Yesterday, the Georgia Alliance for Ethics Reform had a number of their supporters down at the Capitol in order to lobby for ethics reform.
Led in part by Common Cause Georgia, the Alliance listened to, and educated its members about ethics issues, and the art of lobbying. After a press conference, citizen lobbyists then, for nothing but civic duty, contacted their representatives, and members of the chambers’ Ethics Committees. A good number of legislators had already joined the perfectly multi-partisan efforts for ethics reform. Many more will likely join in the coming days as specific legislation arises.
Among the points made to the legislators: 1) The former State Ethics Commission needs its funding and rulemaking power restored so it can properly investigate and prosecute violations of ethics laws (it should also be re-re-named the State Ethics Commission); 2) Georgians from all over the geographical and political spectrum want thorough ethics reform THIS YEAR; 3) Disclosure laws are only a piece of necessary ethics laws; 4) Disclosure alone can not rid the influence that come with gift-giving by specific interests.
In fact, Common Cause Georgia discovered that in the first month of this legislative session alone, over $250,000 worth of gifts have been given to legislators by lobbyists. And everyone knows that gifts are given in order to garner that influence. Lobbyists also plan to attack the faulty logic of House Ethics Committee Chairman Joe Wilkinson, who has repeatedly stated that we have to give last year’s changes to ethics laws a chance to work before we pass new ones.
Well, with $17,000 trips to Europe for the Speaker of the House, and over $250,000 already given to legislators, we already know how last year’s law is working.
Nothing in last year’s laws deals with conflicts of interest, or limits of influence. It made some tougher disclosure requirements, but will continue to do nothing to stem the tide of money’s influence over legislators that feel they’re entitled to perks from lobbyists because their salaries aren’t sufficient, or because perks from lobbyists are just “part of the deal”.
Why delay reform, when Georgians want it, and it protects the interests of Georgians? Why wait one more year for reform, and let Georgians suffer another year of undisclosed, unaddressed injustice in the legislative process?
It’s almost like, in order to get folks like Mr. Wilkinson to notice such glaring injustices, you need to buy them a trip to Europe.