March 26, 2013 — To Georgia legislators: As you struggle toward a compromise on ethics “reform,” here are five suggestions that would REALLY help to restore Georgians’ faith in government.
1) Limit lobbyist gifts to $25 per day, with a limit of four per year. That allows them to buy you a meal and a beer, but not the bottles of wine that really drive up the cost up of these $100 meals. And no gifts for spouses. Pay for those yourselves. Suck it up.
Rep. Ed Lindsey, with the help of some deep-pocketed friends, is one of those leading the charge for more publicly funded charter schools across Georgia. In 2012, Lindsey chaired Families for Better Public Schools, a political committee heavily funded by for-profit charter school interests to push for another avenue to launch such schools. He co-sponsored the House resolution placing a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot and, in 2013, authored a so-called “parent trigger” bill that would give families a way to virtually force conversion of a low-achieving school to a charter.
The committee’s single biggest funder, Walmart heiress Alice Walton, donated $600,000. (The Walton Family Foundation has given millions more since 2009 to other pro-charter groups here: $2.7 million to Georgia Charter Schools Association, $450,000 to the Georgia Family Education and Research Council and $135,000 to the Georgia Public Policy Foundation.) The latter foundation works with the Conservative Policy Leadership Institute, chaired by Lindsey, to “train Georgia’s leaders to shape the public policy debate and to govern by adhering to conservative principles.” Its key policy areas include choice and accountability in education.
Georgia lawmakers Monday gave voters less access to information on local candidates’ finances, reversing part of a 2010 reform bill that became law just two months ago. The legislators’ action could also cost the cash-strapped Campaign Finance Commission $130,000 — which it doesn’t have — to notify candidates of possible violations. If the commission can’t afford to send those notices, it can’t enforce the law.