:48 am

The should go “Dutch” and let them pick up the tip, since their paycheck is easy money.

jconservative

May 21st, 2012
11:51 am

“…and not align ourselves with media elites and liberal special interest groups.”

Per chance Speaker Ralston are any of those “media elites” pointy headed?

If this is the best Ralston can do, the Republicans made need to re-think their speaker-ship.

Kyle Wingfield

May 21st, 2012
11:54 am

GT: I have to say, I’m not really sure what you’re trying to say this time, or to whom.

GT

May 21st, 2012
12:19 pm

Kyle: somewhere in your home team enthusiasm you must find your journalistic side saying there is a defect in my product. Like the Christopher Buckley’s novel, Thank You for Smoking, where the main character was a public relation man for the tobacco company, at some point you must gather yourself for a new assumption.

Sherlock

May 21st, 2012
12:20 pm

Didn’t Clark Griswold have to pay for his European vacation? Dave Ralston didn’t, so, he doesn’t want to give that up.

Aquagirl

May 21st, 2012
12:21 pm

Of course Mr. Ralston…..a vote for ethics is a vote for the terrorists! Or something.

Congratulations Kyle on being one of the “elite.” No wonder you’re unconcerned about MARTA, with a private limo waiting out front 24/7 who cares about traffic?

rlj

May 21st, 2012
12:24 pm

GT, you are so enthused for YOUR home team that you missed the point of Kyle’s article. He was speaking against his team, if you didn’t notice. You are guilty of the very thing you of which you accuse Kyle.

The Fresh Prince of Bill Ayers

May 21st, 2012
12:29 pm

Kyle: somewhere in your home team enthusiasm you must find your journalistic side saying there is a defect in my product

Kinda funny, when someone like John Edwards or Corzine get caught the libs bury their heads in the ground like ostriches…

Kyle Wingfield

May 21st, 2012
12:29 pm

GT: I guess I don’t see where you think I’m being uncritical of the “home team.” I’ve been writing for months about the need for ethics reform, in spite of the opposition from Republican legislators.

Is it because I agreed with Ralston that most legislators are “basically good people”? Well, even if you divide the “basically good” from the basically bad by whether they accept expensive gifts — and I don’t define it so narrowly — the majority of legislators don’t receive those kinds of gifts.

Kyle Wingfield

May 21st, 2012
12:30 pm

Thanks, rlj. I was beginning to think I’d written the opposite of what I thought I’d written.

AmVet

May 21st, 2012
12:32 pm

Kudos, Kyle.

Again.

Georgia’s lack of ethics in state government has become a huge embarrassment.

To wit, what a disgrace to come in dead last in that recent report!

That on top of us electing one of the 15 most corrupt members of the entire US Congress as our governor???

But the Republican faithful here apparently do not really care very much about corruption from their party leaders. Their only knee jerk response is something along the lines of, “But, look at so and so!”

As if that non-answer is good enough.

That to me, is the biggest shame in this entire matter. Because these men were elected to serve us – we the people – and who sometimes put themselves and their cronies first, know that there really will be no consequences if they have an R after their name…

GT

May 21st, 2012
12:35 pm

Perhaps so, and if so I do stand corrected. I just object to the anyone finding any favor for a legislature that has caused a lot of it’s own headwind playing populous politics for it’s own enrichment and at the expense of our state. I would define Kyle as a good person, certainly not getting rich or allowing money to direct his thinking. Thanks for correcting my misunderstanding.

Kyle Wingfield

May 21st, 2012
12:38 pm

AmVet: I’m not sure how you can decide Georgia Republicans — the grassroots, not the elected officials — don’t care about ethics when they just passed a resolution calling on the Legislature to pass ethics reform and approved a ballot question for the primary to let voters show how they feel about the issue.

This is a shot across the bow. If it isn’t taken seriously, then we’ll see if the party faithful are willing to take the next step.

JDW

May 21st, 2012
12:44 pm

Congratulations Kyle! Welcome to the “Liberal Media Elite”. I thought that Ralston could not have been more clear in his targeting it had named you and Jay outright.

CobbGOPer

May 21st, 2012
12:50 pm

I thought Ralston was going to pull a Balfour at the end of that speech and say “Look people, we been doing it this way for years and you never had a problem before!”

But in a surprise turn, he goes with the liberal conspiracy argument. What a Twist!

Seriously, Mr. Speaker, if you’re going to call us all crazy liberals or liberal sympathizers for asking for a little more accountability from you and yours, then you’re not fit to wield that big gavel.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 21st, 2012
12:51 pm

“But the Republican faithful here apparently do not really care very much about corruption from their party leaders.”

Of course, REALITY says otherwise, AmVet, as the party faithful just approved a ballot question asking voters their views on ethics reform.

But I guess incessantly wining about Republicans instead of actually reading Kyle’s article is what you do best.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 21st, 2012
12:52 pm

That would be “incessantly whining”, AmVet.

BW

May 21st, 2012
12:55 pm

Kyle

Theft does not stop because you are Republican or Democrat. Greed is greed. Contrary to your view, I think legislators should take all they want with complete and loud disclosure. If their constituents are ok with their legislator taking the family to Europe during a transit study then that should be fine. If you are right about the tea partyers then the problem with those legislators should take care of itself….or will it?

DMAC

May 21st, 2012
12:56 pm

There should be a complete ban on gifts.

1. A $100 limit is to much. Does that limit per day or per hour or per minute.
2. If you have a ban it makes it much more difficult to subvert it. If you allow a $100 lawmakers will add exceptions and loopholes.

Dittohead

May 21st, 2012
12:59 pm

I was in favor of a gift ban until Mr. Ralston said only media elites and liberal special interest groups were for it. Now I am opposed.

I don’t care if the whole principle of self-government crumbles into dust and my legislators take bundles of hundred-dollar bills from Georgia Power live on television from the well of the House. So long as those media elites and liberal special interest groups don’t get their foot in the door, I’m happy!

AmVet

May 21st, 2012
1:01 pm

Kyle, granted. And I’ve written already that those involved – including the Ga. tea party – are to be commended.

And after further reading, believe your assessment is more correct than mine.

That I have conflated the viewpoints of the rabid right wingers who blog here – and who have run away from this topic whenever it is brought up – with rank and file Republicans voters in Georgia will hopefully be put to the test in 2013.

iggy

May 21st, 2012
1:03 pm

I think Dick Clark would have quite a different opinion on this matter.

AmVet

May 21st, 2012
1:06 pm

And right on cue, the paragon of rabid right wingers lashes out with personal insults rather than add anything adult to the conversation.

Kyle, he is exactly who I hope is NOT representative of rank and file Georgia Republicans…

itpdude

May 21st, 2012
1:06 pm

Republican law maker calls ethics reform a liberal conspiracy.

Kinda says it all about Republicans.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

May 21st, 2012
1:18 pm

Hey, lay-off my boys in the Georgia State Legislature!

Do you know how “hard” it is (pun intended) to find quality “escorts” for under $100?

E. Denise Caldon, Georgia Whistleblower v BOR

May 21st, 2012
1:29 pm

While ethics reform for our legislators is a very positive and “non-partisan” step, there is another even more critical and long overdue step needed to bring back some ethics and fiscal accountability back by top officials at the Board of Regents of the USG with the introduction of an amendment to our Georgia Constitution that currently allows the BOR zero accountability and, as former Gov. Perdue stated in an email to me, “exclusive authority” to do what they want with their “lump sum” state allocations annual check. The quote alone from BOR Chairman Tarbutton last week following the BOR giving $2.5 million to millionaire UGA President Adams should have had Georgians outraged! BOR Chairman Tarbutton was quoted as saying: “It’s a lot of money. There’s no getting away from that, but we’re here to celebrate the job he’s done. It is a generous package – some may say too generous – but we’re excited about where we are and we’re really closing this chapter and beginning to look forward.” It’s hard to imagine our USG students “celebrating” and being “excited” with the BOR’s continued misappropriations of our state tax allocations when they – as students – are having to seek a third part-time job or quit college all together because of the BOR’s tuition hikes and the continued filling of the USG’s pockets. One USG employee said, “Top USG officials have been laughing on the way to their banks for years.” I do not see our USG students and their families laughing. Do you? http://www.macon.com/2012/05/04/2014466/under-plan-retiring-uga-president.html

rlj

May 21st, 2012
1:30 pm

GT, since you honestly misunderstood, I regret and retract saying that you were blinded by enthusiasm for your home team. Sometimes we just assume what the other side from us will say and hear that instead of what was said. I am as guilty of that as anyone.

the red herring

May 21st, 2012
1:31 pm

as the old saying goes– a hit dog hollers—well that’s exactly what ralston is doing. it’s hard
to get the pigs away from the trough. however it is time to do exactly that— federal and state.
i suppose ralston wouldn’t have a problem with the federal judges vacationing in hawaii on the tax payers dime either. they never seem to care as long it’s either a lobbyist or taxpayer footing their bills.
it’s way past time for ethics reform in georgia and strengthening of the sunshine law as well.

iggy

May 21st, 2012
1:32 pm

$100 limit is standard in the private sector.

Just saying..

May 21st, 2012
1:35 pm

Kyle-
Thanks for pointing out to Speaker Ralston, and others, that “good” and “Republican” are two different words. Wish they always went together, but grownups realize that’s not always the case.

td

May 21st, 2012
1:54 pm

Kyle,

I posted the below on Jim’s blog and I will post it here for you to consider:

How do you enforce a $100 gift ban? What is the consequences of breaking the ban? Who determines who broke and did not break the ban? Will the people that voted the member to represent them have any say so in the matter? Who can file a complaint?

There are a ton of unintended consequences to imposing such a ban. You have to set up a agency to m monitor and how much power to give to said agency. Do a bunch of politically appointed people have the power to unseat an elected representative? Will the power lay in the legislature and if it does can you see what may happen to a member that votes their conscience instead of getting in line with leadership? What about the rights of the people that elect an individual? I can see now a Federal court case about an African American getting removed from office for accepting a $125 meal.

No, I am for as much sunshine as possible and let the people decide if the gifts are over the limit for their district. More government is never the answer to solve a problem.

Tiberius - Banned from Bookman's and proud of it!

May 21st, 2012
1:57 pm

“the paragon of rabid right wingers”

Once again, AmVet, your grasp of REALITY is tenuous at best, since my record in life and on this and Bookman’s blog says I’m not even remotely a right winger.

nofreecheese

May 21st, 2012
2:00 pm

Come on little “G-O-Piggies”; get your snouts out of the trough. I am conservative through-and-through; but I don’t want to be affiliated w/ these characters who undermine the greater good.

AmVet

May 21st, 2012
2:16 pm

I’m not even remotely a right winger.

THE laugh of the day.

The guy is so embarrassed by his own politics that he cuts and runs from them!

Lemme guess, you’re a bedwetting liberal.

Hysterical.

Joe Mama

May 21st, 2012
2:18 pm

Didn’t Speaker Ralston talk a big game about ethics and ethics reform when he assumed the office of Speaker? He certainly seems to have changed his tune since then.

Joe Mama

May 21st, 2012
2:21 pm

td — “How do you enforce a $100 gift ban? What is the consequences of breaking the ban? Who determines who broke and did not break the ban? Will the people that voted the member to represent them have any say so in the matter? Who can file a complaint?”

“There are a ton of unintended consequences to imposing such a ban. You have to set up a agency to m monitor and how much power to give to said agency. Do a bunch of politically appointed people have the power to unseat an elected representative? Will the power lay in the legislature and if it does can you see what may happen to a member that votes their conscience instead of getting in line with leadership? What about the rights of the people that elect an individual? I can see now a Federal court case about an African American getting removed from office for accepting a $125 meal.”

Businesses have no problem implementing and enforcing bans like that, and if my employer can do it, then the State of Georgia certainly can too.

td

May 21st, 2012
2:31 pm

Joe Mama

May 21st, 2012
2:21 pm

“Businesses have no problem implementing and enforcing bans like that, and if my employer can do it, then the State of Georgia certainly can too.”

Yes, private industry just fires the person. How do we fire an elected politician if they have not committed a felony? Is it not true that it is the people of the district that elected the representative the employer so how does another agency or elected representatives fire a duly elected representative of a district without a lawsuit being filed (especially a discrimination lawsuit if a minority is fired by anyone other then their employers)?

Real Athens

May 21st, 2012
2:44 pm

The Georgia GOP has to ask if Georgia voters care about ethics? Lip service at best. The irony. I guess they can’t or don’t read their mail.

Joe Mama

May 21st, 2012
2:44 pm

td — “Yes, private industry just fires the person. How do we fire an elected politician if they have not committed a felony?”

I didn’t say ‘fire’ and neither did you. I leave it to others to determine what penalty is appropriate. However, my original point stands; you objected on the basis of the difficulty and expense/trouble of enforcing a ban. Seems to me that if a business can do it, then a State certainly can, too.

“Is it not true that it is the people of the district that elected the representative the employer so how does another agency or elected representatives fire a duly elected representative of a district without a lawsuit being filed (especially a discrimination lawsuit if a minority is fired by anyone other then their employers)?”

You’re overthinking this IMO. We need not fire a transgressing state lawmaker. Let’s just fine them, say 10-20 times the fair market value of the violative gift, and also bar them from receiving any state pay or per diem between the time the gift was received and the point when the fine has been paid in full. I suspect something like that would give wavering lawmakers the needed incentive to keep them honest.

Darwin

May 21st, 2012
2:52 pm

It’s a fact that Republicans can’t give you the time of day without inserting a negative liberal comment. It’s an addiction.

DAWG

May 21st, 2012
3:12 pm

It’s 3:10 you liberal bed wetter.

Don Abernethy

May 21st, 2012
3:13 pm

We bring up negative liberal comments a lot because liberals are ruining our country. But I guess we could try to develop a better label for liberals. Anyone have any suggestions??? Obamians??

Road Scholar

May 21st, 2012
3:57 pm

Now most of the state elected officials are well off if not rich.Why do they “Need ” to take the gift? They also get a per diem which is very adequate to cover their expenses. Ban all gifts and the fine is 5 times the gift amount. How is that td? No party, no position, no gifts, no differentiating!

It’s a shame that all those legislators who ran as Christians don’t do the Christian thing and take no gifts! It would even wipe out the appearance of wrongdoing!

yuzeyurbrane

May 21st, 2012
4:17 pm

Once you put a gift limit in place, Artie Blank’s pleasure dome goes down the drain.