Washington avoided a government shutdown last month, but ethics enforcers in Georgia soon will face the prospect of shutting down their key function — enforcing ethics laws. In fact, members of the State Campaign Finance Commission are already planning their legal defense in case someone sues them for failing to do their job.
Legislative leaders are in discussions to hire a prominent lobbying firm to help redraw district lines for the Georgia House and Senate this year. Under the proposal, Troutman Sanders Strategies would work on reapportionment maps for the Legislature and the state’s delegation to Congress. The firm recently hired former House Majority Leader Jerry Keen, and chairman Pete Robinson serves on Gov.-elect Nathan Deal’s transition team.
Former House Speaker Glenn Richardson must pay a $500 fine, but his political fund may keep $219,915 that was transferred improperly from his campaign account last year, the State Ethics Commission ruled today. The panel also dismissed a separate case, ruling that state law may place no limits on campaign contributions from one candidate to another.
Each year, lobbyists organize and pay for lunches at hot spots like The 191 Club, day trips and other events – some costing thousands of dollars — to entertain the spouses of Georgia legislators. No one knows the total price tag. Or, at least, the ones who know aren’t always saying.
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.
Call it the 2010 Georgia Junket Protection Act. Ethics legislation pushed by House Speaker David Ralston would exempt lobbyists from having to disclose what they spend to fly, feed and house lawmakers attending their annual conventions, which often seem to be held in warm, sunny climes near a large body of water. In this way and several others, Common Cause Georgia says, the state’s ethics laws are about to take several giant steps backward.
(UPDATE: Atlanta’s municipal clerk has posted PDF files of 2009 campaign disclosure reports for mayor and council candidates here.)
Four years ago, Atlanta city government did a nice job making campaign disclosure reports available online for candidates for mayor and City Council. In 2009, a tight budget apparently will keep the city from posting details on the millions of dollars raised by Atlanta candidates. So Common Cause of Georgia, the good-government advocacy group, is filling the gap with its Moneywatch site. You can search for yourself to see where the special interests, elected officials and aides to former Mayor Bill Campbell are lining up in 2009. (What? You thought I was going to do it for you? Maybe a little later.)