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Ralston’s legal stance could gut ethics panel’s powers

Ralston's legal stance could gut ethics panel's powers
October 8, 2013 --

Oct. 8, 2013 — Georgia lawmakers touted their 2013 ethics bill as historic, noting that they’d restored rule-making authority to the Campaign Finance Commission. Now, though, House Speaker David Ralston’s lawyer, Doug Chalmers, contends the commission can’t enforce a key disclosure rule on campaign spending. That interpretation, if it prevails, could muzzle the watchdog charged with policing campaign finance and disclosure in Georgia. Politicians could obscure details of countless dollars in campaign spending simply by using a personal credit card and getting reimbursed with campaign funds.

Ethics reform for dummies, Part 2: Campaign finance

March 28, 2013 --

March 28, 2013 — Sen. Jeff Mullis wants to level the playing field regarding campaign fund-raising for legislative races (because incumbents are at such a disadvantage). A worthy goal, but I’d do it a little differently. Five ideas to improve Georgia’s campaign finance laws:

1) Bar incumbent legislators from accepting political contributions if they don’t draw opposition at qualifying time.

A thousand foxes, a thousand henhouses …

A thousand foxes, a thousand henhouses ...
February 8, 2013 --

Feb. 8, 2013 — Another consequence, perhaps unintended, lurks in an ethics bill moving through the Legislature. Enforcement of some aspects of campaign finance law, under a bill sponsored by House Speaker David Ralston, would shift to city clerks and county election superintendents. They would be expected to collect late fees from local candidates, recall committees and the like — a task now assigned to the state ethics commission. The question is: How diligently will local election officials rat out incumbents who are, in many cases, their bosses?

Lawmakers to ethics panel: We don’t need no stinkin’ late fees

December 14, 2011 --

Dec. 14, 2011 — Remember the Georgia Legislature’s promise last year to impose tough new penalties for violators of campaign finance laws? Not gonna happen — at least not yet.

Starting this year, candidates could be fined $1,375 for filing a financial disclosure 45 days late. But legislators didn’t provide the money to pay for late notices, so the maximum fine for now is just $125.

Legislators, how about new ethics goals for 2011?

Legislators, how about new ethics goals for 2011?
January 4, 2011 --

Everyone should make resolutions for the New Year, if only to have new goals. In that spirit, we offer 10 suggestions for Georgia legislators to strengthen government ethics in 2011. Among them: Let’s make ex-Speaker Glenn Richardson the last legislator to transfer all his leftover campaign cash to a committee where he can spend it any way he wishes.

Jan. 21

January 21, 2010 --

Campaign finance laws overturned State ends adult mental health services at Milledgeville Sales tax discrepancies may have deepened state budget crisis UGA’s Adams tops in tenure, but not pay Finding the bottom line in state budget keeps getting harder Budget-challenged DeKalb spends $101K on paint, wallpaper School board members sue to overturn nepotism rule Irate […]

$220K transfer to ex-speaker’s political fund may be illegal

$220K transfer to ex-speaker's political fund may be illegal
January 8, 2010 --

Georgia law may prohibit ex-House Speaker Glenn Richardson‘s recent transfer of leftover campaign cash to a political fund under his control. On Dec. 31, a day before Richardson’s resignation took effect, he cleaned out his re-election campaign’s bank account with the transfer of $219,915 to the MMV Alliance Fund. One potential problem: MMV does not appear to be among the organizations that may legally accept unused campaign contributions.

11th-hour change may muzzle ethics agency

April 6, 2009 --

By JIM WALLS April 6, 2009 — Georgia legislators, in the final hours of their 2009 session on Friday, appear to have muzzled the agency that monitors their compliance with campaign finance laws. Last-minute changes to Senate Bill 168 redefined the powers of the State Ethics Commission, which enforces laws governing financial disclosure for political […]

Ethics budget takes 30% hit for 2009-10

Ethics budget takes 30% hit for 2009-10
April 3, 2009 --

The State Ethics Commission will lose about 30 percent of its current funding in the 2010 state budget passed Friday. The Georgia House and Senate compromised on a $1.2 million budget for the agency in negotiations on the last day of the 2009 legislative session. The House last week slashed spending on ethics enforcement to […]