Tom DeLay, the winds of change, and our state Legislature

When Republicans won the House in 2004, one of the first acts of the presumptive new speaker, Glenn Richardson, was to import a set of tutors to give GOP lawmakers some closed-door lessons in the art of government.

Their guides were associates of Tom “The Hammer” DeLay, then the no-holds-barred majority leader of the U.S. House.

We know this because a fresh-faced staffer hit the wrong switch and allowed one of the sessions to be broadcast across the state Capitol.

DeLay was gone by the next election cycle, doomed by his association with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is now doing time for his bribery of public officials.

Richardson is now gone, too, done in by an ex-wife who, on the six o’clock news, declared herself tired of keeping his secrets. As a matter of fact, she declared, the speaker did have a full-blown affair with an Atlanta Gas Light lobbyist while legislation was in play.

The House crown was to have devolved upon the head of Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter of Johns Creek. But after a weekend of study, Burkhalter withdrew from contention and hasn’t been seen in public since.

Amid the resulting chaos, the bilious winds of change have begun to stir.

Already, the gusts have blown away any DeLay-like machismo remaining in the ranks of House Republicans. It is possible that we will find bills for chastity belts in the year-end financial reports of some lawmakers.

Listing his qualifications for a House leadership position, state Rep. John Lunsford (R-McDonough) on Friday proudly told a WSB-TV reporter that he sleeps in his own bed every night.

State Rep. Jim Cole (R-Forsyth), senior floor leader for Gov. Sonny Perdue, composed a code of ethics he wants prospective House leaders to sign before they get his vote.

First is a pledge to be “faithful to one’s spouse.” The second? A promise to “avoid embarrassing public behavior.”

Cole is serious, and not a little chagrined. He is one of the few House Republicans who admits he could have done more to stop the tangled web of influence, money and sex that has ensnared the chamber.

“I did just stand by,” he said. “I could have spoke up, but I didn’t.”

Cole is also among those pushing for an end to “The Hammer”-inspired practices that Richardson and other House leaders used to maintain a tight grip over both legislation and down-the-food-chain colleagues.

House leaders, for instance, are currently authorized to pack committees with allies on crucial votes. Picture a swooping bird of prey and the “hawk system” becomes clear.

“If we can’t pass or defeat legislation when we have a majority of members, then shame on us,” said state Rep. Fran Millar of Dunwoody, one of four Republican candidates for House speaker pro tem.

Not surprisingly, candidates in the 2010 race for governor are making the strongest calls for a change in the way the Legislature operates.

Republican Karen Handel, the secretary of state, has riled some GOP lawmakers by proposing a $25 cap on gifts, including dinners. She would also make records generated by lawmakers available to the public through the state Open Records Act.

This way, a voter would be able to check a legislator’s e-mail to determine whether he or she is involved in an inappropriate relationship with a lobbyist without waiting three years for an angry ex-wife to squeal. (Nathan Deal, also a GOP candidate for governor, sends word that he thinks this would jeopardize the confidential bond between lawmakers and their constituents.)

Yet another Republican candidate, state Rep. Austin Scott of Tifton, wants to create a statewide grand jury that can freely scour the Capitol for public corruption.

Among Democrats, House Minority Leader DuBose Porter of Dublin has already signed onto “anti-corruption” legislation that would reduce campaign contribution limits and impose a ban on gifts over $25.

And former Gov. Roy Barnes has complained of elected officials “looking out for the special-interest groups that foot the bill for luxurious out-of-town trips, high-priced meals, and extravagant outings.”

Something billed as ethics reform will pass the General Assembly next year. Republican repentance requires it.

But Rick Thompson, the former executive secretary of the State Ethics Commission, says the public has every right to be skeptical. The easiest thing in the world, he said, is to pile up the laws — and quietly drain the money needed to enforce them.

One idea now being talked about in other states, he said, is a guaranteed stream of funding for agencies tasked with enforcing good behavior among public officials — that can’t be tampered with. State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, a Republican candidate for governor, has expressed thoughts along these lines.

Another thing that needs to be considered: Three years after his fall, Tom DeLay returned to national television, shaking his tush to “Wild Thing.” The parallel isn’t exact, but with the right legislation we could eliminate any chance of history repeating itself here.

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17 comments Add your comment

cletus T Rockafella

December 12th, 2009
3:05 pm

Man, can’t really decide: who is the biggest liar? Delay? Bush? Obama? Congress & Sentate? Will Jones?

Da Bard

December 12th, 2009
3:15 pm

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing

Expect nothing to change in the Georgia General Assembly.

You won’t be disappointed.

td

December 12th, 2009
4:27 pm

We need to not elect any more lawyers to the legislative or executive branches of government. They have their own branch and they have rules in place to only allow their kind to seek office. The rest of the people need to have similar rules (conflict of interest) to not allow them to hold office in the other two branches.

Lifelong Democrat

December 12th, 2009
4:36 pm

Corruption usually infiltrates whichever party is in power (unfortunately), but I think it bodes well for the citizens of the state that finally a few Republicans in the legislature are growing a set. Things would even be better if one chamber or the other (or the Governor’s Office) went Democratic. That would really lead to more scrutiny, probably at the cost of a lot of silly finger pointing. Still, when Clinton was in the White House and Newt was running Congress, the budget was balanced.

GoOx

December 12th, 2009
5:16 pm

Deal, Real, Steal, Special Bond? Is that how you hid the sweet heart deal you hand to line your own pockets?

rukidding

December 12th, 2009
5:32 pm

Somebody may want to tell Deal that there are a lot of elected officials; including constitutional officers, county commissioners, and city councilman that have special bonds with their constituents, and they are all subject to open records requests.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

December 12th, 2009
6:46 pm

“And former Gov. Roy Barnes has complained of elected officials “looking out for the special-interest groups that foot the bill for luxurious out-of-town trips, high-priced meals, and extravagant outings.””

Barnes’ corruption is no secret. He enriched himself in a “sweetheart” bank start-up crafted for just that purpose while he was overseeing Georgia banking as an elected legislator.

The Democrats better take advantage of all the good We, the People, have achieved making Obama president: he is but a good start. Draft-dodger Barnes is unfit. His furtherance by the insiders of the Georgia Democratic Party who pushed for Hillary for president, will force us to make a “Republican” our governor, Jeff Chapman.

The Democratic Party must be the party of The People, standing for only Truth and Justice, establishing Righteousness in the face of the Roman Anti-Christ’s “Fifth Column” led by closet-queens and draft-dodgers like Tom Delay, George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Sonny Perdue.

Adulterers like Richardson are all who seek the company and approval of such no-men, traitors, and ravening wolves. They are not American, and by G-d, they sure aren’t Georgians.

Perdue knows he’s a failure as a man, ever since he dodged Vietnam. The Mammon he’s sought is just an attempt to compensate. The false-elite need such as he to continue their evil usurping The People – the only “stopper” as the Roman Anti-Christ once more attempts to “Shoot the Moon” having yet gotten away with assassinating Lincoln, the rise of the Robber Baron, finance of Hitler, the Holocaust, Vietnam, JFK and MLK, and 911.

It’s an easy shot for the Democrats. If they don’t take it, it just means the corruption within that party won.

In any event The People must win. Our sovereignty is from G-d, alone.

Annuit Coeptis
E Pluribus Unum
Novus Ordo Seclorem

Be American, or get out.

Death for Treason

Ludowici

December 12th, 2009
7:16 pm

If you’re working on a computer or email account paid for by the taxpayers, whatever you do there ought to be subject to open records act requests.

Bob Hobnobber

December 12th, 2009
7:37 pm

Will Jones is bat**** crazy. Just saying.

sab

December 13th, 2009
1:30 am

As usual politicians miss the point. I don’t care if you are unfaithful to your wife, that’s your personal business. I do care if you are unfaithful because you are sleeping with a lobbyist and that relationship is influencing legislation. I don’t care if you publicly embarrass yourself, unless you are embarrassed b/c you have been found guilty of behavior for which you have persecuted others which makes you a liar and a hypocrite. We need to stop judging these people in their personal lives and hold them accountable to the ideals of public service they swore to uphold. Nothing more and nothing less.

Taxpayer

December 13th, 2009
8:08 am

If any other state had the right to gloat over Georgia’s scandal, it surely wouldn’t be Kentucky’s good ‘ole boys. (But the state needs the revenue just now.) http://migration.kentucky.gov/Newsroom/travel/girlfriendsgetawaysinky.htm

The Snark

December 13th, 2009
8:32 am

“Open emails” for the legislature is a joke. They’ll just do like everyone in the Bush administration did and open Yahoo or G-mail accounts.

Beware of phony reforms.

SpaceyG on Twitter

December 13th, 2009
9:33 am

Oh stop giving yourself/MSM airs of faux media authority. The entire Georgia state political R leadership structure is being collapsed, from within, by Peach Pundit. And u know it. And it’s been going on that way WAY before Russell got that face-to-face with the Bitter Divorcee. A sit-down interview on Beta tape has been usurped by the power of the (free) Georgia blogosphere. (The one that came before you and Anne Cox Chambers’ old money skirt you’re lucky to be able to still cling to. Trust me, it won’t last.) Wake me up when your old-school media pomposity trip has ended. I expect the Dome will be vacant at that point.

UGA Politico

December 13th, 2009
11:27 am

Please stop letting Will Jones post comments…He’s scaring me,,,

Shar

December 14th, 2009
12:27 pm

Glenn Richardson was able to flaunt his virility by having an open-secret affair with a younger skank who was willing to exchange her sexual favors for Richardson’t ability to slam legislation through the House. He pushed the AGL Resources bill very hard, using his system of ‘hawks” and threats of retribution against those House members who opposed his wishes, in his attempt to give his mistress’ company $300 million of Georgia taxpayers’ money. When his threats and tricks did not work in the Senate, he pitched a huge hissy fit and stomped away from cooperation with the Senate or the Governor, putting the welfare of Georgia at risk.

His colleagues in the House and Senate knew he was doing this, and they permitted it to go unchecked. Their alliegance is to each other, not to their constituents. Every single one of the people who stood by and allowed $300 million tax dollars to be traded for Richardson’s sex with a skank (and people were shocked by Elliot Spitzer’s $10,000 call girl? Peanuts for Richardson!) by voting for the Speaker’s proposal should resign immediately or be forced from office. All of Richardson’s coercive tactics should be repealed before the next Session begins. And all lobbyist “gifts” that are not equally extended to every Georgian should be banned. If our legislators get them, we all get them. Or no one does. Makes it very simple.

By the way, Richardson was not “done in by an ex-wife”. He is singley and solely responsible for his own destruction. All Susan Richardson did was try to protect herself from a bully and a cheat who threatened her and her children. She should have told the truth long ago and protected Georgia’s taxpayers and political system.

greenhorn

December 14th, 2009
12:55 pm

Tea Party Republicans or Family Values Republicans: which are scarier? You decide.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

December 14th, 2009
1:33 pm

Shar for Governor!