Oct. 28, 2012 — Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson has raised more than $32,000 for his campaign for the state Senate. Disclosures filed this morning show his top donors include former Speaker Pro Tem Mark Burkhalter, former Mercer University president Kirby Godsey and the Hospital Corporation of America. Several former House colleagues also chipped in. (UPDATE: Ex-Rep. Bill Hembree, one of Richardson’s opponents, raised nearly four times as much — $126,875 — plus a $10,000 personal loan.)
Sept. 4, 2012 — Glenn Richardson walked away from the Georgia Legislature with $220,000 in campaign funds to spend with little oversight. More than 2 1/2 years later, as he plans a run for the state Senate, he still hasn’t officially disclosed what he’s done with it. The former speaker of the House assures me, though, that he hasn’t taken a penny for himself. “I have received no checks from that,” said Richardson.
March 14, 2011 — Georgia’s ethics reformers have a bill to push, but they’ll be pushing uphill if they want to restrict politicians giving large sums to each other, a practice sometimes described as “empire-building.” A case in point? Three top Senate Republicans, as they maneuvered to strip Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle last year of some of his power, donated $45,000 to 12 Senate freshmen. Caucus Chair Bill Cowsert said the contributions were part of his obligation as a party leader, not an effort to sway votes.
Among the consequences of Georgia’s new ethics law: It will require more reporting by lobbyists and will probably thin out their herd, at least at the state level. It will relieve hundreds of the new governor’s appointees of the need to disclose even a smidgen about their personal finances. And, combined with budget problems, it will require the state ethics commission for the next several months to set aside one of its core missions, says its chairman, Patrick Millsaps.
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.
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.
The State Ethics Commission in coming months will talk to the governor, the lieutenant governor and the speaker of the House about their alleged ethics violations. At roughly the same time, the agency’s leadership will ask these very same officials for more money to fulfill its mission and to restore powers that have been stripped away in recent years. This would make sense in only two places: the Georgia Capitol and Alice’s Wonderland. You can decide where the hatter is madder.
Enforcers of Georgia’s ethics laws are stuck in limbo, if not outright paralysis — a legacy of the Glenn Richardson years at the state Legislature. They’re wondering whether new leadership under the Gold Dome cares enough to set things right. In 2009, on Richardson’s watch, the Georgia House pushed through language stripping the State Ethics Commission of its rule-making power. Now the panel needs to adopt new rules to carry out subsequent legislative changes to ethics laws. But, says executive secretary Stacey Kalberman said, “It appears that we don’t have authority to do anything.”
Rep. Jill Chambers will be giving up her job as MARTA’s top watchdog after losing in Tuesday’s election by about 275 votes. As chair of the MARTA Oversight Committee, Chambers had questioned the transit agency’s spending on lobbyists, pay raises, consultants, fitness equipment for employees, intricate bond deals and much more. And that was all before lunchtime.
Jarrell “Jay” Walker Jr., a former aide to ex-House Speaker Glenn Richardson, was among 11 people charged today in an alleged scheme by gambling interests to buy Alabama lawmakers’ votes. Walker and others allegedly offered such inducements as illicit political contributions, campaign appearances by country music stars and payments to persuade prospective electoral opponents to withdraw — all in a failed effort to legalize electronic bingo machines in Alabama.
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson must pay a $500 fine, but his political fund may keep $219,915 that was transferred improperly from his campaign account last year, the State Ethics Commission ruled today. The panel also dismissed a separate case, ruling that state law may place no limits on campaign contributions from one candidate to another.
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson has signed a consent order over his apparently unauthorized transfer of nearly $220,000 in campaign funds to a political committee under his control. The State Ethics Commission will decide whether to sign off on the consent agreement Tuesday. It is unclear whether the order would require Richardson or the MMV Alliance Fund to pay a fine.