The tea party enters an ethics alliance aimed at Legislature

Thousands gather at the state Capitol for a huge tea party last spring. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Thousands gather at the state Capitol for a huge tea party last spring. Hyosub Shin, hshin@ajc.com

Politics is the story of old alliances falling apart and the formation of new ones — the birth of feuds and burial of ancient hatchets.

At the state Capitol, we’re about to witness the creation of a new collaboration that — if successful — could give permanent, Georgia-centered purpose to a tea party movement that so far has concentrated on the sins of Washington.

Last October, the state’s network of tea party groups gathered to put the finishing touches on a list of positions they wanted candidates for the state Legislature to put their names to.

Many of the aims could be classed as ideological: Property and income tax reform, hard limits on the growth of the state budget, and mandatory school courses on the U.S. Constitution.

Other demands were not. Candidates for the General Assembly were asked to endorse bans on trips paid by lobbyists, on all gifts from lobbyists, and on sweetheart state contracts for state lawmakers, high elected officials, and their relatives.

To put it politely, despite the constant genuflections from Republicans toward tea party activists, the petition did not catch fire — and played no discernible role in the Nov. 2 election.

But the effort began a conversation. Several of them. Over the Christmas holidays, leaders of the Georgia chapter of the Tea Party Patriots hosted a meeting that included the leadership of Common Cause of Georgia, the League of Women Voters of Georgia and Ray Boyd, the gubernatorial aspirant-turned-ethical watchdog.

A cross-ideological alliance was formed. The three groups may have completely different agendas, admitted Julianne Thompson, one of the tea party organizers who pulled the session together. “But there’s one area that we all agree on — and that is we need tough ethics reform in Georgia,” she said.

And all agree that a reform package passed by the Legislature last year, in the wake of the scandal over then-House Speaker Glenn Richardson’s dalliance with a natural gas lobbyist, was not enough.

A shopping list of demands has yet to be completed — and a formal announcement of the alliance may not happen for a few weeks. A $100 limit on gifts is likely to be one aim. A ban on state contracts for well-connected brothers-in-law may be another.

Tracey-Ann Nelson, executive director of the League of Women Voters, said restoring the rule-making authority stripped from the State Ethics Commission is her group’s top priority.

Residents of the state Capitol often shake their heads at what they see as an overemphasis on ethics by members of the press — particularly in the opening days of each legislative session. Voters don’t care, they say.

There is some truth in this. During her Republican campaign for governor, Karen Handel bludgeoned the Legislature for its close dealing and good-ol’-boy ways. On Monday, she will not be the one on the Capitol steps with her hand on a Bible.

But an ethics alliance juiced by tea party fervor has possibilities.

Common Cause and the League of Women Voters are old hands in the Capitol. They know how to draft legislation. The chairman of Common Cause is Bob Irvin, an Atlanta attorney and Republican who is the former House minority leader. (He is currently in Israel and was unavailable for an interview.)

But neither group can summon pitchforks. The tea party movement can. The question is whether tea partyists can be made as angry about shady dealings in Atlanta as they are about health care reform in Washington.

Thompson thinks the answer is yes. “We have 100 percent support for all of our tea party groups on this,” she said.

It’s a heavy lift. Having dealt with ethics reform last year, legislators are less than eager to pick it up again. “We always welcome new and innovative ideas,” said House Ethics Chairman Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs. “But these are proposals that have been heard before, reviewed, and do not accomplish their goals. If they did, we’d implement them.”

In the Senate, Boyd’s participation in the ethics alliance could prove problematic. Days before the Nov. 2 election, the real estate executive filed an ethics complaint against Casey Cagle, alleging that the lieutenant governor had an affair with a campaign staffer and overpaid her with campaign funds. (A Cagle spokesman called the allegation “absolutely false.”)

Cagle has been deposed as the ruler of the Senate but he still has friends in the chamber.

And yet, even in Washington, Republicans understand that a failure to police themselves was at the heart of their fall from congressional power in 2006.

One of House Speaker John Boehner’s first decisions this week was to keep the Office of Congressional Ethics, an independent, non-partisan panel established by the U.S. House and charged with reviewing accusations of misconduct by its members.

The OCE is the entity that investigated allegations that Nathan Deal had used his congressional office to lobby state officials and protect his auto salvage business.

Its findings were made public at the outset of last year’s campaign for governor. Deal, who takes office Monday, denounced the report as a political smear.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

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34 comments Add your comment

Bill Orvis White

January 5th, 2011
6:37 pm

Amen! WE THE PEOPLE in the patriotic Tea Party will be closely watching how the members in these state houses tax and spend. WE THE PEOPLE in the Tea Party will do what it takes to oust every far-left liberal Democrat and any Republican who is a traitor. WE THE PEOPLE will do everything in our power to stop illegal health care from entering into any of these great Southern states. WE THE PEOPLE are putting every elected official on notice that if he does not adhere to the constructs of the Constitution, HE WILL BE FIRED!

God Bless the new Congress of the United States of America and its rightful new leader, the Honorable John Boehner of Ohio. I pray that HE will lead us through these horribly dark days and bring us to a brighter new day whereby WE THE PEOPLE experience true tax relief, job growth, welcome God back into this once-free nation, repeal illegal health care, Mediscare, Mediraid, Social Insecurity and crap and fade.

I pray hard several times a day for these great Southern states to form the Southern Coalition of the United States.

I’m praying hard for our nation right now and I hope others will as well.

God Bless America and the Southern Coalition of the United States,

Bill

Alvin Green Cousin

January 5th, 2011
6:58 pm

LoL…….The so-called Republican Tea Party stand on eithics is sorted like Al Campone directing a ” Born Free” movie!

Mr. KnowitAll

January 5th, 2011
7:05 pm

I am a Tea Party Founder and profound Constitutionalists, and I CERTAINLY support efforts for significant improvements in ethics rules.

….But isn’t Ray Boyd a bit of a nut? .

tom watson

January 5th, 2011
8:26 pm

re: ray boyd … I wish I still had the Ray Boyd campaign document that said he has the “testicular fortitude” to be governor. Hmm… it was a plain 8 1/2×11 paper crammed with single-space typing and it showed up like, maybe a month or six weeks into the campaign. Course, it’s up to you to say if that’s “nuts.” ;)

native

January 5th, 2011
9:00 pm

We should move toward a cyclically balanced budget as soon as possible.

The suggestions I like most are simplifying the tax code and reducing rates. Two deductions that should go are the mortgage deduction, as it distorts the housing market (full disclosure: I don’t have a mortgage), and the corporate deduction for medical premiums. Eliminating the latter might produce a genuine market in medical care, whereby people are exposed to the costs of various health care options, and could make rational choices (thereby perhaps putting some cost pressure on providers). Again: I have been self employed and self insured for 30 years.

double

January 5th, 2011
9:15 pm

If this tea party is serious will demand term limits.

eli

January 5th, 2011
9:20 pm

double, do some research, read the constitution and the federalists papers. The worst thing GA could do is institute term limits.

I have found in my experience that those that demand constitutional this-and-that the most vocally are those with the least mount of knowledge of the documents and constitutional theory. Take the tea-party’s “intellectual” foundation with a big grain of salt.

FMX

January 5th, 2011
9:31 pm

Where was the tea party when the Oaky Woods deal went down?? yeah that’s what I thought!!

Thomas

January 5th, 2011
9:35 pm

Government run does not work! SOCIALISM!

Gator Guy

January 5th, 2011
9:46 pm

I voted for these morons and the first thing they do is go to washington and hold a rub-elbows dinner with lobbyists. This is so typical of American politics these days. You vote for one party, you get taxed to death with the jackals at the irs holding you upside down and shaking you for your loose change, and then you vote the other way and get corporate takeover of washington and five dollars at the gas pump. Voting these days is like putting your nose over two separate piles of horse manure.–you have to pick the one that stinks less, which by the way is getting harder and harder to tell. I am so fed up with these politicians and their lies. This group didn’t even wait to get sworn in before starting off business as usual. PHOOEY.

Tired of BS

January 5th, 2011
9:50 pm

In theory, the Tea Party is a good thing. In Georgia….. not so much. I’m afraid it has turned into a forum for media hogging political wannabe’s . Ethics reform needs to happen for sure, but I’m truly afraid we will all be sitting back to watch the players fight for TV camera face time.

GaBlue

January 5th, 2011
10:12 pm

Ethics reform? Hahaha! In GEORGIA? HAHAHAHA! Tooooo funny! Hahaha! STOP IT! My sides hurt! Hahahaha! This is what we folks from around here call “A REAL KNEE SLAPPER!”

“Oh Hey, we’re having a Tea Party and we demand that you behave!” Hahaha! “You must conduct yourselves with integrity and do what’s best for the people of this state!” HAHAHA! STOP it! Hahahaha! ROFLMAO

GaBlue

January 5th, 2011
10:18 pm

“Hey, watch out! If you use your elected state office to further your own interests instead of upholding the Contitution, Bill Orvis White is going to have you fired!” HAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Elaine in MO

January 6th, 2011
4:12 am

Introducing http://www.ourfoundingfatherstea.com
We have Georgia Ginger Peach (Regular & Decaf)
Thank you Fellow Tea Party Patriots!

El Kabong

January 6th, 2011
5:14 am

Any quasi third party movement (Tea Party) that allows itself to be associated with either the Reps or the Dems should be shunned and called out for what is really is. Another smokescreen to hide the true work of government, both State and Federal, from the cash cow taxpayers. Enabling the corporations to enjoy a safe haven from political upheaval while they ship our jobs overseas. And use of tax money to save them from their excesses. Sonny Perdue showed state governments true colors in his last few days in office. He just learned from the masters in Washington.
TAX STRIKE!

Keep doing this GOP

January 6th, 2011
5:33 am

Sonny Perdue showed state governments true colors in his last few days in office.

Where have you been? Sonny has been showng his true colors since 2003. As far as ethics reform, ill believe it when i see it. Most of these so called tea partiers put these people into office. And now they expect them to tow the line. Riiiiiiiiight !!

jt

January 6th, 2011
7:16 am

If there is a need to legislate ethics, you have already lost.

Instead of trying to control crooks, efforts should be made to make it easier to fire them.(recall votes).

Also, every politician should be audited for at least five years after leaving office.

You can never FORCE lawyers/politicians to be ethical. You can only punish them after the fact.

Georgia voters richly deserve who they vote into office.

State of Georgia Tea Party

January 6th, 2011
8:11 am

These State of Georgia legislators better heed this warning. We are now aligned with Peach Tea PAC that is committed to fund the campaigns of Tea Party candidates at the state level. The Tea Parties are on the move and we are not going away. The truth is, corrupt and unprincipled state legislators will go away quicker than we will.

pete

January 6th, 2011
8:12 am

Jus get used to it tea party will do nothing in the end!Our goverment has been allowed to go rogue by the people us that pay them.They will retire with great benefits from the peoples money.Of course now we will work longer to ensure that they get their retirement.Then they will have to change the law again because there will not be enough jobs for the young folks so they will shaft most into early retirement again.Its the same old tom foolery.good luck to all

pete

January 6th, 2011
8:19 am

Tea party is the one drinking the corporate kool aide! LOL

Sandra

January 6th, 2011
8:26 am

@Bill Orvis White,
You blew your integrity and ethics when you are talking about a ‘rightful leader’ in Boehner. Our country has been in the dark for many years and the Republicans certainly won’t bring us to the light. He is just as bad as the rest and is already backtracking. Being a ‘Tea Partier’ doesn’t give anyone any standing in my books. You all want to cut as long as it doesn’t affect you. The days of personal sacrifice went out the window years ago and especially since 2001.

I pray too for these folks every day and pray for all these folks who name call and spew hatred on both sides.

pete

January 6th, 2011
8:37 am

orvis white, Please standup and tell ur Honorable John Boehner to opt out of his people funded health insurance and retirement so the American people do not have to pay for it.

gm

January 6th, 2011
8:38 am

I can not wait wait till these Rep put these hpocrites tea party people in the soup line.
Why do these poor conservatives whites love to get pimp by rich Rep? If these idiots tea party had love for their country 8 years ago we would not be in this mess, instead they found new love for country after Bush sent billions of dollars a month for to wars.
And these white so call christians are the worst, they claim they love God but want to cut health care for the poor, satan has his place ready for these hypocrites.

Douglas

January 6th, 2011
8:42 am

Jim, Jim, Jim…

First you say “Politics is the story of old alliances falling apart and the formation of new ones — the birth of feuds and burial of ancient hatchets.”

And then in the NEXT sentance you write “At the state Capitol, we’re about to witness the creation of a new collaboration that — if successful — could give permanent…

PERMANENT???!!! Ain’t NOTHING permenent in politics, and you know it.

The Snark

January 6th, 2011
9:19 am

Hey Bill Orvis White:

“Southern Coalition of the United States”? Are you high on crack? There’s a cemetary in Marietta full of the skeletons of people who tried that idea out 150 years ago. You should check it out sometime.

professional skeptic

January 6th, 2011
9:20 am

They elected ethically bankrupt Nathan “Sweetheart” Deal to lead this state, and NOW they want to be taken seriously on the topic of ethics?

It boggles the mind…

professional skeptic

January 6th, 2011
9:23 am

What’s the latest on Nathan Deal’s financial troubles? Did they somehow mysteriously evaporate over the holidays? If so, did they evaporate through “ethical” means?

td

January 6th, 2011
9:47 am

professional skeptic

January 6th, 2011
9:23 am
What’s the latest on Nathan Deal’s financial troubles? Did they somehow mysteriously evaporate over the holidays? If so, did they evaporate through “ethical” means?

You know those troubles went away the day after the election. His two houses will be sold for the exact amount of money he owes or his son in law and daughter either already have or will have shortly high paying jobs in the private sector and the loan will be re worked to afford the payments.

I am sure you think this is some big deal? Not been happening in both parties for 100’s of years. It is called the spoils of victory. Move on to a different subject.

professional skeptic

January 6th, 2011
11:10 am

Well the blog filters are on your side, td… Today it appears they’re allowing you to publicly throw your support behind corrupt politicians who line their own pockets, but comments from decent folks like me who hate public corruption are disallowed. Has it really come to this? God help us all.

professional skeptic

January 6th, 2011
12:55 pm

Ask, and you shall receive. Thanks, AJC

http://www.ajc.com/news/georgia-politics-elections/deal-sets-up-payment-796714.html

The next questions are:
Who financed Deal’s debt reconsolidation? Were the terms arm’s length? What kind of political favors, if any, were promised to the lender in exchange for this generous reconsolidation?

If/when Deal’s properties sell, will the sale price be fair market value? Who are the buyers and are they politically/personally connected to Deal? Will the State of Georgia, under Deal’s guidance, buy/sell land adjacent to Deal’s properties, in order to engineer an inflation in value favorable to Deal? (Think that last one sounds crazy? Not so much, here in GA… just ask Gov. Perdue about Oaky Woods.)

Also, please keep an eye on this “blind trust” arrangement. Is this guy from Tifton the same accountant who advised Deal on his campaign disclosure requirements? How “independent” is this guy really?

td

January 6th, 2011
1:31 pm

professional skeptic

January 6th, 2011
11:10 am

“Today it appears they’re allowing you to publicly throw your support behind corrupt politicians who line their own pockets”

You call yourself a professional but you are such a neophyte. ALL PLOITICIANS ARE CORRUPT IN ONE WAY OR THE OTHER (All Parties). This is reality and some of you just do not understand and comprehend this statement. They are all in it for themselves and what we the people can do is play the game with them and make sure we support the people that change stuff for themselves also benefits us.

Why would millionaires give up four or more years of their life’s to make $150,000 per year and let their businesses go into “blind trust” to sit and make nothing? Why would Lawyers spend $500,000 of their own money and accept a 4 month a year job for $19,000 per year when they usually make between $200 to $500 per hour?

How about being a realist and not live in some fantasy world.

Tired of BS

January 6th, 2011
1:52 pm

As stated above, in theory the Tea Party is a good thing. Personally, I have a problem with sheeple- people. Liberals whine that since we have a Republican Gov, state house and state senate, everything will go to hell in a handbasket. Was that their sentiment when the Dems controlled everything. Good grief people I hope to hell you’re brighter than that.
FYI, Bill Orvis White is a Ray McBerry supporter. I think that says it all.

News for ya

January 6th, 2011
8:48 pm

things have already gone to hell in a handbasket in Georgia. And 8 more years of a do-nothing Governor is gonna leave as high and dry (and without Lake Lanier).

Bill Orvis White

January 6th, 2011
9:50 pm

@Sandra
The Honorable Speaker John Boehner is a man of integrity, trust and character. You cannot say that about anyone in the Socialist-Democrat party. Secular-progressives like you need to stop looking to these people as if they’re your nanny. You won’t find the answers to your problems through Hussein Obama who carries Marxist, anti-Christian, pro-Marxist beliefs. His criminal partner, Joseph Biden is similar to Josef Stalin, a man who hated God and individualism. You cannot look for leadership in man-hating Hillary Clinton or anti-capitalist Bawney Frank.

If you’re looking for real leadership, look no further than Speaker Boehner who is now resurrecting all of the Honorable President Ronald Wilson Reagan’s agenda which is needed now more than ever.

Name calling on both sides of the aisle? I think not, @Sandra. The mudslinging has come from the Socialst-Democrats like far-left Socialist Chuck Schumer and that brain-damaged “man,” Harry Reid.

Thank the Lord Almighty that this brand-new Congress read the Constitution today. It’s about time! I now know in my heart that everything will be OK with this Congress under new management.

God Bless,
Bill