What may be Georgia’s busiest ethics agency is also its smallest. In July, it may get even smaller. With the tiniest of budgets, the Judicial Qualifications Commission makes ends meet by not paying its investigator and lawyers. Now, the Georgia House proposes whacking the JQC’s budget by more than one-third to just $176,000. Legislative leaders say it’s about getting their money’s worth from the commission’s part-time director. And, they say, it’s definitely not about the agency’s charges against a judge from House Speaker David Ralston’s hometown.
Lobbyists have reported shelling out $175,000 for lodging and other travel-related expenses for Georgia lawmakers since 2005: Sporting events, hunting excursions, and countless jaunts to beach resorts to attend meetings and conventions. Lobbyists may no longer have to disclose much of this spending under a proposed ethics bill. The question is: Who will? Read on […]
If House Speaker David Ralston’s ethics bill passes as written, Sen. Don Balfour and friends will have 562,000 reasons to thank him. Balfour, who’s said he won’t seek re-election, started 2010 with that many greenbacks in his campaign account. Georgia politicians such as Balfour would have been severely restricted in spending leftover campaign cash under a bill with broad bipartisan support. Now that proposal is all but dead, swept aside by Ralston’s substitute ethics bill.
Atlanta’s ethics board can fine employees who accept improper gratuities. But a staff attorney contends the panel can’t touch him for enjoying expensive meals bought by opposing lawyers. Why? Because, senior assistant city attorney Robert N. Godfrey says, he answers to a higher power — the State Bar of Georgia. Read on…
The fallout from Clayton County schools’ recent meltdown, in all likelihood, will drift down on Georgia’s 179 other boards of education this summer. Lawmakers are nearing final approval of a bill, to take effect July 1, that would set minimum ethics standards for local school boards and empower the governor, in some cases, to remove members who can’t adhere to them. Read on …
On New Year’s Eve, Mayor-elect Kasim Reed could celebrate knowing his campaign fund, even after spending $2.5 million to win the job, had a six-figure bank balance. Much of it came from lawyers, contractors and consultants with money on their minds. Their support underscores the inherent tension in soliciting political donations from people looking to do a little business once their candidates take office. “You’re asking people to be awfully gullible to believe all those contributions are being made out of civic interest and public pride,” said Atlanta attorney Emmet Bondurant.
Since 2001, Georgia has asked local political candidates who raise $10,000 or more to disclose the details — who gave it to you, how much, how you spent it — by “electronic means.” So what exactly does that mean? It definitely does not mean making it easy for the public to find them. Check out my Ethics Watch column for this week in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Hundreds of state officials — legislators, department heads, members of boards and commissions — haven’t submitted financial disclosures that were due last July. Countless politicians also failed to report campaign finances on time — or at all. But the State Ethics Commission, crippled by budget cuts, usually does nothing more than e-mail them a reminder. Says Tom Plank, interim executive secretary of the commission: “We can’t even mail them a letter.” Read my Ethics Watch column online here in today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Georgia’s ethics enforcers ask lobbyists to reveal who’s really paying whenever they wine and dine legislators. But the State Ethics Commission, acknowledging that the law does not require that information, has dropped charges against lobbyist Raymon White for failing to disclose it. The upshot? Unless the Legislature fixes the loophole, Georgia’s 1,600 lobbyists won’t have to reveal who’s really paying for a lawmaker’s fancy meal or skybox seats.
Political action committees in Georgia operate with little oversight. They don’t have to report spending that’s not campaign-related. Nothing in campaign law addresses how PACs spend their money, the State Ethics Commission observed in 2008. “We did some advisory opinions because we were hoping people would get outraged enough and push for legislation,” said Rick Thompson, the agency’s former executive secretary. It hasn’t worked so far. Georgia lawmakers are sifting through a slew of ethics bills, but none address PAC spending.
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This page covers financial disclosures by public officials -- including personal finances, campaign accounts and business transactions with public agencies.