State legislators say they welcome transparency regarding their personal finances — corporate and real estate holdings, government contracts and the like. But who decides what constitutes transparency and how diligently to check whether they’re truly telling us what we’re entitled to know? They do. Just as war is too important to be left to the generals, transparency is too important to be left to the politicians.
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Here's the plan... The Internet brims over with opinion. Facts? Not so much. We want to restore the balance. We dig up & share public records on ethics and transparency in public institutions. Tips, documents & feedback are welcome. We also offer tutorials (we know, it's geeky) so you, too, can dig up public records.
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Feb. 10, 2015 — A 2005 amendment to Georgia’s campaign finance law was meant to give smaller donors a break on filing public disclosures. A decade later, though, Senate Republicans applied the law to their own PAC, raising $276,000 over a 20-month period before disclosing even a penny of it.
“It’s incredibly disappointing that the law is so weak that $250,000-plus can be raised without being reported for so long,” said William Perry, executive director of the good-government advocacy group Common Cause Georgia. “This is a glaring example of how far we have to go in Georgia for fairer disclosure.”
Feb. 6, 2015 — Before Kelvin Cochran condoned his own anti-gay slurs, he condemned a much milder one made by an Atlanta firefighter under his command.
“We cannot tolerate this type of behavior from our members,” Cochran wrote in an August 2012 email about a firefighter’s use of the term “fags” in a Facebook comment. As fire chief, Cochran later suspended the firefighter for 30 days without pay.
Mayor Kasim Reed fired Cochran last month for unauthorized publication of a book that compared homosexuality to pederasty and bestiality. He’s filed an EEOC complaint alleging his firing violated his right to freedom of religion.
Jesse Stone is a candidate for both the Senate and a Burke County judgeship — a quandary that’s raised questions as to how open he was with constituents when he qualified for re-election. In early March, Stone qualified for re-election to the Senate and denied reports that he was seeking appointment to a State Court vacancy. Later, just hours after qualifying for the Senate closed, Stone announced he’d decided to seek the judgeship after all. He remained ambivalent about whether he’d accept the judicial post until recently stating, after it became a campaign issue, that he’d withdraw his name from consideration if re-elected to the Legislature. (UPDATE: Stone withdrew his name from consideration for the Burke County State Court judgeship a week after winning re-election.)
Diane Evans owes $500 in late filing fees as of October 2014, according to the state ethics commission’s website. The commission does not routinely notify candidates that they owe late fees.
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July 16, 2014 — Alisha Morgan has made no secret of her support for charter schools or her affiliation with the pro-charter Black Alliance for Educational Options, noting it in several online biographies. But when filed her personal financial disclosures with the state ethics commission in 2012, she neglected to mention that the alliance had been paying her.
Morgan served on the alliance’s board in 2010 and 2011 before taking a salaried position there to recruit and train other activists for charter schools and school choice. A campaign spokesman said Morgan would review her past disclosures, which did not list either position at the alliance, and amend them “if necessary.”
Feb. 19, 2015 — Up to four years of penalties for filing late campaign disclosures could be excused under bills filed this week in the Georgia Legislature.
A 2010 law required candidates for city and county offices to file campaign finance reports online with the state rather than locally. Many candidates pushed back, and the mandate was later rescinded.
Now, citing faults and malfunctions of the state ethics commission’s online filing system, two legislators are sponsoring bills to waive the late fees — $125 and up — imposed on those local candidates.
Dec. 11, 2014 – Georgia is regarded as one of the most corrupt states across all branches of government, according to a new survey by Harvard University.
We didn’t rank number one, though. (Thank God for Arizona and Kentucky.)
Respondents said illegal corruption is moderately to very common in Georgia’s executive branch and moderately common in its Legislature, a report from Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics found.
Sept. 27, 2013 — Sen. Don Balfour was indicted today, based largely on Atlanta Unfiltered’s February 2012 report on sketchy entries in his expense account, for claiming per diem and mileage that he wasn’t entitled to.
Over at Fox 5, Dale Russell reported Wednesday night on an allegation that politics is behind a push to reopen an ethics investigation of U.S. Senate candidate Karen Handel. The state ethics commission settled three complaints against Handel in April with dismissals and her payment of a $75 late filing fee. Now, Russell reports, ethics […]