Feb. 19, 2013 — A previously unnoticed loophole could allow Georgia politicians to reimburse themselves thousands of dollars from campaign funds without explaining how they spent the money. A key legislator shepherding House Speaker David Ralston’s ethics bills says the problem will be fixed. Details of the proposed solution, however, were not immediately clear. Without a fix, candidates could use political contributions any way they wanted by simply buying something with personal funds and getting their campaign accounts to pay them back.
Gov. Nathan Deal misinterpreted a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision this week when he vetoed a bill that would have banned anonymous campaign ads. So says Common Cause, the good-government advocacy group. Deal’s office said he wanted to err on the side of free speech, particularly in light of the bill’s criminal penalty.
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.
Thanks to House Speaker David Ralston, departing Georgia lawmakers have $1.3 million in campaign cash to distribute as they see fit this year — to political parties, PACs and other candidates. House Bill 920, if it had passed, would have required that those lawmakers pass the money on to charity, or return it to the original donors. Lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill last week to allow citizens to donate money to the state treasury. Wonder how many of them will follow through on that?