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.
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.