If your local legislator looks like a winner from “The Biggest Loser,” there’s good reason: He has definitely been off his feed. Even though the 2010 session lasted nearly a month longer than last year, lobbyist reports show they plunked down 15 percent less than the $981,000 they spent on wining, dining and entertaining Georgia lawmakers in 2009.
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.”
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).