March 28, 2013 — Sen. Jeff Mullis wants to level the playing field regarding campaign fund-raising for legislative races (because incumbents are at such a disadvantage). A worthy goal, but I’d do it a little differently. Five ideas to improve Georgia’s campaign finance laws:
1) Bar incumbent legislators from accepting political contributions if they don’t draw opposition at qualifying time.
Sept. 4, 2012 — Glenn Richardson walked away from the Georgia Legislature with $220,000 in campaign funds to spend with little oversight. More than 2 1/2 years later, as he plans a run for the state Senate, he still hasn’t officially disclosed what he’s done with it. The former speaker of the House assures me, though, that he hasn’t taken a penny for himself. “I have received no checks from that,” said Richardson.
Among the consequences of Georgia’s new ethics law: It will require more reporting by lobbyists and will probably thin out their herd, at least at the state level. It will relieve hundreds of the new governor’s appointees of the need to disclose even a smidgen about their personal finances. And, combined with budget problems, it will require the state ethics commission for the next several months to set aside one of its core missions, says its chairman, Patrick Millsaps.
Everyone should make resolutions for the New Year, if only to have new goals. In that spirit, we offer 10 suggestions for Georgia legislators to strengthen government ethics in 2011. Among them: Let’s make ex-Speaker Glenn Richardson the last legislator to transfer all his leftover campaign cash to a committee where he can spend it any way he wishes.
Twice a year, members of the Cobb County ethics board meet to deal with housekeeping matters. Then they go home. For a time last year, DeKalb’s ethics board couldn’t even muster a quorum. And in Fulton, a state legislator contends the ethics board cannot impose fines or sanctions because its members were appointed improperly. Bottom line: Local ethics boards get no respect.
The Atlanta Press Club last night honored Jim Walls (that would be me) with an Award of Excellence in the online/multimedia category for my work on Atlanta Unfiltered. Yay for me. Other winners for investigative work were Dale Russell of WAGA-TV and Jaye Watson of WXIA.
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.
Rep. Mark Burkhalter, not House Speaker Glenn Richardson, appears to be the Georgia Legislature’s top campaign fund-raiser for 2009. The Johns Creek Republican, who serves as speaker pro tem, collected $94,250 in campaign funds for the first six months of 2009. Richardson reported raising $88,150 in the same period.
United Health Services, a Toccoa-based nursing-home chain, has shelled out $73,000 in political contributions to Georgia politicians so far this year. That was by far the largest total to surface on the first day of campaign finance reporting for 2009.
Who’s their fave? U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal (right).
By JIM WALLS May 9, 2009 — One of the state’s largest title pawn companies poured $192,000 into Georgia political campaigns, primarily those of state lawmakers, in 2007 and 2008. Nobody really knew that during the 2008 election season, though. Nor was it public knowledge during the 2009 legislative session (which preserved the status quo […]
By JIM WALLS May 11, 2009 — A Georgia-based political fund has amended a disclosure report to include a $1,000 gift last year to the campaign account of House Speaker Glenn Richardson. But the fund, registered as The Funds for Georgia’s Future, still has not reported another $72,000 given to lawmakers and other political causes […]
By JIM WALLS May 4, 2009 — A Georgia-based political action committee gave $123,000 in political donations in the 2008 election cycle without reporting them, Atlanta Unfiltered has learned. The PAC is funded primarily by a Missouri developer, Jeffrey E. Smith (right), whose companies receive state and federal tax credits to build low-income housing in […]