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    Join the Georgia Transparency Project

     

    By JIM WALLS

    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, or 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. That’s where the Georgia Transparency Project comes in.

    A little background: Georgia requires everyone seeking elected office to disclose basic financial information when they qualify to run and, if they win, once a year after that. Some appointed officials file similar disclosures. The purpose is to let citizens know where public and private interests might conflict.

    You can look up those reports online at the Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission’s website. Reports are there for city and county officials starting in 2011 and for state officials back to 2005.

    Transparency is an illusion, though, without compliance, and that requires enforcement. Extreme budget cuts have eliminated all but one of the six investigators and auditors who once scrutinized those disclosures. The remaining auditor will handle about 70,000 filings, with a goal of auditing 3,500 or so, in 2011. At that rate, she’d get through this year’s batch by the year 2031.

    So, candidates and public officials can reveal as much or as little as they want with minimal chance that regulators will catch on.

    The Georgia Transparency Project, working with student journalists and volunteers, will fill that gap. We will audit disclosures of every state legislator, comparing each against other public records — property ownership, business filings, court cases — to determine what those lawmakers have disclosed and what they have not.

    But wait — there’s more!

    We’ll analyze campaign records to tell you how much money they’ve raised, and from whom. We’ll examine how they’ve spent campaign money and how much they’ve shared with other candidates. We’ll tally up whose lobbyists have spent the most on each legislator. We’ll check tax and court records and oversight agencies’ investigative files.

    The Transparency Project will always be a work in progress, continually adding information and insight. New disclosures will be uploaded and analyzed, new court cases reviewed. Whenever possible, hyperlinks will take readers to our source documents. This information will remain available perpetually. Once we’ve covered the Legislature, we can drill into other areas of government — perhaps cities and counties, lobbyists or political action committees.

    By giving citizens a one-stop source for accountability information, we believe the project can alter Georgia’s political landscape. Even before publishing the first piece, we’ve had an impact. Lawmakers have filed delinquent disclosures or amended older ones. They’ve caught up on unpaid taxes. They’ve called us a few names.

    But there’s much more work ahead of us. That’s where we need your help.

    We need tips and information, documents and photos. We need people to spread the word about the Transparency Project. We need IT support. We need experts — lawyers, accountants, real estate and other professionals — who can lend their knowledge. We need more volunteers to research and compile records; let us know if you can spend a little time reviewing records in your local courthouse or city hall or compiling campaign contributions or lobbyist spending.

    Most critically, we need your financial support. We have expenses for travel and lodging, cellphones, computer support, record acquisition. Some government agencies have asked for hundreds of dollars just to provide routine information on payments to legislators’ businesses.

    In particular, we need to work on this full-time. If you bemoan the impact of shrinking newsrooms and their shrinking budgets for investigative journalism, this is your chance to do something about it. It’s up to you.

    What value do you place on true government transparency? What do you pay for other reliable news sources? Think about that, then please click on one of the Paypal buttons plastered all over this site to donate, or send us a check. If you planned to donate to a political candidate in the coming year, think about giving us a little to help keep the politicians honest.

    Donors at the bronze ($100), silver ($250) or gold ($500) levels can get their names in lights — or pixels, anyway — on our Roster of Great Americans. You may also keep your donation anonymous.

    Regardless of the method or the amount, please consider giving to the Transparency Project. Help make this research available to all Georgians in 2012.

     

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    14 Responses to “Join the Georgia Transparency Project”

    1. Mike King says:

      Jim, Thanks for keeping the light shining on this. Great idea to work with students. Best of luck for 2012.

      — mike

    2. Cerebration says:

      Way to go, Jim! We have been pushing for transparency in school budgets as well (they account for more than half the state’s budget). One really good way to start is to maintain a Check Register Online for taxpayers to see. Literally hundreds of school systems around the country participate. Sadly, in GA, the only system currently showing their books online is Pike County.

      Click here for more info:
      http://sunshinereview.org/index.php/Checkbook_register_online

      To see the schools currently using the Checkbook Register (originally designed and still monitored by Texas advocate, Peyton Wolcott) click here:
      http://www.peytonwolcott.com/CheckRegisters_Alaska_Louisiana.html

    3. sr says:

      Transparency in Georgia – HA!!! there is no such thing… I have worked feverishly for quite some time to find and attempt to uncover people places and things to gain deeper insight and to build an alliance for myself and family and there is no such thing…at least not until now… I have struggled recently to hurry up and wait on answers that I needed that were time sensitive related matters and contacted EVERYONE in a position of great authority and instead of any keeping their word (would their word really matter) I have shuffled around so much and never once given an answer. This is a tactic that the Georgia has because “they” want you to be blind, deaf, and ignorant and if you have some wit about you they do things to malign your character and make your life and family’s life a living hell… This tactic is so that a person becomes jaded and finally gives up or suffers tragically so that they are silenced. Those in authority or those that are the gatekeepers never know anything but say everything they know about issues that affect the citizens of this state, how can that be. All of this word play and evading the very polite yet firm questions that are clear and direct – with no response… This country is a mess – has there ever been an American way – Hmmm… There has been the scandoulous way, the greedy way, the evil way, the unhumanitarian way – the selfish way – the blatant lying way… the list goes on and on…Due process is best defined in one word–fairness – something that this nation is crippled in delivering and Georgia ain’t no where near fair… Georgia has a spirit of deception – a split tongue of speech – “here take this fruit and eat” – a spirit of poison… I am just wondering if any one out there cares to shed some light and advice on how to get a movement that is alive and active to combat this 7-headed dragon that is devouring the very people that have the true power to force heads to roll… The lack of transparency in the area of ethics a recurring theme in the state of Georgia and they most certainly do not want you (as some other states) to have any knowledge about the details of what truly goes on behind close doors and they make all of these policies so complicated and wordy purposely – CSPAN was taking a poll on whether or not it should be televised that state’s should or should not allow televised communications to be in place when each state and it’s elected officials make decisions and every caller said YES we need to know and see for ourselves what the truth of every matter is and how it is handled on every level for every occasion… OPEN GOVERNMENT – HA!!! NEVERRRRRRRRRRRRRRR….

    4. sr says:

      Where do I start? I am shocked that I haven’t seen any recent comments by anyone regarding these haenous activities and that people actually are talking about the wrong but not doing anything about it.

      What is it going to take to get some help here in the state of Georgia?
      Why isn’t anyone doing anything about it? These reports sent waves of shock so much so that the policiticians and their supporters had to make a rush to the media to save themselves from the scrutiny that this report made.

      Mr. Walls… where are you? Grassroots movements where are you?

    5. monkey man says:

      Mr. Walls – what will it take to get your attention on what is happening to citizens within the corruption that is eating away at the people in Georgia.
      Why do you do these stories and never respond to people that need your help based on what you have already revealed.

    6. Dan Scarborough says:

      Jim,

      After reading a number of your “reports,” I believe I have spotted a way to bring accountability to politics:

      Pass laws at the Federal, State, and local levels that prohibit any corporation (“for profit” or “non-profit) or any “committee” (governmental or otherwise) from “contributing” to the election campaigns of any and every elected or appointed “public servant.”

      No “campaign commitee” should be permitted to “make contributions” to other “campaign committes,” — only the individual “public servant” for whose benefit the campaign organization established a “campaign account” should be permitted to make “donations or contributions” to the “campaign account” of another individual “campaigning” for elected or appointed office.

      (It may not be necessary to “cap” such contributions if laws and regulations are tightly enforced and “transparency in giving” is widely and prominently published. The voters are not dummies…. they just need to know whose palms are being greased and by whom.)

      Do away with the farcical “legal concept” that “corporations are persons.”

      Any “lobbyist” should report all “lobbying expenses” as an individual and not as an “entity” other than themself.

      Every individual that wishes to contribute to a campaign to elect another individual should be required to register all “contributions” of cash and/or “in kind contributions.”

      Well-drafted legislation of this type should dry up most “influence-peddling” and quickly expose myriad “conflicts of interest” and ethics violations.

      Getting the votes to pass the legislation could be a barrier…. but good reporting by investigative media organizations should “carry the day.”

      Keep up the good work!

    7. robbed and destroyed by GA says:

      ok so mr keith horton and “who ever” else decides to yet again collaborate with the national child support enforcement association to COVER UP the misdeeds under this entity – so then where is my money – why was my licsensed suspended without my knowledge – how are they trying to make me pay money that i do not have, that i do not earn all the while keeping what belongs to me away from me – oh, that’s right BECUZ GEORGIA IZ CORRUPT!!! The legal system can’t enforce this mess with out the approval of the chronies…where is my money that I am entitled to and yet they have been keeping it for themselves and unable to justify where it is or why I haven’t received it, the GA State Accounting Office refuses to assist and sends us back to DHS – o – forget about the abuse that my family has suffered and that the mainstream media cares more about the weather, lemonade stands, and animals…our lives have been destroyed – destroyed – and how is it that immigrants have jobs, houses, and benefits then that of those who are truly born Americans!!! I would ask as best as I can MR WALLS WHAT ARE WE TO DO WHAT ARE YOUR SUGGESTIONS ABOUT THIS LACK OF TRANSPARENCY THAT KEEPS GETTING HIDDEN BY THESE FALSE ACCOLADES TO MAKE GEORGIA LOOK GOOD when it is a state – wide PONZI SCHEME and if a person speaks out – u – know the WHISTLEBLOWERS – they may lose their life – but they will DEFINATELY BE RETALIATED AGAINST – LIKE ME AND MY FAMILY – MR WALLS – WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO HELP US DO OUT HERE??? WE DO NOT HAVE THE CONNECTIONS THAT YOU DO – PLEASE HELP ME – PLEASE HELP US THAT HAVE MURDERED BY THIS SICKENING WAY OF GEORGIA

    8. sr says:

      Mr. Walls: ima keep asking for your help – i hope you do not mind – but what you have for us out here who have been abused by state government corruption is really phenomenol – thanks alot – hopefully you will want to collaborate with all of us out here in the war of corruption – it’s wicked out here and we need all the help we can get – so many people do not even know what to do because the living and breathing organizm of corruption is larger than life – only through the voices and gathering of people will this be overturned. We cannot do it alone…

    9. Kenneth Stepp says:

      Good luck Jim. I’m new to the watchdog community but learning fast. Your mission is a noble one. I hope the citizens that benefit from your hard work support you.

    10. big dog says:

      mr walls – will you do some things referencing the OIG and the investigation of the entire state of georgia and the DHS/CPS SCANDALS… EVERY PERSON IN “HIGH PLACES” IS INVOLVED – IF IT WASN’T FOR YOU REPORTING ABOUT ALL OF THIS AND MORE – WHO KNOWS WHERE THE PUBLIC WILL BE – IT’S A SHAME THAT THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY HAS RUN OUT OF MONEY TO DO THIS INVESTIGATION ON THE CORRUPTION WITHIN THE STATE OF GEORGIA – THE FEDS ARE INVOLVED IN SEVERAL STATES AND GEORGIA IS STILL ONE OF THEM FOR THE CORUPPTIVE PRACTICES – HELP US OUT HERE MR WALLS – WE REALLY NEED IT

    11. whoa her she comes! says:

      mr walls: how are you sir – happy holidayz to you – and again thank you for all that you do!!! well – my request is to ask you to please keep us abreast of the investigation that is going on from the Sept. 5 – 2012 DHS/DFCS it’s huge – you are aware that Georgia is 1 of several states within the nation that is apart of an larger scale investigation – PLEASE HELP US OUT HERE MR WALLS – GEORGIA AND ITS STATE AND FEDERAL GOVERNMENT IS COVERING UP ALOT!!!

    12. N.MARIE404-290-5911 says:

      PLEASE CALL ME MR. WALLS….
      THIS IS REGUARDING AN EXTREME COVER UP AND A RETIRED JUDGE…..

    13. Alan Gravitt says:

      And of course it has become worse. In a conversation with Holly Leberge, head of the new transparency agency, I learned the following.

      1. She does not know how much money is owed in fines for late or non filers, and has no plans to generate a report so she will know.

      2. She has no plans on how to escalate fines by sending a registered letter as required to stimulate delinquents to pay.

      3. She does not like to answer questions about the total abdication of responsibility.

      4. She will take no action against any delinquent filer unless a complaint comes in from a citizen.

      A modest proposal. Suppose citizens took the following actions.

      Made a phone call to the phone number of the official with delinquent amounts owed informing the person that the records show they owe amounts due, that if they don’t they need to correct the records, if they do the amounts should be paid and the reports filed, and if they are not paid and the reports filed in 30 days then a complaint would be filed. This would do two things, painlessly encourage resolutions of outstanding fines, get the reports on file and force Ms Leberge to act on complaints if the officials are resistant.

    14. sunnysideup says:

      I’m not an expert but I’m willing to put in some time for you doing research possibly, getting court records, etc… You can contact me via email if you wish.

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