Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

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 …

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Your morning jolt: House speaker calls gift cap ‘a gimmick,’ urges independent ethics panel

Advocates of a $100 cap on gifts from lobbyists to lawmakers will be at the state Capitol this morning to begin a 13-city bus tour pushing a “yes” vote on the July 31 Republican ballot question addressing the issue.

It will be led by state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who will also be attending a called meeting of the Senate Ethics Committee. Which may or may not be – the sessions are closed to press and public – considering a complaint lodged against Senate Rules Chairman Don Balfour, R-Snellville.

On the same topic, House Speaker David Ralston on Wednesday indicated that, rather than a cap on gifts, he’d rather see more secure funding for the panel formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. Ralston made his remarks on the last of a four-day swing through the state by House Republican leaders. According to Jon Gillooly and the Marietta Daily Journal, Ralston said:

”I am not opposed to real ethics reform. … I think the cap is a gimmick, frankly.

“I have said all along: I …

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Gift caps and a Republican fear of promises in writing

Promises, promises.

Only three weeks have passed since a coalition of tea party and good-government groups began pressing legislative candidates to back a measure capping gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers at $100.

Not $100 per day. Just $100 per gift. And only those gifts that come from registered lobbyists. It is a bar so high that, were it a limbo dance, most of us could climb up on a pair of stilts and still pass underneath.

As of Wednesday, 80 candidates running in the July 31st primaries have promised in writing to sponsor – not just vote for – legislation that includes these exact words: “It shall be unlawful for a lobbyist to make a gift to a public officer where the value of the gift is more than $100.00.” Signers include the top two leaders of the Republican state Senate.

This despite a warning from House Speaker David Ralston that liberal groups involved in the pledge drive are leading Republicans down a primrose path that could result in an underground economy …

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Your morning jolt: Barack Obama leaking white voters

The Gallup organization has become the bearer of worrisome mathematics for President Barack Obama:

Barack Obama is receiving less support in the 2012 presidential election from some of the white subgroups that gave him the strongest support in 2008. These include non-Hispanic white registered voters who are 18 to 29 years old, female postgrads, and the nonreligious, among others.

The 46% of registered voters supporting Obama today is five percentage points below the 51% supporting him in final weeks of the 2008 election campaign. Similarly, whites’ support for Obama is six points lower than it was in October/November 2008 (38% vs. 44%), and blacks’ is down four points (87% vs. 91%). At the same time, Hispanics’ support, at 67%, is essentially unchanged….

Even if Obama were to regain his 2008 level of support among blacks and improve his support somewhat among Hispanics, he could still lose if his support among whites slips any further. By the same token, even a slight …

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Your morning jolt: Nathan Deal declines invitation to join ethics stampede

At the tail-end of a 13-minute interview posted by Denis O’Hayer of WABE (90.1FM), Gov. Nathan Deal – who has had some unpleasant experiences in this particular area and might be considered a skeptic – declared himself indifferent to a $100 (per day) cap on gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers.

Said the governor:

”I would simply point out that we put in place a zero-gift ban for the executive branch of government. The press has never seen fit to talk about that, so I’m not so sure if the legislative branch adopts any reforms, that the press is going to give them credit for doing it.

“I think if people want to see improvements in ethics reform, for example, they ought to acknowledge the reforms that we have in place. It is ironic that several years ago, the current ethics laws that the state of Georgia has in place was regarded as one of the best in the country. And I think people don’t need to lose sight of that fact now.

“Whether or not the General Assembly decides to …

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Your morning jolt: Gift-cap conversions spread, but not to everyone

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. …

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Your morning jolt: Casinos and ethics in an exurban state Senate race

When Senate District 31 was redrawn last year, it dropped Bartow County and picked up a larger slice of Paulding County.

The new lines have delivered unto Republican incumbent Bill Heath of Haralson County a total of two challengers, both from Paulding. A first debate of the trio was held Tuesday evening, hosted by the Paulding County Republican Women’s Club. Yours truly moderated.

Two topics, both of which will appear on the July 31 GOP primary ballot, stood out as potential difference makers. First was the matter of a $100 (per day) cap on gifts to state lawmakers from lobbyists. You’ll remember that a coalition of tea party and good-government groups are pushing candidates to sign a pledge supporting the gift cap.

From Bill Carruth, a businessman and former chairman of the Paulding County Commission:

”I’ve signed that pledge, but I’ll take it one step further. I’ll make a commitment – I won’t take any perks, any theater tickets, any ball game tickets, any dinners, any …

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Your morning jolt: Local races will create climate for transportation sales tax vote

The qualifying period for candidates seeking a spot on the July 31 primary ballot began this morning.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp has promised live updates here. My AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin has a rolling blog going – plus an advance that focused on tea party ambitions:

[Debbie Dooley of Atlanta Tea Party Patriots] said a tea party candidate has already announced a challenge to state Sen. Jack Murphy, a Republican from Cumming and chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The movement is also hopeful, she said, to have a serious challenger for state Sen. Don Balfour, a Republican from Snellville and chairman of the Senate Rules Committee….

Dooley said if former state Rep. Clay Cox, R-Lilburn, doesn’t qualify to run against Balfour, she will — reluctantly.

While candidates are ponying up qualifying fees in the Capitol, the watchdog Common Cause will lead tea partyists – and state Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus – further down that frightful, liberal path to chaos this …

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Your morning jolt: GOP convention silent on transportation sales tax

Some things, in some places, are better left unsaid.

Gov. Nathan Deal is sticking his neck out for the July 31 transportation sales tax, in speeches and fundraisers. As noted by the Saporta Report:

On [Wednesday], Deal is inviting business and civic leaders to the home of Jennifer and Tom Bell in Buckhead to a reception aimed at raising campaign dollars to help get the tax passed in the 11 regions outside of metro Atlanta.

The goal is to raise a total of $4.5 million among the regions for a grass-roots campaign in favor of the transportation sales tax. So far, the Connect Georgia campaign has raised between $2.5 million and $3 million, according to Chris Clark, president of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce.

But more than a few Republicans at the state convention in Columbus noticed that, as Deal listed the accomplishments of his administration to the conservative crowd, the governor gave no mention to the Transportation Investment Act.

Deal was booed by the crowd last year, …

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Conservative groups challenge House speaker on ethics

COLUMBUS, Ga. — On Friday, House Speaker David Ralston tried to warn delegates to the state GOP convention away from a resolution to endorse a cap on gifts from lobbyists to state lawmakers, declaring that liberals were using the issue of ethics to divide the party.

Members of the Capitol Coalition of Conservative Leadership this morning issued this response:

“We strongly condemn the comments made by Speaker Ralston regarding ethics reform. Strong ethics and accountability are not a matter of right versus left. They are a matter of right versus wrong.

“His comments imply that voters and activists should hide our eyes from the realities of ethics violations and the need for reform, and stand by everyone no matter what they do, simply because they have an “R” behind their name.

“Rather than open his heart to the cries from citizens that we have the right to call for accountability, he comments reflect those of someone who seeks to divide our party by falsely accusing those who …

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