This summer Common Cause Georgia has a brand new crop of interns. Their experience with politics ranges from never having voted to having their TV permanently set to C-SPAN. Each of our interns will be blogging throughout the summer about their experiences with CCGA and how the realities of state and local politics differ from what the learned from civics class and School House Rock.
CCGA intern Yilong studies political science in college, but still wasn’t sure what to expect when working with politics on the state and local level. Georgia, she soon learns, trails behind both other states and the federal government when it comes to things like lobbying gift limits, but thankfully efforts are underway to help Georgia catch up.
As a political science student in college, I have taken several courses in school that teach me about the various aspects of politics. Much of what I know so far comes from the books I have studied, which is why I needed this summer to gain hands-on experience in the field of politics.
Going into my internship at Common Cause Georgia, I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect. The courses I have taken at college have focused exclusively on the federal government, and even international issues. As a result, my knowledge of Georgia politics was very limited, but as a Georgia native, I knew this would be a great opportunity to learn more about issues closer to home and perhaps even impact how those issues are played out.
The first project I took part in at Common Cause Georgia was the Lobbyist Gift Limit Campaign Pledge, which was designed so that each candidate for office would make a commitment to place limits on lobbyist gifts. The goal is to end the excessive influence lobbyists have on elected officials and public policy. My participation in this project has taught me several things. First of all, I had no idea that the state of Georgia has no laws that limit on the amount of gifts a lobbyist can give to public officials. Going back to what I learned from school about the relationship between federal government officials and lobbyists, there always seemed to be a clear focus on corruption. This focus has been so important that there are numerous laws that limit the amount of campaign contributions and/or gifts from individuals, companies, and organizations. I had always assumed that this translated into similar lobbying regulations at the state level. However, I soon discovered that this is not the case in Georgia. On the contrary, there has not been much success in passing ethics regulations in the General Assembly.
Moreover, I also learned how backwards Georgia was in terms of lobbyist regulations compared to the other states. My next assignment as an intern was to compile a summary of the regulative policies enacted by other states. This was done so that Georgia policymakers could pick and choose what these states did right and then possibly emulate their models. While going through these policies, I noticed how extensive and detailed some of them are. For some states, not only were the laws themselves heavily phrased, but the punishments were specific as well. Upon this knowledge, I was disappointed at Georgia’s lack of focus on this issue.
In conclusion, I am glad to have learned so much about the important issues in my own community, some of which are vastly different from those at the federal level. While some findings were kind of disappointing, I am glad I have the opportunity to make a positive influence. Recently I learned that the amount of pledges in our Lobbyist Gift Limit Campaign has already exceeded one hundred, which means this ethics issue is finally gaining the focus it needs in the Georgia General Assembly.
Written by: CCGA Intern, Yilong Xu