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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House leaders found Mike Glanton did not violate ethics rules in 2015 when he appeared to be leveraging his public role as a legislator to generate some private business. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t come close.
Glanton denied any ill intent, and the House Ethics Committee dismissed a complaint against him because Glanton’s employer didn’t wind up benefiting from his actions.
The case prompted Ethics chair Joe Wilkinson, though, to send out a three-page warning to House members: “Linking your legislative service with your private business endeavors will often create an appearance of impropriety or improper conduct whether one is intended by the member or not. … The best rule to follow is to not link your legislative position in any manner with your private business activities.”
April 1, 2016 — Kinder Morgan Inc. can be forgiven if it didn’t see Rep. Jon Burns standing in the way of its proposed Palmetto Pipeline.
In February 2015, when Kinder Morgan announced the $1 billion project,
Burns was still three months away from becoming House majority leader. His financial disclosures also omitted several large tracts of timberland and described others in vague terms, making it difficult to pinpoint their locations.
As it turned out, Burns owns an interest in five Effingham County parcels comprising 456 acres that lay directly in the path of the proposed 167,000-barrel-a-day pipeline. Other family members own an additional 501 acres on the route.
Kinder-Morgan has suspended work on the pipeline after lawmakers voted to suspend its right to condemn property for the project.
Rep. David Wilkerson made a $24,000 enemy when he voted against a 2012 constitutional amendment making it easier for prospective charter schools to open. The American Federation for Children, a Washington-based pro-charter advocacy group, shelled out $4,400 shortly after the vote for a full-page newspaper ad and other communications accusing Wilkerson of flip-flopping on the issue for political reasons. Two years later, the advocacy group spent nearly $20,000 on canvassers, mailings and a direct donation trying to unseat him.
Erica Thomas’ campaign disclosures contain accounting errors that have led to her reporting about $2,300 less cash on hand than she really has. She disclosed a closing cash balance of $2,100 in January 2016, for instance, but did not carry it over to her next report. Thomas said she would review her previous filings and correct any errors.
The information on Atlanta Unfiltered is free to all — except me. Use the Donate button on this page to help produce more articles like this one. Albert Thomas Reeves Jr. (R-Marietta) District 34 (Cobb County) Bert Reeves’ largest bloc of campaign donors, by far, are his fellow Republicans in the Georgia House of Representatives. […]
Wilkinson’s latest personal financial disclosure failed to note that he is chair of the Georgia Republican Senatorial Committee Inc., the political fund of the Senate Republican Caucus. It’s raised $188,000 since he became chairman in 2015. Top donors in that period were the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association ($20,000), MGM Resorts International ($15,000), and the Georgia Apartment Association, Georgia Auto Dealers Association and Georgia Power Co. ($10,000 each).
April 20, 2016 — Cobb County school board member David Morgan acknowledged last year that he filed no campaign disclosures for nearly four years, agreeing to a payment plan for $3,600 in civil penalties.
He hadn’t paid a penny, though, until we called him about it last week.
March 14, 2016 — A Senate committee took no action today on a bill to guarantee insurance agents a minimum commission for selling health coverage to small businesses.
The bill — championed by House Rules Chairman John Meadows — was highlighted Sunday by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution as a prime example of a bill that would benefit its legislative backers. Meadows is a Calhoun insurance agent.
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 […]