June 11, 2012

Georgia House Speaker Who Opposes Lobbying Gift Cap Went On $17,000 Lobbyist-Funded European Trip

Georgia House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge)

As we reported earlier, last month the conservative Georgia Tea Party Patriots united with the progressive Georgia Common Cause group to demand lobbying reform in the state that would require cap the value of individual gifts given to legislators by at $100. The cap is a modest measure as it would still allow lobbyists to give as many $100 dollar gifts to lawmakers as they wanted.

This left-right-center movement for a lobbyist gift cap comes as Georgia lawmakers are being wined and dined by lobbyists and being given all sorts of expensive gifts to influence them.

Nearly 70 legislators have signed a pledge of support for the lobbyist gift cap, a sign of momentum for the measure. One lawmaker who has opposed limiting lobbyist gifts to $100 is House Speaker David Ralston, who, despite tea party support for the measure, ridiculed a lobbyist gift cap as being pushed by “liberal special interest groups.”

Unsurprisingly, Ralston has been a huge beneficiary of lobbyist gifts. In 2010, Ralston and his family went on a lavish a $17,000 European trip funded by lobbyists seeking a rail contract. The Speaker represents one of the poorest parts of his state, North Georgia’s mountainous town of Blue Ridge. The median income there in 2009 was $27,464. That means lobbyists spent 61 percent of what his constituents tend to earn in a whole year on a single lavish lobbying trip for him.

It’s easy to oppose legalized corruption when it pays so well.