While Common Cause Georgia is seeking to change a law, Mayor Kasim Reed is seeking to change the subject. I do not want to play into his hand by distracting from what is at issue – the fact that companies wanting to hold city contracts should not be allowed to contribute large sums of money to city campaigns.
For the sake of clarity:
- CCGA has not attacked Mayor Reed, the City Council, city employees or the City of Atlanta as a whole. Thirty years of corrupt airport procurement processes gave rise to a white paper by CCGA board member and Kennesaw State University professor, Kerwin Swint, on the airport concession processes’ checkered past. Contrary to the mayor’s protestations, the paper never impugned him, and merely expressed hope that the Reed Administration would engage in a substantially more transparent process than has happened before.
- CCGA is trying to change the law, but inexplicably, Mayor Kasim Reed is trying to change the subject by calling CCGA’s motives and people into question. The real question is why won’t the mayor join us in seeking to limit campaign donations from parties that seek to, or currently do business with the city?
- Currently, no Georgia government at any level has “Pay-to-Play” laws. But Pay-to-Play legislation exists in eleven states, including three cities in New Jersey: Newark, Jersey City and Hoboken. Here’s an interesting excerpt from the Newark Star-Ledger: One of Cory Booker’s first orders of business as mayor of Newark was to end Pay-to-Play in a city once famous for it. ‘We can say unequivocally those days are gone,’ Booker told reporters in 2007, just hours before his first state of the city address. Since 2006, New Jersey state law limits how much vendors can donate to politicians and Booker and the Newark City Council have all but banned political donations from Newark contractors. CCGA is also seeking to restrict Pay-to-Play at the state level in Georgia as can be seen in our 2012 Top Priorities.
- Mayor Reed is comparing a peanut to a peach orchard by citing campaign contributions over $250 (the amount in our proposed ordinance) accepted by me and our board members who have served in, or sought public office in the past. Yes, we accepted contributions over $250, but not from companies seeking to do business with the offices that we sought or served in. The mayor is trying to muddy the water by equating “campaign contributions” with “big campaign contributions from people doing or seeking to do major business with the city.” We do not want to stop campaign contributions. We want to stop those with vested interests from making unlimited donations, which is what happened in the past with the airport concession contracts. There is a world of difference.
- Calling our donors into question by comparing them to campaign contributors is also ridiculous. CCGA is not a public body or a government office. We do not receive taxpayer dollars, nor do we to award multi-billion dollar contracts. We are a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization interested in open, ethical and honest government. When someone contributes to a political campaign, they do so with the understanding that their donation must be disclosed to the public. When someone contributes to a non-profit, they do not have the same expectation. However, because of the nature of our work, we do disclose more information about our donors than most other nonprofits. Information about our
disclosure policy can be found here.
This should address all concerns and hopefully we can all get back to focusing on transparency and improving public policy. The citizens of Atlanta deserve that focus and do not need continued distraction.