Supporters of a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers were at the state Capitol this morning, setting off on a final bus tour intended to make ethics reform a part of legislative primaries. My AJC colleague Kristina Torres has details here.
On July 31, both Democratic and Republican ballots will contain non-binding questions on gift limits. Even so, Tuesday’s press conference undoubtedly riled House Republican leaders, who have emerged as the most vocal critics of the cap.
This afternoon, House Ethics Committee Chairman Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, took the extraordinary step of turning reporter. The former Coke executive and UGA journalism grad turned the following press release, polished by publicist Phil Kent:
“It is disappointing, ironic and hypocritical that 49 candidates for the Georgia House of Representatives who signed a petition to impose a $100 lobbyist gift cap on lawmakers are themselves in violation of ethics and campaign finance laws.
“These candidates have failed to file, or filed late, their required Declaration of Intent (due when they first qualified to run), their Personal Financial Disclosure (due 15 days after qualifying to run), and their Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report (which was due July 9),” says state Rep. Joe Wilkinson, R- Sandy Springs. “All either have already been fined or expect to be fined shortly as required by Georgia law.”
Wilkinson attached a list of 85 House candidates who have signed a gift cap pledge, which you can see here. The 49 names with red lettering adjacent to their names are the alleged offenders, according to the ethics chairman — who says he drew the data from the panel formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. To continue:
“These are major violations by both Democrats and Republicans. These candidates should pay their fines and file the required reports immediately if they truly believe in full, open and immediate transparency,” the chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives Ethics Committee says. “On the one hand they seek to promote so-called ‘ethics’ by endorsing a meaningless ‘gift ban’ yet on the other hand are behaving unethically by flouting current laws.”
“They should certainly pay the fines mandated by law before the July 31 primaries,” Wilkinson continues. “I would remind them that the fines cannot be paid with campaign funds and that the first $25.00 of each fine goes to fund the state’s Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission.”
“These current laws are tough and, unlike the proposed $100 lobbyist expense cap, actually work. Unfortunately, caps lead to non-reporting and underground lobbying. We’ve seen this in other states. If they worked and were not merely a public relations gimmick, they would have been put in place years ago,” Wilkinson says.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider