The Federal Election Commission, which regulates the flow of political cash, has been plagued by persistent gridlock on some key areas of campaign finance. Why’s that important? Because, as a new report shows, more money is coming in and much of it is flowing in through new and barely regulated groups.
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.
Gov. Sonny Perdue took office in 2003 vowing to push “comprehensive ethics reform” and reverse 140 years of entrenched, Democrat-controlled good-old-boy cronyism. Now, as the governor’s final year in office approaches, a legislative smackdown suggest tougher ethics enforcement is an idea whose time has yet to come: The State Ethics Commission was stripped of its rule-making authority, took a 30 percent budget cut and lost a bid for tougher penalties for candidates who file financial reports late, or not at all. Now, executive secretary Rick Thompson is stepping down. He says it’s time to go. “I just believe in my own life it’s time to move on,” he said.