A Handel focus on ethics and the Legislature

Secretary of State Karen Handel on Monday continued to push sleaze in the state Capitol — specifically the Legislature — as a defining issue in next year’s Republican primary for governor.

Last week, Handel was the only Republican candidate for governor to call for the resignation of House Speaker Glenn Richardson. Within the last few minutes, her campaign issued a press release that included the following:

“We are fortunate to have many dedicated members of the Legislature. This is an opportunity for all of us to take significant measures to end the culture of insider dealings, conflicts of interest and behavior that no one should be proud of but has been with us for decades. Republicans and Democrats are equally responsible and it’s time that it is finally addressed, Handel said today.

Here’s her proposed to-do list:

1. Ban gifts of more that $25 to elected officials.

This would eliminate the junkets, steak dinners and free cocktail hours lobbyists use to peddle influence among lawmakers.

2. Make the Georgia Open Records Act apply to the Legislature as it does to all state agencies.

Lawmakers are paid by the taxpayers and are spending the taxpayers’ money. Their deliberations, official correspondence and work product should be transparent to the public just as they are for other state agencies.

3. Give jurisdiction to the State Ethics Commission for issues relating to conflicts of interest for legislators, state office holders, agency directors — including spouses.

Currently, jurisdiction for these matters is held by the Attorney General’s office. Enforcement of these issues/questions is through the filing of a civil action against the legislator (which has seldom if ever occurred). Currently there is not even a ‘complaint’ process or anything of that nature….

4. Require all legislators to file a Conflict of Interest Statement with the State Ethics Commission, which will serve as the clearinghouse and repository of the statements and will be required to post them online. Lawmakers would also be required to recuse themselves from all matters that pertain to that conflict.

The people have a right to know if their elected officials are doing business with the state….

Currently, the conflict of interest provisions apply only to those with a 25% ownership interest or more than $20,000 in income. Additionally, there is no state repository for the files (the Senate and House file internally) and there does not appear to be a mechanism in place for making them public. These records are currently unavailable to the public due to the legislative exemption to the state’s open records laws.

5. Continue the Governor’s transparency initiative so that taxpayers will be able to see – to the dollar – where every dollar is spent in state government.

6. Make mandatory the disclosure of travel and expense reimbursement by elected officials as is already required of agency directors.

It’s fair to say that ethics in the Legislature will be a hot topic in the 2010 session that begins next month.

My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin, over at Gold Dome Live, points out two Democratic initiatives:

Rep. Rob Teilhet (D-Smyrna), a 2010 candidate for attorney general, said that he would introduce legislation for the coming session to overhaul the state’s conflict of interest laws and to transfer enforcement responsibility from lawmakers themselves to the State Ethics Commission.

“Allowing the Legislature to police itself on ethics is like letting a criminal preside over his own court hearing,” Teilhet said. “We must address the underlying culture of corruption that has allowed self-dealing and conflicts of interest to run rampant at our Capitol.”

And Gary Horlacher, a Democratic candidate for secretary of state, wants the State Ethics Commission appointed by the state Supreme Court, rather than the governor, House speaker and the Senate.
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60 comments Add your comment

GoKaren

December 7th, 2009
12:51 pm

Handel lead the way in Fulton County on ethics, the SoS office on ethics, and she will lead the way as Governor on ethics. I wounder if the good ol’ boys have the guts to do the right thing and pass her ethics policy.

[...] Galloway brings us the details: Last week, Handel was the only Republican candidate for governor to call for the resignation of [...]

Rhonda Atlanta

December 7th, 2009
1:23 pm

Handel cannot measure up to the ethical standards of Senator Jeff Chapman. If she could or would she would had been very focal with the Jekyll Island scam her old boss Sonny Perdue has screwed the state on in an effort to pay back they Reynolds family. And that goes for Eric Johnson who placed Jamie Reynolds on is campaign staff. Jeff stood up when the republican leadership got behind the governor on yet another fraud.

Jeff is the man

Churchill's MOM

December 7th, 2009
1:26 pm

We will not have to worry about Handel’s zipper being down like this sorry bunch of men.

Churchill's MOM

December 7th, 2009
1:28 pm

Rhonda Atlanta .. I should have excluded Jeff from the above comment. He is surely the ONLY HONEST man in the house.. Linger Long & the rest are just slime.

Aaron Burr V. Mexico

December 7th, 2009
1:28 pm

Well is Mr. Chapman running for governor? Because if he is I might vote for him.

Then again, given the obviously extremely low IQ of the people of this state in that they keep electing Republicans to office thinking “it will be different this time”, I’m not holding my breath.

In fact, let’s be honest here. The real reason they’re electing Republicans has nothing to do with ‘fiscal conservatism’ or ‘Democrats raising our taxes’. It has to do with differentiating themselves from that party ‘in the beltway.’

Jamie Reynolds

December 7th, 2009
1:29 pm

Eric Johnson is the man.

RUKidding

December 7th, 2009
1:29 pm

RA,
Does Jekyll Island fall under the purview of the SoS? Chapman’s platform, is I stood alone for Jekyll. Let me be clear, I believe that Jekyll is a very important state asset.

Rhonda Atlanta

December 7th, 2009
1:30 pm

Well actually he in in the Senate. But he is probably the most honest man under the dome.

Rhonda Atlanta

December 7th, 2009
1:32 pm

RUKidding

That wasn’t very clear. Care to give it 3 sentences and use extended words? You can also use crayons.

GA. Capitol

December 7th, 2009
1:33 pm

“1. Ban gifts of more that $25 to elected officials.” – I don’t think these are the gifts Richardson and gang are after. Richardson did not divorce because he recieved a gift of over $25.00.

“We will not have to worry about Handel’s zipper being down like this sorry bunch of men.” – I forgot women don’t do such things. I thought it was women involved in each of these cases.

Churchill's MOM

December 7th, 2009
1:45 pm

GA. Capitol… You are obviously a MAN, .. Richardson’s WOMAN was a LOBBYIST, we call her other things at the bridge club.

Bubba

December 7th, 2009
1:47 pm

I still think we ought to put salt peter in the drinks at the lobbyists’ receptions and in the coffee at the capitol.

Get Rid of Special interests

December 7th, 2009
1:49 pm

Handel needs to look in her own backyard (campaign)–and get rid of the inside deal makers to be truly credible.

Southerner

December 7th, 2009
2:05 pm

They’re not electing Democrats or Republicans. They’re electing the same old powerful dynasties, business associates, nepotists, and cronies as always. Just different names.

Sad But True

December 7th, 2009
2:28 pm

Way to go Handel! Number 1 on the list is perfect. So many of our politicians are in the pockets of big money, even the ones that CLAIM to be 100% against them.

ricky

December 7th, 2009
2:57 pm

let don,t forget about the employess of republicans aand democrats.

Charles

December 7th, 2009
3:01 pm

When the party bigwigs called, Handel jumped – leaving Fulton in the middle of a big mess to move on to SoS. She is a political striver like the rest of them.

Concerned Atlantan

December 7th, 2009
3:03 pm

Handel should focus on voter irregularities and illegal campaign expenditures by the Democratic Party during the Atlanta mayor’s race.

Handel Backer

December 7th, 2009
3:19 pm

Concerned Atlantan,
If you address you concerns to the SoS office that they will look into any alleged irregularities.

Independent

December 7th, 2009
3:47 pm

Glad to see some people speaking up for Senator Chapman. Rhonda’s comment about the connection between Perdue, Eric Johnson and Mercer and Jamie Reynolds has never been really dug into. I’ve followed the Jekyll deal for years now, and I am definitely paying attention to those candidates (Chapman and Poythress so far) who dare to speak out on this giant fraud on the public. Maybe Handel is really being honest with these ethics proposals, but do we really think they would get anywhere under the Gold Dome??

Thomas

December 7th, 2009
4:03 pm

Term limits!

Good Government

December 7th, 2009
4:28 pm

Thank you Jesus! Finally someone in public service that wants to have common sense ethical guidelines.

Count me in the Handel camp now!

Karen Handle does not have a College Degree!!!

December 7th, 2009
4:49 pm

I hope Ga wont be the first state to elect a Govenor that doesn’t have a formal education….

Robert

December 7th, 2009
4:53 pm

Term Limits!!
Thomas, your right. If term limits were put in place you wouldn’t have to worry as much about ethics. Lobbists, would have to be concerned about being above arrested. As it is now they are protected as long as the good ole boys stay in power. Stop the blue collar crime stigma and place them in jail with your nonviolent offenders.

At least Handels trying to clean it up while the others keep covering it up!

Why limit this

December 7th, 2009
5:06 pm

Why not apply to all elected officials everywhere? The state legislature is no worse nor better than every county or city elected official anywhere in Georgia. Apply the reform to ALL.

As for Mr. Telieht…..He can set the example by returning every campaign dollar from any lawyer or firm or representative of any legal business in Georgia. No lawyers can give to judges races anywhere in Ga. NOW THAT IS REFORM ANYTHING ELSE IS HYPOCRISY!!!!

td

December 7th, 2009
5:18 pm

Jim,

You are better than this. You let Rob Teilhet totally off the hook when you did not mention that he wants the lawyers to oversee the politicians and not saying anything about who is watching the lawyers and the Judges?

At least their is a panel of “so called” non biased people on the panel. We know there are only lawyers overseeing the ethics of lawyers and Judges. This is the biggest conflict of interest I have ever seen and now we do not even have enough money to investigate complaints on the Judges not following the law.

I have lost a little respect for you on this one Jim.

Lucas

December 7th, 2009
5:22 pm

Handel’s not my first choice, but she’s the best GOP option, for sure. The fact that she didn’t go through a four-year bender at UGA like the rest of the Good Ole Boys in there now does not bother me in the least.

Louise in Lilburn

December 7th, 2009
5:22 pm

I hope Handel does a lot better with her gift ban than Sonny Perdue has with his. He issued an executive ban on receiving gifts and proceeded straight away to ignore it. Can’t wait for the screen door to hit him in the butt on his way out.

Michael

December 7th, 2009
5:22 pm

Lawyers can’t contribute to judicial elections? OK, but the high school dropouts can contribute to whomever they want. So, “Why limit this,” assuming you are a trash man and I am not, and the local trash hauler whom you know a lot about is running for election, just why is it that I can contribute to the trash hauler whom I know nothing about, but you, imbued with intricate knowledge of garbage, cannot support your local trash leader?

Aaron Burr V. Mexico

December 7th, 2009
5:23 pm

I for one remember the ‘contract with America’ a little too well to ever be fooled again by Republican promises of term limits.

If they’re really serious about it, let’s see them enact something while they’re in power NOW rather than make it a campaign promise.

td

December 7th, 2009
5:31 pm

Aaron Burr V. Mexico, Explain what was wrong with the contract? Did anything good come out of it? Welfare reform, term limits (Courts threw out), Line item veto? What was wrong with these concepts?

td

December 7th, 2009
5:38 pm

Handel was on Sonny’s staff, does not even have a College degree and is a RINO. 3 strikes and you are out so no vote from me.

Rhonda Atlanta

December 7th, 2009
5:47 pm

Let’s be honest here. Handel’s choo choo was out of steam before Richarson’s wife spilled the beans. Now all you people think Handel is the moral authority, she is getting the press and I think Jim is infatuated with her; Did he think the rest of the candidates would sign off on adultery ?

With the exclusion of Eric Johnson, Jerry Keen and John Oxindine of course.

rukidding

December 7th, 2009
5:48 pm

td,
I don’t think any Rino’s worked for Vice President Quayle. You may want to read Lucas post.

Grady L. Cornish

December 7th, 2009
5:56 pm

Handel’s sudden courage stand in stark contrast to years of silence about both Richardson’s dalliance, Sonny’s land deals and customized tax breaks. This new found election year religion is laughable. The time is always right to do right!

Ed

December 7th, 2009
6:15 pm

Does Handel know why Sonny needed $21 million? Any possible conflicts of interest in the need for $21 million? Anybody see anything odd in this GIGANTIC amount of money needed by a sitting governor?

Richard C

December 7th, 2009
6:15 pm

My side is hurting from laughing at Rhonda Atlanta’s posting. Outstanding and to the point.

Jeff in Rincon

December 7th, 2009
7:02 pm

I agree with Rhonda on Sen. Jeff Chapman, whose stance on Tybee has likely won him my vote.

I’m sick and tired of unprincipled politicians selling this state and its resources to developers

Richard C

December 7th, 2009
7:32 pm

I was at the Jeff Chapman web site. This guy impresses the hell out of me. And he has been in the Georgia Air National Guard. http://www.jeffchapmanforgovernor.com/

Rhonda Atlanta

December 7th, 2009
7:55 pm

Anyone else notice that when the subject is an ethics violation the OX people run and hide ?

Cherise Miller

December 7th, 2009
8:02 pm

These are great changes that should be made, and I’m glad someone is standing up to call for these changes; however, there is another concern of mine, and that is the school systems. They answer to no one except to us at election time. Georgia has a huge Department of Education. What do they do???? We’re paying out a lot of money for what???? The local school boards have everything sewed up to where they do as they please regardless of what we want or think is right. I am proposing that Karen Handel also include in her list of changes to make the school systems accountable to someone in the State.

Why limit this

December 7th, 2009
8:43 pm

BECAUSE THE TRASH MAN IS NOT GETTING GARBAGE HAULING WORK FROM THE LEGISLATOR! THE AG HIRES ATTORNEYS TO WORK FOR THE STATE.
LAWYERS PRACTICE THEIR PROFESSION IN FRONT OF JUDGES THEY PAY FOR WITH CAMPAIGN DOLLARS.
SHOULD I USE LESS SYLLABLE WORDS FOR YOU TO UNDERSTAND !!

Grady L. Cornish

December 7th, 2009
8:52 pm

Ms Handel is in no position to lead the charge on Ethics Reform because she has some ethical issues of her own to confront. First, she has been under attack by both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments for “inappropriate demographic flagging tactics” which had the affect of preventing certain types of voters from voting. Second, she has been rebuffed three times by the Courts (including unanimously by the State Supreme Court) for inappropriately trying to remove a Democrat from a PSC race. Ethics include honesty and integrity. Inappropriately using your elective office for political and personal benefit is wrong!

Perhaps most noteworthy is that Handel’s Ethics Reform suggestions are strikingly similar to the ones that have been posted for months on the website of Gary Horlacher, a Democratic candidate for Secretary of State. Here is a link to his website page http://www.garyforsecretary.com/Issues_and_Ideas.html.

Hijacking the ideas of others and claiming them as your own is certainly not honest!

AH

December 7th, 2009
8:52 pm

While Karen Handel has never been rumored to have the “ethical/moral” lapses as has been exampled by certain members of the legislature, she does have her issues. For one, her GA mentor has been Sonny Perdue. She was his Deputy Chief of Staff. Unfortunately, I have had enough of SP and his “do nothing” attitudes and leadership. Also, Ms. Handel has a little problem with her temper and lack of control with it. We cannot have a Gov who cannot control their temper enough to keep from screaming curse words at staff and literally knocking items of her desk in a temper tantrum. No more said. The GOP desperately needs a new candidate for Gov.

Good Government

December 7th, 2009
9:28 pm

Karen Handel is an example of grace under fire. Ask any of her staffers and they have deep respect for her.

Ethics are important and as things are going you can knock Ox, Deal, and Johnson off the list of people who have a shot at being the next Governor of Georgia.

Rhonda Atlanta

December 8th, 2009
2:48 am

Get real, Handel was dead in the water until Jim here and the AJC thought she should be the beacon of ethics reform and she appropriately and predictably stood in the limelight like the typical Georgia politician with the free publicity and met the challenge like most dime store politicians and proposed more stupid laws. Is that friggen grace under fire ? It sounds more like a goof that would budget about 20 million dollars of tax payers money to teach Georgians to go fish. Why not spend the same on teaching them how to fornicate?

Al Bundy

December 8th, 2009
11:13 am

Handel had me waiting in line for hours during the Presidential election because she didn’t care enough to extend the early voting period. My paybacks coming next year.

“Let’s rock!”

Handel Backer

December 8th, 2009
11:25 am

Handel does not have the legal authority to extend the early voting period.

Al Bundy

December 8th, 2009
11:58 am

Handel has the authority to secure more voting machines when counties are using all the ones they own, or have some with technical difficulties. She may not have the legal authority to change the voting hours, but she had the authority to speed up the process and she sat on her hands and did nothing while people spent 5+ hours in line waiting to vote in some counties. Nice try though Handel Backer. I said then I won’t forgotten her careless attitude when she needs my vote.