Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones, it would appear, is a giver. Her campaign committee since 2007 has donated $379,000 — nearly half of the funds it raised during that period — to other campaigns and political organizations. That’s more than any House member other than Speaker David Ralston and Majority Leader Larry O’Neal. Like most other campaign donors, though, she likes a sure thing, contributing almost exclusively to incumbents who would decide whether she would hold a leadership position in the House.
Georgia’s two largest title-pawn lenders represent the largest single special-interest sector among Jones’ political donors. Select Management Resources, TitleMax and their CEOs — who have lobbied to keep Georgia’s regulation of the industry among the weakest in the U.S. — have given more than $33,000 to her campaign.
Well, it’s probably a Republican, since they’re the ones whose campaigns are rolling in dough these days. But the phattest? That’s in the eye of the beholder, and Atlanta Unfiltered works only in cold, hard facts. We can tell you who’s spent what from campaign money for a crib during the 2010 legislative session, though. The biggest spender: state Sen. Don Balfour.
Twenty-one Georgia legislators accepted gifts valued at $5,000 or more from lobbyists last year. Led by Senate majority leader Chip Rogers, the 21 legislators accounted for 10 percent of the $1.5 million in lobbyist handouts last year. We’re talking gift baskets, food and drink, golf, sports and concert tickets, lodging and airfare. These are the lawmakers who can’t say no.
A four-day jaunt to sunny Southern California. Braves games, concerts, golf and charter boat excursions. Weekends at Amelia Island, Sandestin and Biloxi. You and I have to pay for summer diversions like these. But public disclosures show lobbyists treated your Georgia legislators to all this and more, just since May 1. Lobbyists dropped more than $193,000 cozying up to lawmakers in May, June and July, even though legislators went home for the year on April 3.
There was no fun in the sun for the four legislators who flew last month to Pasadena, Cal., said Tom Lewis, lobbyist for Georgia State University. “No golf, no beaches, no nothing else,” he said. “This was pretty much a cut-and-dried educational trip.”