Suddenly, a $100 (per day) cap on gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers is all the rage. Ray Henry with the Associated Press describes the conversion process:
A dozen state lawmakers who recently promised to cap lobbyist spending ahead of election season did not publicly back those limits during this year’s legislative session.
By signing the pledge, General Assembly candidates commit to co-sponsoring legislation that would ban lobbyists from giving public officials gifts worth more than $100. Lobbyists can currently spend as much as they want so long as they publicly report their spending.
Eleven incumbents seeking office again have signed the pledge but did not sign on as co-sponsors of bills to cap lobbyist spending. Another incumbent who signed the pledge but declined to co-sponsor the bill is stepping down. The list of incumbents who didn’t lend their name to the measure includes Senate President Pro Tempore Tommie Williams, Senate Majority Leader Chip Rogers and Sen. Don Balfour, chairman of the powerful Rules Committee. Those men have considerable influence over what bills go forward.
For example, Balfour chairs the committee where the Senate bill capping lobbyist spending was assigned before the measure failed. He and Rogers face Republican opponents who have signed the pledge. Balfour, who did not return a message seeking comment, also faces a probe by the Senate Ethics Committee into allegations that he improperly sought reimbursement for conducting official state business on days he was far from the Statehouse or traveling out-of-state with lobbyists.
“I take every member of the General Assembly and certainly my Senate colleagues at their word,” said Sen. Joshua McKoon, who sponsored the Senate proposal to set a cap. “Someone signs a pledge in front of the public at large and commits themselves to a position, I certainly expect they’re going to honor that when they go back.”
Williams, who recently decided to step down as president pro tempore, did not co-sponsor the bill because he believed lawmakers needed more time to study it, said his legal counsel, Gerald Huang. The cap was one part of a bill that also set limits on how much lobbyists could spend to subsidize travel by public officials, kicked people with lobbying ties off the state’s ethics commission and increased other financial disclosure requirements.
Rep. Tommy Smith, R-Nicholls, filed similar legislation in the House.
“It wasn’t a change of heart,” Huang said, speaking about Williams’ decision to sign the pledge. “He supports the pledge but the entire legislation was something that he believed needed time for deliberation.”
A spending cap still faces significant political opposition. House Speaker David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge, has repeatedly said he supports the state’s current disclosure system and believes a hard cap on lobbyist spending would just drive the practice underground. No member of Ralston’s leadership team in the House has signed the pledge.
Earlier this week, Jon Gillooly of the Marietta Daily Journal made his own count:
Of the 38 incumbents and challengers vying for a seat in the Georgia General Assembly to represent some part of Cobb County, 20 said they would sign a pledge not to accept lobbyist gifts worth more than $100.
Seven others said they would not sign such a pledge. Other candidates either said they were undecided, or did not respond to repeated inquiries.
We understand that U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., one of the two founding members of the Gang of Six effort to forge a bipartisan approach to deficit reduction, is hip-deep in this effort outlined by Politico.com:
A growing number of lawmakers are alarmed that Congress’s do-nothing posture ahead of the year-end fiscal cliff could provoke a massive voter backlash and economic catastrophe if they don’t start laying the groundwork right now to cut a deal.
A dozen senators ranging from Oklahoma Republican Tom Coburn to Delaware Democrat Chris Coons have begun to organize closed-door briefings with leading economic experts to prod Congress into action. Some lawmakers like Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) are quietly pushing to have a major tax and budget package ready by September so a bill can be introduced immediately after the November elections and passed by Christmas. Others like Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) have taken matters into their own hands by privately preparing bills they hope will shape the post-election debate.
“There’s a genuine concern that a downturn in Europe or another place will force our hand: It’s far better for us to start working on this earlier rather than later, and there’s a lot of work to be done,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) [said]. “If we can present something immediately after the election that is a good solid starting point, I think it’s going to restore confidence in the business community.”
Anyone who has watched the growing tension between the U.S. and Pakistan understands that there’s a great deal of diplomatic double-talk involved. This Slate.com piece underlines some of the hypocrisy:
A CIA drone strike in North Waziristan killed al-Qaida’s No. 2 leader on Monday. Pakistan again complained that drone strikes are “unlawful, against international law and a violation of [its] sovereignty,” but while the country has threatened to shoot down unmanned vehicles in the past, it has never followed through. How hard is it to kill a drone?
It depends on the model. Shooting down an MQ-1 Predator or an MQ-9 Reaper, the propeller-driven drones most commonly used to kill terrorists in Pakistan, would be child’s play for a Pakistani Air Force pilot. They’re easy to detect on radar, and they fly at about 100 mph—about the speed of a World War I-era bomber. (The Dassault Mirage 5, one of the most common jets in Pakistan’s military fleet, cruises at just under 600 mph and tops out at nearly 1,500 mph.) They don’t normally carry any weapons that could be used in a dogfight, and their lack of maneuverability makes them vulnerable to missiles fired from the ground.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider