Rep. Earl Ehrhart knows how to take care of his own. Ehrhart — CEO of a non-profit group that helps donors get state tax credits for gifts to religious schools — sponsored a new law in 2011 that raises the limit on those credits and eases restrictions on how contributions may be spent. The Cobb County lawmaker has never disclosed his role with the non-profit on disclosure forms mandated by state law.
The Joint Legislative Ethics Committee has rejected a complaint about a possible conflict between a lawmaker’s public duties and private work. A spokesman said the panel will not consider complaints based solely on news articles, in this case my recent piece on a $40,000 contract between Rep. Earl Ehrhart’s consulting business and an advocacy group seeking public funding for the arts. That standard makes it next to impossible for citizens to get the committee to investigate a lawmaker’s conduct.
A powerful Cobb County legislator collected $40,000 last year to do research to help an advocacy group decide the best way to ask the Legislature for money. Rep. Earl Ehrhart and his client, Friends of Arts & Culture, say he did not help to write a bill that would have allowed local votes on arts funding, nor did he help move it through the Legislature. “I never consult on any type of legislation that’s going on here,” he said. Ehrhart did not disclose his client or his fee, which state law does not require. Nor did he disclose the name of his consulting business, which the law does require. This is what passes for transparency in the Georgia Legislature. UPDATE: An ethics complaint regarding this transaction was filed this week with the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee.
Tim Echols, a nonprofit leader and political consultant running for the Georgia Public Service Commission, says he earned more than $120,000 last year plus a housing allowance and family health benefits worth another $67,000.
Three lawyers — including one who used to prosecute other lawyers for ethics breaches — are finalists for the top job at the State Ethics Commission. They are Gene Chapman, 52, former discipline counsel for the State Bar of Georgia; Bryce Farbstein, 37, who manages the Judicial Election Reform Campaign for Common Cause of Georgia; and Stacey Kalberman, a specialist in insurance regulatory law.
Atlanta mayoral candidate Lisa Borders released tax records today that show she earned about $119,000 in 2008. A spokeswoman said the bulk of Borders’ income came from a consulting business that worked on bringing women’s pro basketball to Atlanta. Borders challenged her opponents to disclose their own tax returns, but no one’s coughed ’em up yet.