House ethics chairman: 49 candidates tout ethics, flout campaign laws

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.

In this file photo from the 2012 legislative session, House Ethics Chairman Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, center, talks with Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough. Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com

In this file photo from the 2012 legislative session, House Ethics Chairman Joe Wilkinson, R-Sandy Springs, center, talks with Rep. Andy Welch, R-McDonough. Jason Getz, jgetz@ajc.com

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

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17 comments Add your comment

Armchair Ethicists

July 24th, 2012
7:01 pm

You go Joe!!!!

While the citizen proponents of the cap have their hearts in the right place, their heads are not. The legislators on the other hand, should know better. Or perhaps they think that by hitching their wagon to this populist idea it will propel them to higher positions. History teaches something differently.

Kris

July 24th, 2012
7:41 pm

Yep, I have said VOTE these Crooks out of office. As for fines for violations make them BITE…Fine the legislators like they fine the citizens $1111 per offense/day + say $312 administrative costs and for good measure $ 998 (gloves) FREE CAVITY search. I said MAKE it bite. Treat these crooks like the thieves they are!

Oh well, what ethics as always GA LAST…way to go DEAL.

Vote NO on tsp-LOST

Last Man Standing

July 24th, 2012
7:50 pm

The ‘non-binding questions on gift limits’ are worthless. Even so, the option I would have chosen is not available. Legislators should not be given and should not accept ANY gift whatsoever. Unless you are a welfare recipient, you should know that ‘ain’t nothing free’!

hiram

July 24th, 2012
7:58 pm

LATE & NON-FILERS INDIVIDUAL DETAIL

ROGERS , CHIP
Filing Office: State Ethics Commission
Report Type: Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report
06-30-2012 07-10-2012
$125.00 Amount Paid 0.00
Total Outstanding: $125.00

PERDUE , SONNY
Filing Office: State Ethics Commission
Report Type: Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report
12-31-2007 Not Filed $75.00 Amount Paid $0.00

PERDUE , SONNY
Filing Office: State Ethics Commission
Report Type: Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report
06-30-2008 Not Filed $75.00 Amount Paid $0.00

PERDUE , SONNY
Filing Office: State Ethics Commission
Report Type: Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report
12-31-2008 Not Filed $75.00 Amount Paid $0.00

PERDUE , SONNY
Filing Office: State Ethics Commission
Report Type: Campaign Contribution Disclosure Report
06-30-2009 Not Filed $75.00 Amount Paid $0.00
Total Outstanding: $300.00

ethics.ga.gov

Trina Dobson

July 24th, 2012
8:35 pm

The depsey In Macon Georgia is probably the result of political contributions. We are sending 900K out of the state each month.
Trina

Don McAdam

July 24th, 2012
10:09 pm

Wilkinson has never before cared so much about this issue (that is ironic as he is the House Ethics Committee Chairman). I can’t imagine why he’s suddenly taken an interest in the late filings of candidates. Some of you cynics will claim that Wilkinson only wants to embarrass these people because they want ethics reforms and he does not (again ironic).

Well let me just tell you what. Joe Wilkinson has always been a crusader for the status quo. Ops, I mean good clean one party rule. Ops, I mean…well whatever.

Don McAdam

July 24th, 2012
10:19 pm

We need real ethics reforms. The kind that Wilkinson would fight tooth and nail to stop.

We need a real ethics commission. One that can actually start investigations. One that has independence (can’t be hired or fired solely by the governor). One that has enough funding that it can investigate wrong doings in a timely manner. One that has enough staff that it can audit lobbyist and the reports filed by public officials in a timely fashion.

Wilkinson’s attempt to impersonate Barney Fife (Andy Griffith Show) is in itself laughable. The only difference between Wilkinson and Fife is that Barney was trying to do good.

David Charles Hopper

July 25th, 2012
7:26 am

Sir, you are incorrect about me, and I would appreciate a public apology for libeling my name.

I was not a candidate for any office until April 2, 2012 and mailed the request and affidavit to the Ethics Commission that very same day. I did not get an E-pin to even log into the website to file until April 7th. Out of an abundance of caution and in the interest of being as open as possible to anyone who looks up my name I filed for March 31 even though I did not have to. The ‘automated’ penalty computer program tagged my name and report as late. If you checked with the actual Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission (formerly the State Ethics Commission) they would have told you they removed the automated fine because I WAS NOT IN VIOLATION AND DID NOT EVEN HAVE TO FILE A MARCH REPORT.

Now, I understand the idea behind your list and agree with it. You or your publicist should have done better fact checking. I will call your office in two days if that apology is not posted as publicly as your original news story. What you should be looking for is actual violations of law in the Campaign reports, you know like the people that improperly or just outright did not file expenditures and contributions correctly. (Hint-the Qualifying Fee is required to be reported as a Campaign Expense).

In the future, I hope to work with you in the General Assembly, as I am the sole opponent to the current incumbent. I will face him in the General Election on November 6th, 2012.

Respectfully,

David Hopper
Republican Candidate, Georgia House District 125
HopperForHouse.com

3613 Elliott Blvd
Augusta, GA 30906
706-399-6347 Cell
Facebook.com/hopperforhouse

[...] House Ethics Commission Chairman Joe Wilkinson (R-Sandy Springs) released a list of 49 candidate for State House who signed the “Gift Cap Pledge” but have failed to abide by existi…. “It is disappointing, ironic and hypocritical that 49 candidates for the Georgia House of [...]

David Charles Hopper

July 25th, 2012
8:22 am

That was of course directed mainly to the originator of the libelous statement, Representative Wilkinson. However, it stands for anyone that continues to publish the false and hurtful statement. If you want to call me, please do so. I would like to see a retraction and apology from Representative Wilkinson, and anyone else that continues to leave this story up in public without being corrected.

Respectfully,

David Hopper
Republican Candidate, Georgia House District 125
HopperForHouse.com

3613 Elliott Blvd
Augusta, GA 30906
706-399-6347 Cell
Facebook.com/hopperforhouse

One Who Knows....

July 25th, 2012
8:38 am

look out David, Joe Wilkinson and Phil Kent are two of the most morally bankrupt Republicans in Georgia. They will back stab you in a heartbeat.

Ol’ Joe even has a Georgia corporation called “The International Registry of Backstabbers, Inc” where you could rat out your friends.

By the way Joe, your corporation is in NON-COMPLIANCE with the Secretary of State. Pot, meet kettle.

redweather

July 25th, 2012
8:46 am

@ David Charles Hopper: Just what we need, another candidate for public office who appears to be quick to get lawyered up (I assume that is why you used the legal term “libelous” in your post).

David Charles Hopper

July 25th, 2012
9:00 am

Redweather, your assumption is off my friend.

I am John Q. Public, a US Citizen that grew up, lives, and works in Augusta, GA. I am nothing more than that.

I used the term because by definition that is exactly what has occurred. I would have asked for a response and apology privately, if this list had been published privately.

Very simply, 20 minutes of phone conversations with the Ethics Commission could have CLEARLY Identified who was really at fault for a violation. As I wrote in my first post, if you really want to find violations of ethics laws look at every candidate that did not include their $400 qualifying fee on their June 30th, 2012 Campaign expense report.

redweather

July 25th, 2012
9:55 am

@ David Charles Hopper: It will be interesting to see what Joe Wilkinson does. If you are correct, he may issue a retraction.

[...] 85 House candidate who had signed a pledge to support $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. Of those 85, Wilkinson identified 49 who he said stood in violation of some aspect of the state’s campaign finance [...]

catlady

July 25th, 2012
3:03 pm

Too bad legislators don’t have to follow the same rules as teachers. 1) Limited per diem. Everything has to be documented, with receipts. 2) No gifts of any substantive value. 3) Work a full school year to get a year’s credit toward retirement. 4) No extra pay for work outside of class/legislative session, unless contracted. 5) No gas money for travel from home. 6) We will cut your salary–give you unpaid furloughs. 7) We will blame every failure in the state on you. 8) I am sure there is more.

[...] 85 House candidate who had signed a pledge to support $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers. Of those 85, Wilkinson identified 49 who he said stood in violation of some aspect of the state’s campaign finance [...]