This ethics bill is hardly a stopping point

Shortly before the 2013 legislative session ended, the House and Senate passed an ethics bill by a combined vote of 225-0. Such overwhelming, bipartisan actions often are hailed. Should this one be?

Before I answer, let me offer an analogy to kicking a field goal. No, not the one involving Charlie Brown and Lucy.

I mean the one Sen. Josh McKoon made just before HB 142 passed in his chamber. The Columbus Republican has been an early and tireless champion of ethics reform. After enumerating the final bill’s problems, including the way it came into being, McKoon explained why he’d vote for it anyway:

“It’s not everything we need to do, but it’s definitely putting points on the board,” McKoon said. “Tonight, let’s put this one through the uprights, but let’s be prepared to come back next year to score a touchdown on ethics reform.”

I sympathize with the position McKoon found himself in. I also think his analogy should go further.

The way football fans think about field goals depends on the situation. If your team is favored and kicks a field goal early in the game, you probably don’t sweat the fact it wasn’t a touchdown. If your team is a big underdog and the score is close, you’re probably happy with any score.

But if your team is already losing 35-0 and, after a promising drive, settles for three points just to avoid a shutout, I doubt it makes you feel much better.

That last situation describes my own thoughts about HB 142. It’s better than nothing, if only by the length of one link of the first-down chains.

While I had hoped for a stronger bill — and believe either the House’s original text or the Senate’s revision would have been preferable to what we got in the end — ultimately I compare this one to the status quo. Which, remember, does not limit the money lobbyists can spend on elected officials.

Compared to the status quo, this bill does place at least some limits on at least some people who lobby. Tickets to sporting events, concerts and the like from registered lobbyists to lawmakers are now off-limits. So are lobbyist-paid golf outings and hunting trips. Lawmakers’ travel to conferences cannot be reimbursed if it’s outside the United States, though other than that the sky’s the limit.

The bill caps the amount any one lobbyist can spend at any one time on any one legislator at $75. But it allows for a lobbyist to spend $75 on legislators as many times as he desires, and for groups of lobbyists to each throw in $75 a pop for their favorite lawmaker.

The bill actually makes one longtime problem much worse. Anyone who’s spent much time under the Gold Dome knows there are attorneys who “represent” their clients before lawmakers — read: lobby — without registering.

Both the House and Senate addressed this problem in earlier versions of HB 142. But the final text turns what today is a debatable loophole into an expressly legal practice — one that allows attorneys to skirt altogether what new limits the bill does impose.

There is no 35-point play in football. A trailing team usually needs to score whatever points it can, whenever it can.

But football teams don’t overcome large deficits without scoring every time they get the ball. Our legislators will get the ball back next January. They better have a gameplan for scoring again then, or the “fans” won’t be happy.

– By Kyle Wingfield

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373 comments Add your comment

getalife

March 29th, 2013
4:13 pm

Ban lobbyists and they can contact pols like the people.

Problem solved.

getalife

March 29th, 2013
4:13 pm

indigo

March 29th, 2013
4:22 pm

This “ethics bill” is nothing but a smokescreen from pols who have no intention of getting off the lobbyist’s gravy train.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 29th, 2013
4:27 pm

Yeah, like the dummycrats will obey this.

Puh-leeze.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 29th, 2013
4:30 pm

Buy stock in any company that sells unmarked envolopes.

Rafe Hollister

March 29th, 2013
4:32 pm

Kyle, to continue your sports analogy, this is equivalent to “wait till next year”.

saywhat?

March 29th, 2013
4:35 pm

They didn’t kick a field goal, they took a safety. The Georgia legislature actually lost points with this bill.

Rafe Hollister

March 29th, 2013
4:35 pm

Unfortunately, Georgia is the equivalent of the Chicago Cubs, wait til next year, has been around since 1917 or so.

Michael H. Smith

March 29th, 2013
4:37 pm

When do prohibitions or a ban work?

Anytime a liberal demands there be a ban placed on something: Like the so-called assault weapons ban or a ban on all gifts to lobbyists.

Meanwhile, the same liberal will tell you how the “ban” on drugs has failed miserably and how it can never work no matter what you do. Then they’ll remind you how and why the 21st Amendment was ratified to repealed the prohibition on alcohol.

Yep, that’s the liberal way to solve problems: If they say it’s fixed, then it ain’t broke! :roll:

indigo

March 29th, 2013
4:42 pm

Michael H. Smith – 4:37

So, you have no problem with lobbyists showering our pols with expensive gifts without any limit?

Not that this “ban” will actually do any good.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 29th, 2013
4:44 pm

If McKoon were a dummycrat then all of his hot air about ethics would entitle him to unlimited gifts from any and all constituencies, including China.

Michael H. Smith

March 29th, 2013
4:49 pm

“Not that this “ban” will actually do any good.”

Oh is that one ever a real rhetorical gem! :lol:

Hey indigo, how did Einstein define INSANITY… doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Michael H. Smith

March 29th, 2013
4:57 pm

Oh and by the way, indigo, I’ve never supported or accepted anything having “no limits” imposed on it. That includes “no limits” placed on the powers and rights for your beloved FEDERAL GUB’MENT .

Kyle Wingfield

March 29th, 2013
5:04 pm

Saywhat: The restoration of rule-making authority for the ethics commission, which I didn’t mention in the column, is a significant enough improvement that I have to disagree. They didn’t go backward; they just didn’t go nearly as far forward as they should have.

indigo

March 29th, 2013
5:21 pm

Michael H. Smith

It certainly is insane to think Georga pols will ever get off the lobbyist’s gravy train.

Our Federal Govt. has many limits placed on it. It will be “beloved” by me if, and when, honesty and merit replace what we have now.

But, it’s probably insane to ever expect that to happen.

MarkV

March 29th, 2013
5:51 pm

Pointing out that some bans/prohibitions are failing or have failed is one thing. Concluding from that that no ban can work is incredibly divorced from reality.

saywhat?

March 29th, 2013
5:57 pm

But Kyle, are they going to actually restore funding to the ethics commission this time?

getalife

March 29th, 2013
6:11 pm

The lobbyists you cons slobber all over gave us our debt.

“The Iraq and Afghanistan wars will cost as much as $6 trillion over time, a new analysis says”

Add the costs of the collapse to see the gop built that debt.

@@

March 29th, 2013
6:12 pm

MarkV

March 29th, 2013
6:17 pm

A clear cut ban would have been a much easier measure to defend and enforce – to enforce in the sense that a proven evidence of receiving any gift from a lobbyist would be a reason for a sanction, rather than making decisions whether the “gift” does or does not meet some criteria. What Kyle has failed so far to explain are two things: 1) What is the rationalization of any gift from a lobbyist to a legislator; 2) Why does he believe that the number of, say, meals or whatever is allowed a lobbyist pays for is a measure of the lobbying effort (the transparency argument).

indigo

March 29th, 2013
6:17 pm

MarkV – 5:51

I guess you haven’t lived in Georgia very long.

Michael H. Smith

March 29th, 2013
6:47 pm

Our Federal Govt. has many limits placed on it.

Really indigo? What limits did obamacare have on it and given the standing of the federal GUB’MENTS UNLIMITED POWERS TO TAX, thereby giving it the power of nullifying anything by taxation, perhaps you would like to correct your limited thinking.

Michael H. Smith

March 29th, 2013
7:00 pm

What is incredibly divorced from reality is this liberals Marxist thinking that only the ban the socialist approve of work. However no ban or prohibition solves “the problem” or prevents “the crime” when the central issue goes to the basic right and wrong of things.
Blather all you want but you will never legislate morality to any degree of success, laws are not made for the law abiding. All that will be done by even the best possible ethics laws is to police the situation not eliminate it. So get real with these absolutist statements about another silly idiotic ban that usual produces more problems than solution, more corruption than circumspection.

For what it is worth Kyle, some limits are always necessary on anything. On that note I agree with Justice Antonin Scalia: There is no “unlimited right” – Oopsy… I mean, except for some of these socialist liberals on your blog who are detached from reality!

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 29th, 2013
7:07 pm

Heard on the radio that indictments have come down in the APS cheating scandal.

Looking forward to Beverly Hall doing a “perp walk”.

Michael H. Smith

March 29th, 2013
7:09 pm

@@ – Spot on and you can believe those brown paper bags stuffed with cash money will continue to pass between some parties. That, like it or not, is reality unfortunately.

Michael H. Smith

March 29th, 2013
7:10 pm

Goodnight to all.

Hillbilly D

March 29th, 2013
7:12 pm

the equivalent of the Chicago Cubs, wait til next year, has been around since 1917 or so.

Actually with the Cubs, it’s since 1908.

ODD OWL

March 29th, 2013
7:24 pm

Politicians and ethics are analogous with mixing matter with anti-matter… They annihilate each other… Nathan Deal and the Republican controlled legislature and senate haven’t proposed or summited a economic package or a jobs bill since they took control of the Georgia state government 12 years ago… The citizens of Georgia need jobs so they can put food on the table and a roof over their head… The Georgia Republicans are obsessed with arguing about old re-hashed social wedge issues and ethics rules that all of the politicians will ignore… The private sector haven’t created very many jobs in the last 10 years… The Georgia Republicans are still claiming that the private sector create the jobs, not the state government… Georgia Republicans have some strange behavior patterns…

bluecoat

March 29th, 2013
7:25 pm

Yes no new taxes.No new taxes.No new taxes,unles they are state taxes then that will be just fine.

Rafe Hollister

March 29th, 2013
7:32 pm

Hillbilly

Thanks for the correction, getting old, I used to be able to recall baseball statistics at the drop of a hat, getting rusty or more likely corroded up there.

Hillbilly D

March 29th, 2013
7:35 pm

Rafe

Well 1908, 1917, really not that much difference after that amount of time. ;-)

Rafe Hollister

March 29th, 2013
7:42 pm

Odd Owl

If you are waiting on Georgia Pol’s either Dem or Rep to create jobs, you might as well put out your Easter basket and await the arrival of your chocolate bunny and some candy eggs.

I’m just relieved if they leave town and there is still some liquor in the lounges. Been the same way since the 50’s, Sine Die is their best day.

Dave

March 29th, 2013
7:52 pm

Kyle, your middle name is Pollyanna, or you are toting water for some venal politicians. This bill is the equivalent of a starving man being told he’s going on bread and water till the next session. He’s relived he won’t be dying but not much more. I have a whole lot of things I want to sell you if you think these people are going to tighten anything up next year. Okay, that’s enough cliches for one comment.

The Snark

March 29th, 2013
8:31 pm

“The restoration of rule-making authority for the ethics commission is a significant enough improvement”? No, Kyle, it is not. Not when our current leaders have proven that they will fire anyone on the Ethics Commission who attempts to use that power.

This bill is a joke. Both chambers could easily have passed real reform but they chose not to. This won’t get “fixed” next year. It’s already as “fixed” as they want it.

Pizzaman

March 29th, 2013
9:22 pm

Sorry Kyle but this has to be said,

Alaska Congressman Don Young has again demonstrated the major problem with Republicans: old, white, bigoted!

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 29th, 2013
10:11 pm

Since Sir David’s exhortations, some 250,000 Brits have died from the cold, and 10,000 from the heat. It is horribly clear that we have been focusing on the wrong enemy. Instead of making sure energy was affordable, ministers have been trying to make it more expensive, with carbon price floors and emissions trading schemes. Fuel prices have doubled over seven years, forcing millions to choose between heat and food – and government has found itself a major part of the problem.

Kinda like gun violence in Chicago.

Ignore.

It.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 29th, 2013
10:17 pm

“Alaska Congressman Don Young has again demonstrated the major problem with Republicans: old, white, bigoted!”

Yeah, ’cause one guy out of millions certainly makes the case that every Republican is just like him . . . . :roll:

ODD OWL

March 29th, 2013
11:30 pm

While the Republicans talk about ethics reform, they continue to employ their divide and conquer tactics… They drive wedges between the American people with their old school social issues like abortion, gays in the military, Gay marriage, affirmative action, prayer in school etc… The unemployment rate in Georgia hovers between 12% and 16%… The private sector is not creating jobs… The Georgia Republican congressional delegation either filibustered or voted against every economic stimulus and job creation bill that President Obama and the Democrats attempted to pass in Congress… In the meantime, the Republican Debt has exploded and is nearly $14 trillion dollars now… $11 trillion Bush/Cheney debt + $3 trillion dollars in interest over the last 12 years = $14 trillion dollars Republican debt… There are only two ways the Republicans can pay down their debt, raise taxes on the millionaires and billionaires, or invest tax payers money in infrastructure, alternative energy, manufacturing etc., create millions of jobs and the debt will disappear overnight… Democrats can’t wait for # 2014…

Cherokee

March 30th, 2013
12:01 am

“Democrats can’t wait for # 2014…”

Amen, brother….

Road Scholar

March 30th, 2013
5:58 am

Maybe Mr Ralston will set a “no gifts” rule in the House?

This should be the first question to any incumbent next year: How did you vote on the ethics law? If they voted to approve, they should not get your vote! Then ask the incumbents their policy.

@@

March 30th, 2013
8:13 am

It’s not isolated to Georgia, Indigo. It takes place throughout the country.

The problem becomes complicated when a lawmaker, as is often the case, works in a field in which he has clients who deal with government contracts and regulation. “If he’s an insurance salesman, if he’s a lawyer, if he’s in any of these kinds of fields,” Bycel said, “you bet he’s going to have clients and customers who want something from him as legislator.”

Illinois’ House Speaker Michael Madigan is an extreme example. In a series of articles over the past few years, the Chicago Tribune reported on several cases in which Madigan, a Democrat known for his tight control of the legislature, pushed bills and contracts that reportedly steered millions of dollars to clients of his firm, Madigan & Getzendanner. In 2009, for example, Madigan helped secure $18 million in state funds for a highway interchange that a coalition of businesses had been promoting for years. Two of those businesses had hired his firm. In 2005, months after his firm was hired by a company that owns nursing homes, Madigan and the House made permanent a program that funded assisted living homes for the poor. The Tribune reported that the move unlocked millions of dollars in investment money for the company, Pathway Senior Living LLC, and allowed it to nearly double its number of facilities and collect tens of millions of dollars in additional federal and state funds.

One Tribune columnist called Madigan a “walking conflict of interest.” An editorial said that he had weakened bills affecting banks, nursing homes and pharmacies that had hired his firm, but noted there was no “smoking gun” indicating that Madigan had violated any ethics rules. “You don’t need an ethics expert to deduce that something is very wrong in Illinois.”

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 30th, 2013
8:13 am

February’s median annual household income was 5.6 percent lower than it was in June 2009, the month the recovery technically began; 7.3 percent lower than in December 2007, when the most recent recession officially started.

Now there really is a gap between the rich and poor.

Doc

March 30th, 2013
8:17 am

Aesop, you really gotta get back on your meds. There is something fundamentally wrong with your mental state. I mean *really* wrong. Get help.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 30th, 2013
8:38 am

The stock market soars, incomes plummet and the low morals crowd wants me to go on meds? What happened to the hysterical shrieking from the likes of ambreck and gitmo when President Bush was in office and they fell 1%? Now they seem to be quite appreciative of obozo for getting them to drop another 8%.

What gives?

@@

March 30th, 2013
8:40 am

Now there really is a gap between the rich and poor.

Margaret Thatcher, when talking about liberal policies, had this to say about “the gap”.

“They would rather have the poor poorer provided the rich are less rich.”

One of her best speeches to the House of Commons

indigo

March 30th, 2013
9:05 am

Michael H. Smith – 6:47 PM

Your idol Boehner and his followers have roadblocked Obama every chance they’ve gotten.

If Obamacare is the financial boggeyman you think it is, rejoice!!

By 2016 Obamacare will have wrecked the nation’s economy, the American people will be outraged, and will sweep Republicans back into commanding majorities in the House and Senate and will put a Republican back into the White House.

Obama will leave office secure in the knowledge that his real goal, the wrecking of the Democratic Party, has been achieved.

indigo

March 30th, 2013
9:07 am

@@ – 8:13

All too true.

I guess, because we live in Georgia, it just seems worse.

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 30th, 2013
9:59 am

“While the Republicans talk about ethics reform, they continue to employ their divide and conquer tactics…”

Somebody needs to remind ODD OWL of the unanimous vote in both houses on ethics reform. :roll:

Tiberius - pulling the tail of the left AND right when needed

March 30th, 2013
10:02 am

“There are only two ways the Republicans can pay down their debt, raise taxes on the millionaires and billionaires, or invest tax payers money in infrastructure, alternative energy, manufacturing etc., create millions of jobs and the debt will disappear overnight…”

Notice that ODD OWL forgets what’s behind Door #3, that being cutting actual spending.

“Democrats can’t wait for # 2014…”

Be careful what you wish for, boys. Mid-term elections are historically not very kind to the party controlling the White House. People who forget 2010 are doomed to repeat it.

Aesop's Fables and other Lib Economic Theories

March 30th, 2013
10:17 am

“Fiscal conservatives” recoil from this kind of talk like homophobes at a bathhouse: The sooner some judge somewhere takes gay marriage off the table, the sooner the Right can go back to talking about debt and Obamacare without being dismissed as uptight theocratic bigots. But it doesn’t work like that. Most of the social liberalism comes with quite a price tag. The most reliable constituency for Big Government is single women, for whom the state is a girl’s best friend, the sugar daddy whose checks never bounce. A society in which a majority of births are out of wedlock cannot be other than a Big Government welfare society. Ruining a nation’s finances is one thing; debauching its human capital is far harder to fix.

Anybody think the libs care what they ruin?