Search Results for ethics

Balfour case raises a bigger question of ethics

A common objection to certain ethics reforms, particularly a cap on gifts legislators receive from lobbyists, is that voters can judge for themselves if representatives cross the line.

House Speaker David Ralston used to argue thus against a gift cap. He reversed course and endorsed a total ban on gifts after voters in July’s primaries overwhelmingly rejected the no-limits status quo.

I think Ralston had it half-right before (the transparency of gift reports helps the public know who’s lobbying whom) and has it half-right now (transparency alone is insufficient, and a limit is necessary). I prefer a gift cap to a gift ban.

Once there’s a limit, it should be up to the voters to decide if a frequent gift recipient should serve in the Legislature. But serving in the leadership? That’s for legislators to decide — and to demonstrate their own ethical standards.

If you followed the news last week, you probably know where I’m going with this.

Last Tuesday, the AJC reported

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The L-O-S-T in T-SPLOST refers to public trust

There’s a saying for politicians and for those of us who cover them: The voters are always right. While we’re bound to be subjected to a round or two of recriminations about who’s to blame for the absolute debacle that was the metro Atlanta T-SPLOST campaign, pay attention to those who show signs of understanding and accepting that saying. They’re the ones who will be most likely to find the way forward from here.

For my part, here’s what I think the voters were saying in their 63-37 defeat of the $7.2 billion tax.

The political class has lost our trust.

If that sounds obvious, consider that it’s also a puzzling situation, given that many of the same people who voted overwhelmingly against the T-SPLOST have been voting in large numbers to elect the same Republican politicians who gave us the T-SPLOST. I think there’s a pretty clear explanation: This is the consequence of having a one-party state.

Georgia has been a one-party state for pretty much 140 years now. The first 130 …

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Report: Former ethics director sues, claims wrongful firing

As we’ve talked about possible ethics reform in Georgia on this blog, some state leaders have suggested the better option is to empower the agency formerly known as the State Ethics Commission with more independence and better funding. While I don’t believe the two are mutually exclusive, they do have a point about the need for shoring up the ethics commission (excuse me, the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission).

That discussion is about to get much more interesting with a reported lawsuit filed by the commission’s former executive director, Stacey Kalberman, claiming she was wrongfully fired for investigating ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal.

According to legal documents posted at (h/t: Peach Pundit), Kalberman claims that in spring 2011 she was forced into a position to resign by the commission’s chairman at the time, Patrick Millsaps, who had made public statements that she already had resigned. The specific events …

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One job that very few people seem to want

Wanted: Seasonal employees for winter months and occasional work the rest of the year. Preference given to those with other full-time jobs, though applicants will be expected to put their other job responsibilities aside for weeks at a time. Extensive travel may be required. Thick skin and public-speaking skills a plus. Fundraising experience a major plus. Pay: $17,000 a year, plus expenses.

Despite the down economy, that job description drew relatively few applicants: just 410 for 236 positions, compared to almost 20,000 people who recently put in for the 877 new jobs at an Alabama auto plant.

Making Hyundais, it appears, is more appealing work than making laws in Georgia.

The Republican and Democratic parties in May held qualifying for this year’s local, state and federal elections. As usual, the number of candidates for the job of state representative or senator is underwhelming.

As in 2010, about three in five incumbent state legislators are running completely unopposed, …

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Poll Position: Should we cap lobbyist gifts at $100?

In keeping with the series that began last week, the second question on Republicans’ July 31 primary ballots reads as follows: “Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts?”

Do you support ending the current practice of unlimited gifts from lobbyists to state legislators by imposing a $100 cap on such gifts?

  • Yes (140 Votes)
  • No (20 Votes)
  • I don’t know (1 Votes)

Total Voters: 161

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As much as I’ve written about ethics reform, I have not done a Poll Position question about this issue. No time like the present, right?

For background, you can read here, here, here and here, among other columns. But the gist of the issue is that, unlike almost every other state, Georgia does not limit gifts from lobbyists to legislators. We do have some pretty strong transparency laws, which at least allow us to see who is getting what, from whom. The question is whether transparency is …

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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, …

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Poll Position: Is Facebook stock worth the asking price?

Facebook goes public today, listing shares on Nasdaq at $38 apiece; if you want to buy, trading of stock listed as “FB” commences at 11 a.m.

So, do you? Do you want to buy Facebook stock at that price?

On one hand, there is precedent for highly anticipated tech listings that soared and have not (to date) flamed out. Google of course comes to mind: The search-engine company went public in August 2004 at $85, more than doubled in price by year’s end, and has been trading lately in the $600s — more than seven times its IPO price.

Of course, Google has a way to make money, and lots of it. Facebook? Well, the numbers would indicate it’s at least as good a moneymaker as Google was circa 2004. But there was ominous news this week, when GM said it was pulling its paid advertisements on Facebook because it didn’t think they were effective.

At $38 a share, for a market cap of $100 billion-plus, would you buy Facebook stock?

  • No (43 Votes)
  • Yes (15 Votes)
  • I’ll leave this to the …

Continue reading Poll Position: Is Facebook stock worth the asking price? »

Georgia GOP can send lawmakers a loud message about the need for ethics reform (Updated)

UPDATE at 3:42 p.m., Friday, May 18: The Georgia GOP’s executive committee voted to put a question about ethics reform on the July 31 primary ballot. No exact wording available yet, but the references to “unlimited spending” and a $100 cap sound promising.


A year ago, Georgia Republicans convening in Macon flashed an independent streak: They re-elected a grassroots favorite as state party chairman over the hand-picked candidate of new Gov. Nathan Deal. The message was that the party faithful would maintain a bit of separation between themselves and the man they worked to elect.

Tomorrow, party leaders have a chance to make a similar declaration of independence from the legislators they send to Atlanta in droves, over the matter of ethics reform.

Ethics reform went nowhere in this year’s legislative session, but it wasn’t for lack of effort by grassroots conservatives. Tea partyers allied with such groups as Common Cause to draft an ethics bill, recruited …

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Who got the most/best lobbyist goodies in the 2012 session

A day after the Masters and just in time for lunch, a link to an AJC report on the Georgia lawmakers who received the most expensive sports tickets (Rep. Rahn Mayo, D-Decatur, who got four tickets to one Hawks game valued at $500) and were the most richly fed by lobbyists (House Ways and Means Chairman Mickey Channell, R-Greensboro, whose lobbyist-funded meal tab came to $4,366 in three months) during the just-completed 2012 legislative session. An accompanying story sums up the spending:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s analysis of lobbyist disclosures for the legislative session just ended finds that lobbyists spent $866,747 — the equivalent of $9,525 per day — on gifts for lawmakers from Jan. 1 through March 31.

This rain of meals, tickets, trips and golf outings fell even as a statewide coalition called the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform pressed lawmakers to limit lobbyists’ gifts to $100 per event.

The coalition’s effort went nowhere. Bills were introduced in both …

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From Sine Die, a look at how ethics gets squeezed out of the sausage

Around 6 p.m. Thursday, the final day of this year’s legislative session, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle had to make a phone call.

He wasn’t phoning the speaker of the House so they could gavel the session adjourned, sine die. Rather, Cagle was asking his chief legal counsel about an amendment to a bill.

I know, I know: Government-jargon-blah-blah-blah alerts are sounding all across metro Atlanta right about now. But this story isn’t about Gold Dome process. It’s about money, power and how the two intersect in ways that can be hard to see.

For a seasoned presiding officer who wastes little time assigning bills to committees and making various other rulings from the rostrum, Cagle’s pause was unusual. Then again, the amendment was unusually delicate: Sen. Jason Carter, an Atlanta Democrat, was proposing a $100 limit on lobbyist gifts to legislators. It was the same limit proposed by Republicans and — until then — snuffed out by higher-ranking Republicans in both the Senate and …

Continue reading From Sine Die, a look at how ethics gets squeezed out of the sausage »