March 26, 2013 — To Georgia legislators: As you struggle toward a compromise on ethics “reform,” here are five suggestions that would REALLY help to restore Georgians’ faith in government.
1) Limit lobbyist gifts to $25 per day, with a limit of four per year. That allows them to buy you a meal and a beer, but not the bottles of wine that really drive up the cost up of these $100 meals. And no gifts for spouses. Pay for those yourselves. Suck it up.
When Senate candidate Brandon Beach ran for the Legislature in 2010, he raised $13,600 to be spent on the general election once he’d secured the Republican nomination. He didn’t make it that far, though, losing a close primary runoff. State law requires candidates to refund contributions raised for an election in which they’re not on the ballot. Beach’s campaign kept those donations, spending some and rolling the rest over to a 2012 race. State law may have allowed some of that money to be reallocated after the fact to cover 2010 primary or runoff expenses, but at least $8,400 could not be redesignated since it came from donors who had reached contribution limits for those races.
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.)
More than 90 state lawmakers — and one newcomer — collected $530,000 in campaign contributions this spring even though they will coast to election in November without a fight,an analysis of campaign records shows. More than half of that cash flowed to just 10 of them.
Robert Proctor, who resigned a week ago from the State Ethics Commission, is being sued for allegedly defaulting on his law firm’s office lease and fraudulently transferring its assets to a new firm. The complaint seeks damages under the Georgia Fraudulent Transfer Act.
Robert Proctor was a state ethics commissioner so briefly that he never got to attend a meeting. Even though he’s gone, commissioners were told today, he should not be forgotten. Proctor resigned for “health reasons” last week after insisting he had never been properly notified of an old ethics fine and therefore did not intend to pay it. In doing so, Proctor is “essentially giving this commission and the citizens of this state the rigid digit,” said Frank Moore, an attorney who has sparred with him in court.
Twenty-one Georgia legislators accepted gifts valued at $5,000 or more from lobbyists last year. Led by Senate majority leader Chip Rogers, the 21 legislators accounted for 10 percent of the $1.5 million in lobbyist handouts last year. We’re talking gift baskets, food and drink, golf, sports and concert tickets, lodging and airfare. These are the lawmakers who can’t say no.
A four-day jaunt to sunny Southern California. Braves games, concerts, golf and charter boat excursions. Weekends at Amelia Island, Sandestin and Biloxi. You and I have to pay for summer diversions like these. But public disclosures show lobbyists treated your Georgia legislators to all this and more, just since May 1. Lobbyists dropped more than $193,000 cozying up to lawmakers in May, June and July, even though legislators went home for the year on April 3.
There was no fun in the sun for the four legislators who flew last month to Pasadena, Cal., said Tom Lewis, lobbyist for Georgia State University. “No golf, no beaches, no nothing else,” he said. “This was pretty much a cut-and-dried educational trip.”
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).