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.
MARTA’s general manager and its chief legislative overseer locked horns today over the transit agency’s plan to spend up to $400,000 on outside lobbyists. Then, state Rep. Jill Chambers butted heads with a member of her MARTA Oversight Committee. Chambers grilled MARTA officials this morning about several million dollars in spending that she regarded as unnecessary. When Sen. Doug Stoner objected to her tone, Chambers cut off his microphone. “I’m very disappointed in us as a committee,” Stoner said. “We’re playing games.”
Rep. Mark Burkhalter, not House Speaker Glenn Richardson, appears to be the Georgia Legislature’s top campaign fund-raiser for 2009. The Johns Creek Republican, who serves as speaker pro tem, collected $94,250 in campaign funds for the first six months of 2009. Richardson reported raising $88,150 in the same period.
United Health Services, a Toccoa-based nursing-home chain, has shelled out $73,000 in political contributions to Georgia politicians so far this year. That was by far the largest total to surface on the first day of campaign finance reporting for 2009.
Who’s their fave? U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal (right).