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Loophole lets legislators pocket $343K despite session ban


Georgia legislators cannot accept campaign contributions while they are in session. Except when they can.

Four lawmakers running for Congress collected more than $343,000 in campaign funds between them while the General Assembly was in session this year, federal campaign filings show.

State Rep. Clay Cox, seeking the seat being vacated by Congressman John Linder, led the pack with $114,712.

Cox was followed by:

  • Rep. Mike Keown, hoping to unseat Congressman Sanford Bishop, $110,035
  • ex-Rep. Tom Graves, seeking ex-Rep. Nathan Deal’s seat, $75,136
  • ex-Sen. Lee Hawkins, also seeking Deal’s seat, $43,739

Graves and Hawkins resigned from the Legislature March 23 so they could legally file qualification papers to run for Congress. Atlanta Unfiltered calculated their contributions from Jan. 11, the first day of the legislative session, through March 22.

Georgia’s Ethics in Government Act says:

§ 21-5-35. Acceptance of contributions or pledges during legislative sessions
(a) No member of the General Assembly or that member’s campaign committee or public officer elected state wide or campaign committee of such public officer shall seek or accept a contribution or a pledge of a contribution to the member, the member’s campaign committee, or public officer elected state wide, or campaign committee of such public officer during a legislative session.

A federal judge in 1996 struck down that application of that provision to federal candidates. U.S. District Judge Willis B. Hunt Jr. found that Georgia cannot regulate campaigns for federal office.

Hunt’s ruling was upheld on a 2-1 vote by a federal appellate panel later that year. You can read both sides of the decision here.

While the ruling allows a legislator to accept donations from lobbyists, it  certainly does not require it. A lawmaker could just say no because it might look bad.

Cox, in particular, did not do that. From March 28-31, he took $12,700 in campaign cash from 18 lobbyists in Georgia, and about $10,000 more from executives of AT&T, the United Health Services hospital chain and prominent Gwinnett County businessmen Virgil Williams, John Stephens and Wayne Mason.





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5 Responses to “Loophole lets legislators pocket $343K despite session ban”

  1. Deborah Owens says:

    In my untutored opinion, the problem is that what they did is legal, since they are all running for federal office and none of them were holding state office when they accepted the money.

    In the wake of the Glenn Richardson [lobbyist sexing], the Casey Cagle [alleged campaign worker Clintonesque scandal], the Oxendine money movement through Alabama [ insurance companies paying their regulator], the Republicans talked a good reform. The public consciousness was attuned to the dawn of a new Republican era of accountability and representative government in this capitalistic democratic republic. A come to Jesus moment!

    We briefly thought they shared our values, when in actuality they share our values about as much as the advocates of social justice and socialism.

    The issue is still the phony ethics bills put up by Republicans to make the public sit up and pay attention. The public looked at the reportage on all of the initial good ethics bills limiting campaign to campaign contributions, and later when the intended pretense of an ethics bill was passed the public thought: we all met at the altar and all is well. It was all smoke and mirrors. The illusion of ethics reform. The double whammy the Republicans pulled was to table the good ethics bills while touting ethics reform, and with a wave of a wand, bim, bam, boom, we have a new scam ethics bill that is about as good for the state as cap and trade.

    They may as well be printing their own money as they get whatever they want from lobbyists now, without limits and without reporting! The new Godfather has assured it with his new ethics reform- the Ralston Ruse.

    As the public becomes increasingly aware of rights, advocacy, and the need for representative government, as opposed to having to live under the tyranny of legislation purchased and influenced by outside special interest groups, the politicians will have to work harder and harder to scam and profit from their positions of authority. The public’s opinion of politician’s integrity is rapidly declining. Massive transfusions of trust could not stop the collapse of public opinion on politicians’ integrity.

  2. Jim Walls says:

    Actually, ALL OF THEM were holding state office when they accepted the money. Graves and Hawkins resigned during the session, and the totals reported in this article represent their donations up until the day BEFORE they resigned.

  3. Deborah Owens says:

    You are right. Thank you for the correction. [I see you do read comments:)]! They can accept federal campaign money while holding state office, because the state cannot regulate federal money. The state hardly regulates state money. If it was up to Speaker Ralston the campaigns would have those drive through bank teller tubes running right up to the front door of their campaign offices.

  4. George Wilson says:

    Cox has always been ethically challedged:

    1.Trying to introduce a bill to benefit his business
    2.Not really living in the district
    There is more but you get the picture.Also count on him being in the pockets of big oil and coal.He doesn’t believe in global warming.

  5. Arizona Mildman says:

    This isn’t that surprising that it is happening on a local level when the U.S. congress is experiencing legislation designed to circumvent all ethics regulations on soft money contributions that aren’t required to be paid back to the campaign fund when the election is over. Johnny Isakson of Georgia voted to squash a recent anticorruption campaign finance reform bill (the DISCLOSE BILL) that would prevent special interests from funneling soft money contributions into his campaign funds. This is the second step of the special interest groups, trying to get us to rationalize what amounts to legal bribery, since soft money contributions don’t have to be returned to the campaign fund after the election. The first step was getting a supreme court justice to declare (legislating from the bench) that corporations and businesses are people, in order to circumvent the McCain / Feingold Act. This will lead to the buying of all of our legal policies by the special interests and Large Corporations.