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    New transparency rules: A little more, a little less

    -+*Georgia lawmakers made history, of a sort, two years ago when they imposed a $75 limit on the value of gifts that lobbyists may offer public officials.

    But the devil’s in the details, and it’s never been clear exactly how the limit would be enforced. Now, the state ethics commission is considering an interpretation so broad that it would allow gifts of $1,000 or more in some circumstances.

    Former ethics top cop admits to corruption

    -+*By JIM WALLS March 23, 2015 – The state ethics commission’s former top investigator pleaded guilty today to federal corruption charges. Robert Bentivegna, as a Dunwoody police detective in 2011, misused his access to the Georgia Crime Investigation Center’s database in exchange for valuable gifts for himself and his family, federal prosecutors said. He pleaded […]

    House bill could open floodgates for caucus PACs

    House bill could open floodgates for caucus PACs

    -+*March 9, 2015 — A bill making it easier for political caucuses to help incumbent Georgia legislators get re-elected may be headed for a House vote this week.

    The change would come just in time to protect the 70-some incumbent Republicans who could be targeted for Tea Party primary challenges for their votes last week for Rep. Jay Roberts’ $1 billion transportation funding bill.

    Senate GOP PAC raised $276K over 20 months without disclosure

    Senate GOP PAC raised $276K over 20 months without disclosure

    -+*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.”

    ATL fire chief, 2012: ‘Cannot tolerate’ anti-gay slur

    ATL fire chief, 2012: 'Cannot tolerate' anti-gay slur

    -+*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.

    3 reasons why Real PAC deserves a closer look

    -+*Dec. 9, 2014 — A complaint against a political committee supporting Gov. Nathan Deal may be dismissed without investigation tomorrow by the state ethics commission. An attorney for Real PAC, founded by two longtime friends of Deal’s, contends it didn’t have to file financial disclosures for the $970,000 it raised and spent in Georgia, nor did it have to operate independently of the governor’s re-election committee.

    A review of campaign filings and other public documents, however, suggests the issue is not so clear-cut.

    5 questions the Nathan Deal ethics investigation never answered

    -+*Oct. 22, 2014 — Ethics complaints against Gov. Nathan Deal were officially resolved in 2012, when he paid $3,350 in administrative fees for filing defective campaign and personal finance disclosures. But a review of the state ethics commission’s files shows the investigation leading to that settlement was never really completed. Staffers abandoned inquiries into tens of thousands of dollars spent on air travel and credit card charges, and questioned no one but lawyers for the campaign accused of wrongdoing. Rather than ensuring transparency in a state with a legacy of graft and corruption, the ethics commission settled for the easy answers, and sometimes none at all. Read the full story.

    Braves stadium critic: “Constitution … like a speed bump”

    -+*

    July 8, 2014 – A Cobb County judge will decide by the end of the month whether Cobb County can sell revenue bonds to finance a new stadium for the Atlanta Braves. Cobb’s lawyers say it’s all perfectly legal, while critics accuse the county of making an end-run around the Georgia Constitution. “We’ve treated the Constitution as an obstacle,” said one, software developer Chris Peters, “just like a speed bump that we can just climb over.”
    Here are links to my latest story and my other recent posts on the topic for Atlanta Magazine’s Daily Agenda:

    Money, transparency questions linger over Braves’ move

    -+*Feb. 26, 2014 – As Cobb County proceeds with plans to subsidize a $672 million stadium for the Atlanta Braves, questions continue to surface about the transparency of county leaders’ deliberations and the accuracy of the projected public benefit and cost to taxpayers. Here’s what I’ve written on the subject recently for Atlanta Magazine’s Daily Agenda:

    Money, transparency questions linger over Braves’ move

    -+*As Cobb County proceeds with plans to subsidize a $672 million stadium for the Atlanta Braves, questions continue to surface about the transparency of county leaders’ deliberations and the accuracy of the projected public benefit and cost to taxpayers. Here’s what I’ve written on the subject recently in  for Atlanta Magazine’s Daily Agenda:

    Proposed law could cloud spending details on Braves, Falcons stadiums
    What Cobb businesses might be taxed to help cover Braves stadium costs?

    Did Cobb commissioners’ briefings on Braves violate Open Meetings Act?

    Braves may seek even more millions in public assistance

    Who knew about Tim Lee’s ties to turf company before Braves deal?

    Rookie rep eats crow for sex offender bill

    Rookie rep eats crow for sex offender bill

    -+*Feb. 24, 2014 — All eyes at the Capitol fell on Rep. Sam Moore today as he tried to explain his bill to allow sex offenders to hang out next to elementary schools and day-care centers.

    Performance audit OK’d for ethics commission

    -+*Nov. 14, 2013 – State ethics officials Wednesday embraced a plan for an independent performance audit to help solve their structural and public-image troubles. Voting 5-0 to seek the outside scrutiny, members of Georgia’s ethics commission expressed confidence that the state auditor would thoroughly investigate charges that the agency’s top staffer interfered in a 2012 investigation of Gov. Nathan Deal. If the audit finds “even a hint or a whiff of criminal misconduct,” chairman Kevin Abernethy said, “this board and I will ensure that appropriate prosecutorial action is taken.”