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21 legislators took $5K+ in freebies from lobbyists
Twenty-one current or former Georgia legislators accepted gifts valued at $5,000 or more from registered lobbyists last year, an analysis of state records show. They are the lawmakers who can’t say no.
Overall, lobbyists wined and dined government officials in Georgia to the tune of more than $1.5 million last year, spending reports show. Most of that money poured into the General Assembly, but some spilled over to decision-makers in the executive branch and to city and county officials across the state.
The 21 legislators at the top of that list accounted for 10 percent of the total, or nearly $160,000, according to Atlanta Unfiltered’s review of 2009 spending reports. We’re talking gift baskets, food and drink, golf, sports and concert tickets, lodging and airfare.
Not surprisingly, given the GOP’s firm control of both chambers of the Legislature, all but one of the Top 21 was a Republican.
Senate majority leader Chip Rogers led the pack with $14,547 in freebies. In the House, Speaker-for-a-Day Mark Burkhalter was king of the hill with $13,780.
In contrast, newly appointed Senate Ethics chairman Dan Moody accepted a single $11 lunch in 2009.
Rogers, a four-term Republican from Woodstock, took 178 gifts from lobbyists last year — roughly one every other day — spending reports show. The freebies ranged from a $7 lunch at Tringali’s to air travel on the corporate jet of Koch Companies, the owner of Georgia-Pacific, that was valued at $958.
His biggest benefactors were the University System of Georgia, $1,860; the Georgia Dental Association, $1,594; the Georgia Retail Association, $1,553; the World Congress Center’s governing board, $1,380; the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, $876; and Georgia Public Strategies, a lobbying firm led by former Sonny Perdue campaign aide Raymon White, $700.
The other top recipients of lobbyist lagniappe last year were, in the state Senate:
- Don Balfour, Rules chairman, $11,389
- Ross Tolleson, Natural Resources chairman, $6,589
- Jeff Mullis, Transportation chairman, $5,704
- David Shafer, Regulated Industries chairman, $5,457
- Tommie Williams, president pro tem, $5,285
and in the House:
- Burkhalter, $13,780
- Jerry Keen, majority leader, $12,616
- Mickey Channell, Appropriations vice chairman, $11,263
- Ben Harbin, Appropriations chairman, $10,016
- Glenn Richardson, speaker (resigned Jan. 1), $9,722
- Vance Smith, Transportation chairman (resigned to become DOT commissioner), $9,055
- Larry O’Neal, Ways and Means chairman, $8,887
- Jay Shaw, the lone Democrat on this list, $6,643
- Butch Parrish, Appropriations vice chairman, $6,268
- Jay Roberts, Majority Caucus chairman and new Transportation chairman, $5,882
- Sean Jerguson, Regulated Industries vice chairman, $5,804
- Jan Jones, speaker pro tem, $5,292
- Jim Cole, Gov. Perdue’s senior floor leader, $5,120
- Donna Sheldon, Majority Caucus vice chair and Transportation vice chair, $5,076
- Mark Williams, $5,049
You can look all this up for yourself at the lobbyist disclosure page of the State Ethics Commission’s Web site.