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Lawmakers down to wire on ‘Incumbent Protection Act’

Lawmakers down to wire on 'Incumbent Protection Act'
March 31, 2015 --

UPDATE: Early this afternoon, the House Rules Committee amended the Senate bill (SB127) to delete any changes in early-voting procedures. The House then passed the amended bill on a 167-7 vote. The Senate stripped this language from a similar last week and now must decide whether to stand firm or let the House have its way. After dinner tonight, senators voted to stand firm. 

March 31, 2015 — Once again, Georgia enters the final week of a legislative session with the prospects for an ethics bill up in the air.

The Georgia House and Senate have two business days left – today and Thursday – to act on a bill that would allow waivers of late campaign disclosure filing fees for thousands of local candidates.

Both chambers have passed similar versions of the bill. Twice, though, the House has tacked on a controversial amendment that could help re-elect legislators facing primary challenges from within their own party — earning it the nickname “the Legislative Incumbent Protection Act.”

Former ethics top cop admits to corruption

March 23, 2015 --

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 […]

Harvard survey: Georgia among most corrupt

December 11, 2014 --

Dec. 11, 2014 — Georgia is regarded as one of the most corrupt states across all branches of government, according to a new survey by Harvard University.

We didn’t rank number one, though. (Thank God for Arizona and Kentucky.)

Respondents said illegal corruption is moderately to very common in Georgia’s executive branch and moderately common in its Legislature, a report from Harvard’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics found.

3 reasons why Real PAC deserves a closer look

December 9, 2014 --

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.

Surprise veto sidetracks charity tax break

Surprise veto sidetracks charity tax break
May 14, 2013 --

May 14, 2013 — Gov. Nathan Deal last week unexpectedly vetoed a bill that would have given $9 million in sales tax breaks to charitable medical clinics, federally qualified health centers, food banks and other charities. The measure, which breezed through the House and Senate, would have benefited many safety-net providers that expect to carry an extra patient load once the federal Affordable Care Act begins phasing out hospital subsidies for indigent care next year.

Deal’s veto message noted that a 2010 tax reform panel recommended that all non-government and non-business exemptions be allowed to expire so the Legislature could decide whether they should be renewed. He did not apply that principle, however, when he signed a bill last month extending an estimated $18 million tax break to Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., a Savannah-based manufacturer of luxury jets.

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.

Secret ethics report: Ga. #3, not #50

Secret ethics report: Ga. #3, not #50
January 26, 2013 --

I am not making this up. The House Ethics Committee’s chairman says a privately commissioned study shows Georgia’s ethics laws are the third-best in the country, not the worst. This study will form the basis of an ethics bill that Joe Wilkinson says he’ll introduce soon. But he will not make the study public, won’t say who conducted it or how much it cost. “It’s mine,” he said in a telephone interview. “It’s a working document.”

Bill Hembree has a Wayback Money Machine

Bill Hembree has a Wayback Money Machine
November 26, 2012 --

Nov. 26, 2012 — Legally, Georgians can’t spend campaign money raised for one political office to run for a different one. There’s a wide-open loophole, though, and veteran legislator Bill Hembree of Douglas County is only the latest to use it.
When Hembree left the Georgia House recently, he refunded $60,400 from his House campaign account to donors. Within a week, those same supporters gave all but $1,000 of the money back to Hembree to run for a just-opened Senate seat. Here’s the clever part: Rather than simply returning the most recent contributions, Hembree reached back as far as 11 years to choose the donors who got refunds.

Nov. 12-18

November 19, 2012 --

Atlanta Unfiltered’s Watchdog News report, after a hiatus of several months, is back today in a somewhat different format. Rather than a daily update, we will present a weekly Monday package of watchdog news from news outlets across Georgia. Please let us know if there’s something you think we missed. Georgia schools lay unequal foundation […]

George Anderson’s last hurrah: No charge for Deal’s legal fees

George Anderson's last hurrah: No charge for Deal's legal fees
November 17, 2012 --

Nov. 16, 2012 — George Anderson won his fight today over liability for Gov. Nathan Deal’s legal fees. But he says he’s finished nonetheless after a quarter-century of haranguing politicians across Georgia for perceived ethical lapses. “I can’t handle the stress anymore,” he said. “It affects my body too much.”

Carpetbaggers dump $1M more into charter-school campaign

Carpetbaggers dump $1M more into charter-school campaign
October 26, 2012 --

Oct. 26, 2012 — Just this month, Walmart heiress Alice Walton and other out-of-state interests dumped more than $1.1 million into the campaign to allow more state-chartered public schools in Georgia, new campaign finance filings show. Atlanta’s Bernie Marcus also showed his support with a quarter-million-dollar contribution.

GBI raids Columbus DFCS over allegedly falsified documents

September 5, 2012 --

Sept. 5, 2012 — State and federal agents seized documents and planned two arrests today in an investigation of alleged falsification and alteration of child-abuse intake reports in Muscogee County. Investigators are trying to determine whether reports were falsified to make it appear Georgia was opening abuse cases more quickly so DFCS could qualify for millions of federal dollars that had been withheld.